It took many hours of deliberation, but a jury finally reached a verdict in the trial of the year — one that should have been the trial of the year ten years ago. Ghislaine Maxwell could face decades in prison for sex trafficking of minors after getting convicted of five out of six counts in her indictment. As NBC News reports, Jeffrey Epstein’s literal partner in crime might also face a new trial for two counts of perjury:
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted Wednesday of five federal sex trafficking charges after a jury concluded that she played a pivotal part in recruiting and grooming teenage girls to be sexually abused by her close confidant, the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell was found guilty of five of the six federal counts she was charged with and faces up to 65 years in prison. The judge has not set a sentencing date. …
Maxwell was convicted of conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and sex trafficking of minors.
She was not found guilty of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, which carried a five-year sentence.
Maxwell has the resources to file robust appeals, so this may not stand forever. A successful appeal would have to be based on some major faux pas by the judge or prosecutors, as appellate courts rarely engage in rehearing evidence or overrule juries based on findings of fact. The fact that the jury picked through the charges and appeared to act responsibly in applying the law to each likely makes the conviction more solid in that sense, too. The testimony of the four victims in this case likely will preclude any exoneration attempt in appeals, but perhaps Maxwell will get lucky and find a reason to get a new trial. Assuming, of course, that another jury won’t convict her just the same.
Assuming the conviction stands for sex trafficking these women when they were minors prompts another question. Maxwell trafficked them to Epstein, certainly, who took the coward’s way out and can’t be held to account for it. But the victims of Epstein and Maxwell claim that the pair trafficked them much more widely — to the friends of Epstein and Maxwell, to the rich and powerful and famous, and for motives that are still not entirely clear. Each of those men (and perhaps women?) committed a crime connected to sex trafficking of minors as well. Epstein and Maxwell may have created the supply, but the “johns” provided the demand.
So when do we see some of the “johns” in criminal court?
Perhaps that’s what prosecutors had in mind with Maxwell all along. It will be another several weeks before sentencing takes place, so Maxwell has time enough to stew over the benefits of cooperation. Rumors have swirled that Epstein kept a vast video library of these sexual encounters as leverage over the “johns” or even outright extortion. If anyone knows where that evidence might be, it’s Maxwell, assuming it still exists at all or existed in the first place. Even without the video library, Maxwell certainly knows who got connected to Epstein’s Lolita Express and could assist prosecutors into building cases against the “johns.”
We’ll see how enthusiastic the Department of Justice will remain in pulling these threads all the way out. Rumors swirled yesterday that the judge in the case sealed all of the evidence, but that appears to have been an error; that referred to Epstein’s “black book,” which has been kept from public view all along to protect the names of then-minor victims. Both the defense and prosecution agreed to keep that information sealed, although Newsweek notes that it had earlier “leaked online,” enough so that Mother Jones journalist Leland Nally called every person in it for comment.
Just how much does the DoJ want to tangle with the rich and powerful? Stay tuned, but it’s clear that a sex trafficking case isn’t really over until all those who benefited from that victimization are called to account for it.
Update: Looks like at least one of Epstein’s close pals is worried about what Maxwell might do to mitigate her sentence, although this is likely more about the success of the civil lawsuit against Prince Andrew:
Prince Andrew’s lawyers were locked in emergency talks overnight after Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted in New York for recruiting and grooming underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein, a new report said.
The British socialite’s guilty verdict Wednesday evening sent fear rippling through the embattled royal’s legal team as he battles sexual assault allegations leveled against him in a civil lawsuit filed in Manhattan, the Mirror reported. …
With Maxwell’s conviction, Prince Andrew’s lawyers are said to be concerned because the burden of proof is lower in civil cases than what is needed in a criminal case.
Experts have pointed to how OJ Simpson was cleared in Nicole Brown’s death criminally but was later found guilty in a civil case brought by her family.
The Mirror also reports that Andrew’s team wants access to “Carolyn,” a victim who testified that Virginia Giuffre introduced her to Epstein rather than Maxwell. They want to use that to paint Giuffre as an enabler rather than a victim if the case goes to court, but it’s almost laughably absurd that an underage girl could be cast as a manipulator between the heir to the Maxwell fortune and Prince Frickin’ Andrew.
If Maxwell cooperates to get a lighter sentence, it will almost certainly be at Andrew’s expense, literally in the sense of the civil judgment that would await him. He’s beyond the reach of the DoJ in any practical sense for prosecution, but the advancement of the civil case against him could be enough to undermine the monarchy in the UK. It’s already on shaky enough ground as it is.