via The NY Times:
Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of a British media mogul and the former companion to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted on Wednesday of conspiring with him over a decade to recruit, groom and sexually abuse underage girls.
A federal jury in Manhattan found Ms. Maxwell, 60, guilty of sex trafficking and the four other charges against her, but she was acquitted of one count of enticing a minor to travel across state lines to engage in an illegal sexual act.
The trial was widely seen as the courtroom reckoning that Mr. Epstein never had because he was found dead in a Manhattan jail August 2019 while awaiting his own trial.
The verdict came late on the afternoon of the jury’s fifth full day of deliberations. After the jury sent a note saying it had reached a decision, Ms. Maxwell, wearing dark clothes and a dark-colored mask, was ushered into the courtroom and sat at the corner of the defense table. She poured water from a plastic bottle into a paper cup and took a sip.
The jurors filed into the room at 5:04 p.m. “Madame foreperson, has the jury reached a verdict?” Judge Alison J Nathan asked. “We have,” the forewoman said.
The judge then read the verdict aloud: guilty on five of the six counts. After sitting still through the verdict, Ms. Maxwell touched her face, poured water again into a cup and again took a sip. She leaned over to speak with one of her lawyers, who patted her on the back.
After the jurors filed out of the courtroom, Ms. Maxwell stood, cast a brief glance in the direction of her siblings — who were arrayed in the courtroom’s first row — and left the courtroom quickly, without speaking to her lawyers.
Once expected to last up to six weeks, Ms. Maxwell’s trial moved quickly as the government pared its witness list and presented a case over 10 days that centered on four women who testified they had been abused by Mr. Epstein as teenagers.
Two of the women testified that Mr. Epstein started engaging in sex acts with them when they were only 14 years old: one said Ms. Maxwell was sometimes present in the encounters and the other said Ms. Maxwell had molested her directly by touching her breasts.
The accusers depicted Ms. Maxwell, a former socialite, as a kind of mentor and big sister — a picture of elegance and sophistication, one recalled — who took them shopping and to the movies in what prosecutors said was a ploy to build trust. Then she played a key role normalizing sexualized massages with Mr. Epstein that, in some cases, led to years of sexual abuse.
“Ms. Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” a prosecutor, Alison Moe, told the jury in closing arguments last week. “She manipulated her victims and groomed them for sexual abuse.”
The verdict was largely a rejection of Ms. Maxwell’s defense, which centered on an argument that the government’s case was based on flimsy evidence, prosecutors’ animus toward Mr. Epstein, and the inconsistent accounts of women who were motivated by money to point the finger at Ms. Maxwell.
Throughout the trial, Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers sought to raise doubts about the testimony of her accusers, emphasize the distance between her and Mr. Epstein and criticize how the investigation was conducted.
“The government wants you to speculate, over and over,” a lawyer for Ms. Maxwell, Laura Menninger, told the jury during closing arguments last week. She said Ms. Maxwell was on trial because of her relationship with Mr. Epstein. “Maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life, but it was not a crime,” she said.
Mr. Epstein, 66, was found hanged in a jail cell in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, and the New York City medical examiner ruled he had committed suicide.
Even in death, however, he has loomed over Ms. Maxwell’s trial. His name surfaced repeatedly in testimony and exhibits, and her lawyers spent much of the trial trying to distance their client from Mr. Epstein, who was once also her boyfriend and is now seen as one of the most notorious sex offenders in modern American history.
The charges included sex trafficking of minors, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and transporting a minor across state lines for the same purpose. She was also charged with conspiracy to commit those crimes. The top charge of sex-trafficking of minors carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, prosecutors say.
Ms. Maxwell’s accusers included two women who testified under pseudonyms — “Jane,” a soap opera actress and “Kate,” a British model, actress and singer from a wealthy family. A third accuser, Carolyn, used only her first name. She described herself as a middle-school dropout who had become addicted to drugs and was sexually abused by her grandfather at the age of 4. The fourth accuser, Annie Farmer, who has a Ph.D. in educational psychology and works as an educational therapist, testified under her true name.
If the accusers seemed to have contrasting backgrounds, the accounts they gave of how they were enticed into Mr. Epstein’s lurid world shared a common thread: Ms. Maxwell.
Jane testified how Ms. Maxwell, “a tall thin woman” with a “cute little Yorkie,” strolled up to her, followed by Mr. Epstein as she sat with friends at the age of 14, eating ice cream at a summer arts camp in Michigan. That chance meeting led to an invitation to Mr. Epstein’s house in Palm Beach and what prosecutors said was years of sexual abuse.
Carolyn testified that when she was also 14, a friend of her boyfriend’s asked her if she wanted to make money by giving massages to a man who turned out to be Mr. Epstein. Ms. Maxwell met her and the friend at the door to Mr. Epstein’s Palm Beach house; Carolyn told the jury that in the years that followed, she visited the house two or three times a week to perform sexualized massages in appointments arranged by Ms. Maxwell, whom she said she always saw when she entered the house through the kitchen door.
Two other prosecution witnesses, Larry Visoski and David Rodgers, former pilots who had flown Mr. Epstein’s planes, both testified that Ms. Maxwell had unique authority among his employees. She was his “No. 2,” each man told the jury.
“This case is about Ghislaine Maxwell, the crimes she committed,” another prosecutor, Maurene Comey, said in the government’s rebuttal argument. “It’s about the children that she targeted, the steps that she took to serve those children up to be abused. It’s about her own participation in that abuse,” she noted.