Ghislaine Maxwell Found Guilty, Faces Prospect of Decades in Prison 


NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty Wednesday of helping to groom and recruit underage girls for the abuse of her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, the culmination of a decadelong crusade by victims of Maxwell and Epstein to seek justice for the abuse they faced. 

On the sixth day of deliberations, a Manhattan jury found Maxwell guilty of five of the six counts she faced, including a sex trafficking charge that carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. 

Prosecutors alleged that Maxwell, 59, was a central figure in Epstein’s sex crimes, helping him recruit and sexually abuse girls in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Epstein’s death in federal custody in August 2019, ruled a suicide, had denied victims an earlier opportunity to seek justice.

The daughter of the late British media baron Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell was once a fixture on the New York social scene who possessed a Rolodex of names and direct phone numbers to former presidents, world leaders, billionaires and celebrities. She was also for years the girlfriend of Epstein who managed his household in Palm Beach and other locales where the multimillionaire maintained estates.

At least two victims claim that they were trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell to powerful and wealthy men, including Prince Andrew and former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Federal prosecutors purposefully seemed to steer the case around the potential minefield of identifying figures they referred to as “third parties” who were in Epstein’s orbit.

Like Epstein, Maxwell hired a team of defense lawyers who filed a flurry of legal motions focused on undermining the credibility of the accusers and portraying them as prostitutes.

“Depending on the age of the accusers during the time frame of the conspiracy, consent may be an appropriate and viable defense,’’ Maxwell’s attorneys said in one motion, noting that in Florida at the time the crimes were allegedly committed, “individuals under the age of 18 could be charged with commission of the crime of prostitution.”

Maxwell’s trial verdict comes three years after of the publication of “Perversion of Justice,” a Miami Herald investigation that detailed how Epstein and his team of high-profile attorneys manipulated the criminal justice system, allowing him to escape federal prosecution. Despite the fact that the FBI had evidence he sexually abused at least 34 girls, Epstein served just 13 months in the Palm Beach county jail on charges that he solicited one minor.

The Herald’s series led federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York to take a new look at the case, and Epstein was arrested in July 2019. In the ensuing fallout from the Herald series, the prosecutor in charge of the 2005 case, Alexander Acosta, resigned as secretary of labor under then-president Donald Trump. Several CEOs who associated with Epstein have retired on stepped down from their companies.

While awaiting trial, Epstein was found dead by hanging in his New York City cell. The death was ruled a suicide.

Despite Epstein’s death, the federal probe into his crimes continued, and in July 2020, Maxwell was arrested at a 156-acre home in rural New Hampshire that had been purchased months earlier through an anonymous shell company. Maxwell had toured the home under a pseudonym.

Jill Steinberg, a former assistant U.S. attorney and Justice Department official who handled cases of child exploitation, called the trial a test in how jurors weigh evidence involving sexual abuse in the “Me Too” era.

“There is more of an awareness of victimization and why people become victims,” said Steinberg, who is now in private practice.