Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite long accused of being financier Jeffrey Epstein’s madam, was found guilty on five of six charges, a New York jury ruled Wednesday.
Maxwell was accused of recruiting and grooming teenage girls to engage in sexualized massages and other sex acts with Epstein, as well as his friends.
Maxwell had faced six federal charges related to sex trafficking, including one count of enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illegal sex acts, one count of sex trafficking of a minor, and three counts of conspiracy, which are intertwined with the other counts.
She was found guilty on all charges except the count of enticing a minor to travel across state lines to engage in illegal sex acts.
Taken together, those charges could result in a 65-year prison stay—effectively a life sentence for the 60-year-old. The verdict came the day after the judge asked the jury to convene everyday until they reached a decision, out of concern that the rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in New York could lead to a mistrial if caught by jurors and trial participants.
As the verdict was read, Maxwell struggled to stand and remained quiet, according to Miami Herald journalist Julie K. Brown whose 2018 investigation into Epstein is widely credited with leading to the criminal charges against him and Maxwell in recent years. Brown tweeted that after the verdict, Maxwell “appeared shaken, she sipped a cup of water then slumped back in her chair. She did not shed a tear.”
Annie Farmer, the only one of the four accusers during the trial who testified under her real name, released a statement saying that she was “relieved and grateful that the jury recognized the pattern of predatory behavior that Maxwell engaged in for years and found her guilty of these crimes. She has caused hurt to many more women than the few of us who had the chance to testify in the courtroom.”
“I hope that this verdict brings solace to all who need it and demonstrates that no one is above the law,” said Farmer, who claimed Maxwell gave her a nude massage when she was only 16. “Even those with great power and privilege will be held accountable when they sexually abuse and exploit the young.”
Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire in summer 2020, about a year after Epstein died of suicide in custody while facing sex trafficking charges in New York. Prosecutors alleged that Maxwell had helped Epstein recruit and groom underage girls. Posing as a cosmopolitan role model and big sister, she would allegedly take girls on shopping trips and to the movies to lower their defenses and ultimately exploit them.
For many of Epstein’s accusers, the financier’s death was a devastating confirmation that they would never have justice. Bringing Maxwell to trial was, then, the closest chance they had to getting answers and some kind of accountability.
Maxwell’s attorneys tried to fight that perception in court, repeatedly casting Maxwell as a scapegoat for Epstein’s crimes.
“The government has sought to substitute our client for Jeffrey Epstein, even if it means stretching—and ultimately exceeding—the bounds of the law,” the defense wrote in a filing earlier this year.
They also suggested Maxwell’s accusers might be motivated by money, given that they had received funds meant to compensate Epstein abuse victims. But they did not establish how any of these women might be making money off of testifying.
During the trial, some of Maxwell’s accusers also said that Maxwell had not only facilitated Epstein’s abuse, but also directly participated in it herself. One woman, identified only by the name Carolyn, said Maxwell had touched her breasts, hips, and butt. Carolyn said Maxwell told her she “had a great body for Mr. Epstein and his friends.”
“Epstein could not have done this alone,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe told jurors during closing arguments. “When that man is accompanied by a posh, smiling, respectable, age-appropriate woman, that’s when everything starts to seem legitimate.”
The trial included many never-before-seen images of Maxwell and Epstein’s jet-setting lifestyle, including a photo reportedly taken at Queen Elizabeth’s Balmoral Estate in Scotland.
The British royal family has become embroiled in the Epstein and Maxwell drama due to their long friendship with Prince Andrew. Epstein-accuser Virginia Giuffre is currently suing Prince Andrew, who she claims she was forced to have sex with when she was 17-years-old by Epstein. One of the principal pieces of evidence in that case is a photo of Prince Andrew with his arm around Giuffre, as a smiling Maxwell stands behind them.
Giuffre took to Twitter after the verdict and said that her “soul yearned for justice for years and today the jury gave me just that. I will remember this day always.”
“Having lived with the horrors of Maxwell’s abuse, my heart goes out to the many other girls and young women who suffered at her hands and whose lives she destroyed,” she said.
Damien Williams, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, issued a video statement celebrating the guilty verdict for “one of the worst crimes imaginable: facilitating and participating in the sexual abuse of children.”
“The road to justice has been far too long. 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. Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case, and today’s result, possible,” said Williams.