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Ghislaine Maxwell's criminal trial got underway last month (29 November) in Manhattan, New York. She has been convicted of grooming and recruiting underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted multi-millionaire sex offender, to sexually abuse in the late nineties and early noughties.
What is Ghislaine Maxwell on trial for?
The full list of charges, for which Maxwell has pleaded not guilty on all counts, includes:
Enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
Enticing minor to travel for illegal sex acts
Conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
Transport of minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
Two counts of perjury
Last month, potential jurors were sent out questionnaires to assess their suitability to oversee the hearing. The questionnaire seeks to ascertain whether the potential juror has any prior knowledge of the criminal case, if anyone they know is connected to the case and if they (or anyone they know) have been a victim of the crimes. Selection of jurors took shortly before the trial's commencement.
So, what's the latest with Ghislaine Maxwell's trial?
Here's a timeline of Maxwell's trial, starting with the most recent update:
30 December, 2021:
Ghislaine Maxwell has been found guilty of recruiting underage girls to be sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein, after being convicted on five of the six counts she was charged with.
She was convicted of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, sex trafficking conspiracy, and sex trafficking of a minor.
She was cleared of "enticing a girl under 17 to travel with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity."
Sigrid McCawley – a lawyer for Annie Farmer, who testified against Maxwell – said (via Sky News): "Today's verdict is a towering victory not just for the brave women who testified in this trial, but for the women around the world whose young and tender lives were diminished and damaged by the abhorrent actions of Ghislaine Maxwell."
Maxwell will be sentenced at a later date. She is also facing two perjury charges, which her lawyers successfully argued should be tried separately.
And here's the rest of Maxwell's trial timeline...
29 November, 2021:
On the first day of her criminal trial, Maxwell was branded a "dangerous predator" by Assistant US Attorney, Lara Pomerantz. During her opening argument, Pomerantz put emphasis on the prosecution's argument that the 59-year-old "knew exactly what would happen to these girls."
Speaking to the jury, Pomerantz painted a picture in which Maxwell knowingly sought out and recruited underage girls, who would later be Epstein's victims. "The defendant directed the girls into a room where she knew (Epstein) would molest them," the court heard, according to The National. "There were times when she was in the room when it happened – making it all feel normal and casual. She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused."
Speaking about how Maxwell committed her alleged crimes, Pomerantz said: "The defendant and Epstein were partners in crime. They had a play book. Firstly, they got access to young girls, then they would gain their trust, they would learn about their lives and dreams, they learned about their families. The defendant and Epstein made the girls believe that their dreams could come true. They made them feel seen. They made them feel special."
"But that was a cover, a cover that meant the defendant and Epstein could operate in plain sight. They were wealthy and influential people who made the girls feel comfortable and safe. What came next was anything but safe... What came next was making them feel comfortable with sexual acts with Epstein. [The girls] would have paid anything not to have met the defendant and Jeffrey Epstein. They were dangerous predators who exploited and sexually abused young girls for a decade."
Pomerantz concluded: "Between 1994 and 2004, the defendant sexually exploited young girls. She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused... The defendant was trafficking kids for sex. That is what this trial is all about."
In response to the prosecution's claims, Maxwell's defence argued that she had become a scapegoat for the case, following Epstein's suicide in 2019 – before he could be tried on sex abuse charges.
Bobbi Sternheim, leading the defence, opened their argument by saying "Ever since Adam and Eve, women have been blamed for crimes committed by men," according to journalist and author, Lucia Osborne-Crowley who was present in the court.
Bobbi Sternheim then gave the defence’s opening arguments. This was so much more vicious than even I expected, and I expected it to be pretty awful. Sternheim started with this sentence: “Ever since Adam and Eve, women have been blamed for crimes committed by men.”
— Lucia Osborne-Crowley (@LuciaOC_) November 30, 2021
"The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did, but she is not Jeffrey Epstein," Sternheim continued. "She is not like Jeffrey Epstein and she is not like the powerful white men and media giants who abuse women."
The defence also argued that the alleged victims in the case had had their memories "corrupted."
"Sternham [sic] said the defence will call experts to prove that memory can be 'corrupted' and that false memories of abuse can be planted in victims’ minds by things like media attention and the prospect of 'big money rewards'," tweeted Osborne-Crowley. "She accused the victims of having memories that were 'unreliable', 'untrustworthy' and 'uncorroborated'."
According to Osborne-Crowley, Sternheim also "accused the victims of themselves being sex traffickers." The defence attorney alleges that the girls had "preyed" on and "manipulated" one another, describing two of the victims of having been drug users whose "recollections shouldn't be trusted."
6 December, 2021:
A week into her trial, a witness going by the pseudonym 'Kate' testified that Maxwell had encouraged her to wear a schoolgirl outfit, laying the outfit on her guest room bed and telling her: "I thought it would be fun for you to take Jeffrey his tea in this outfit."
The witness, who said she met Maxwell as a teenager back in 1994, alleges she wore the outfit and Epstein had sex with her. However, the judge informed the jury that these encounters could not be considered as illegal sexual acts, as she was above the legal age of consent (in Britain) at the time.
According to the BBC, 'Kate', now 44, described how she had been lured in by Maxwell's sophistication, recalling that "She was very impressive… everything that I wanted to be." She explained how she'd been excited to make Maxwell's acquaintance, but within weeks was urged to meet Epstein for massages that would later turn into sex.
'Kate' alleged that Maxwell would compliment her "strong hands", call her a "good girl" and ask if she was having "fun." She then went on to claim that Maxwell had told her Epstein was a "demanding" man, who needed sex three times a day. Because of that, 'Kate' claimed Maxwell had encouraged her to recruit other women who could perform sex acts on Epstein "because it was a lot for her to do."
The witness added: "She said, 'You know what he likes, cute, young, pretty, like you'." Although 'Kate' admitted she never helped find additional women, she remained in contact with Epstein into her 30s, scared of what might happen to her if she didn't.
8 December, 2021:
On Wednesday, the jury overseeing Maxwell's criminal trial were shown photos of the defendant and Jeffrey Epstein relaxing at what looks to be the Queen's home on the Balmoral Estate in Scotland.
The photo was uncovered during a search at Epstein's mansion in Manhattan, New York. Although undated, prosecutors believe the photo was taken in 1999, when the pair were invited to stay at Her Majesty's residence by her son, Prince Andrew – who has also been embroiled in the Epstein sexual abuse scandal, although he has not been convicted of any criminal charges and denies any wrongdoing.
Another never-before-seen photo shared with the jury showed Maxwell and Epstein sharing a kiss while on holiday. Other photos showed Maxwell's accusers in "various states of undress", as per the BBC. According to the broadcaster, the images were shown to the jury to convey the close relationship between Maxwell and Epstein, highlighting how they were "partners in crime."
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