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Ghislaine Maxwell convicted of recruiting teenage girls for Epstein sex abuse

Maxwell, 60, was accused of recruiting and
grooming four teenagers between 1994 and 2004 for Epstein, her former boyfriend
who killed himself in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex
abuse charges of his own.

She was convicted on five of six counts.
After the verdict was read, Maxwell pulled down her face mask and poured
herself a glass of water.

As members of the jury affirmed one-by-one
that their verdict was unanimous, defence attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca patted
Maxwell on her upper back. An expressionless Maxwell looked briefly at two
siblings seated in the front row of the audience as she left the courtroom.

Along with the trials of movie producer
Harvey Weinstein and singer R Kelly, Maxwell’s case is among the
highest-profile trials to take place in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which
encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse by famous and powerful people.

During the trial’s closing arguments in
federal court in Manhattan a prosecutor said Maxwell was Epstein’s
“partner in crime.”

“Ghislaine Maxwell made her own
choices. She committed crimes hand in hand with Jeffrey Epstein. She was a
grown woman who knew exactly what she was doing,” Assistant US Attorney
Alison Moe said.

Damian Williams, the US attorney for the
Southern District of New York, applauded the verdict in a statement that said
Maxwell was convicted of “one of the worst crimes imaginable.”

“The road to justice has been far too
long,” his statement said. “But, today, justice has been done. I want
to commend the bravery of the girls – now grown women – who stepped out of the
shadows and into the courtroom.”

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Maxwell’s attorneys had argued she was
being used as a scapegoat for Epstein and sought to portray the accounts of her
four accusers as not credible, saying their memories had been corrupted over
the decades and that they were motivated by money.

“Epstein’s death left a gaping hole in
the pursuit of justice for many of these women,” Maxwell’s defence lawyer
Bobbi Sternheim said. “She’s filling that hole, and filling that empty
chair.”

Maxwell dated Epstein for several years in
the 1990s, when the pair attended high society parties and travelled on
luxurious private jets.

A few months after Epstein’s death, Maxwell
purchased a home $1 million in cash in Bradford, New Hampshire where she
remained out of the limelight until her July 2020 arrest. An FBI official said
Maxwell had “slithered away.”

Maxwell, a daughter of British press baron
Robert Maxwell, had been accustomed to opulence all her life.

Her father founded a publishing house and
owned tabloids including the Daily Mirror. He was found dead off his yacht near
the Canary Islands in 1991.

GRAPHIC TESTIMONY

US District Judge Alison Nathan did not say
when Maxwell would be sentenced. The jury deliberated for five full days before
reaching the verdict.

During the trial, jurors heard emotional
and graphic testimony from four women, two of whom said they were 14 when
Epstein began abusing them. Three of the women said Maxwell herself had
inappropriately touched them.

Prosecutors displayed for the jury a green
massage table that was seized from Epstein’s Palm Beach, Florida, estate in
2005. Three of the four accusers said they gave Epstein massages that escalated
into sexual activity.

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Epstein’s arrest and suicide drew attention
to Maxwell’s role in his abuses, and to the financier’s relationships with
prominent figures like former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump,
Britain’s Prince Andrew and billionaire investor Leon Black. None has been
charged with crimes related to Epstein.

The prince, a former friend of Epstein, is
defending against a civil lawsuit in Manhattan claiming he sexually abused
Virginia Giuffre, another of Epstein’s accusers. Andrew has denied her claims.

The one charge Maxwell was acquitted on –
enticing an underage girl to travel for the purpose of illegal sexual activity
– carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

That charge pertained only to a woman known
by the pseudonym Jane, who testified that she was 14 when Epstein first abused
her in 1994.

Jane said she often travelled to Epstein’s
homes in New Mexico and New York, where some of the abuse took place, and that
Maxwell sometimes helped coordinate her travel.

Maxwell sometimes took part in her sexual
encounters with Epstein and acted as if it was normal, Jane testified.

“It made me feel confused because that
did not feel normal to me,” Jane said. “I’d never seen anything like
this or felt anything like this.”

Despite the not guilty verdict on that
count, the jury appeared to find other aspects of Jane’s story credible. They
convicted Maxwell of transporting a minor to travel for illegal sex acts,
another count that pertained solely to Jane.

Moe said during her closing argument that
Maxwell’s presence made young girls feel comfortable with Epstein. Otherwise,
receiving an invitation to spend time with a middle-aged man would have seemed
“creepy” and “set off alarm bells,” Moe said.

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“Epstein could not have done this
alone,” she said.

Moe reminded jurors of bank records they
saw at trial showing that Epstein paid Maxwell millions of dollars over the
years. She said Maxwell was motivated to do whatever it took to keep Epstein
happy in order to maintain her luxurious lifestyle.

Defence attorney Laura Menninger countered
during closing arguments that Maxwell was an innocent woman and that
prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Maxwell was aware of
or involved in any crimes Epstein committed.

Maxwell’s lawyers aggressively pushed back
on the accusers’ accounts during the trial, arguing that their stories had
shifted over the years.

Maxwell’s defence said the women were
motivated by money to implicate Maxwell since all four had received million-dollar
awards from a compensation fund for Epstein’s victims.

But the women disputed those
characterizations, saying they decided to testify out of a desire for justice,
not money.

“Money will not ever fix what that
woman has done to me,” testified one woman, known by her first name
Carolyn.

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