Legal expert examines the possibility that Ghislaine Maxwell could flip after guilty verdict
Ghislaine Maxwell (Photo: via Wikipedia)

Former prosecutor Elie Honig walked through a variety of scenarios where Ghislaine Maxwell might flip and cooperate with investigators.

The British socialite and longtime associate of the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was found guilty Wednesday of five counts in her sex-trafficking trial, and she faces a potential sentence of up to 65 years -- unless she agrees to help prosecutors bring charges against others involved in the scheme, which could potentially include former presidents and British royalty.

"First, will Maxwell want to flip?" tweeted Honig, CNN's senior legal analyst. "That's an intensely personal, complex decision. Let's consider incentives. She's 60 years old, likely facing much or all of her remaining life behind bars, no real hope on appeal. Cooperation is her best and perhaps only chance to get out."

However, Maxwell might not want to flip because she believes she's innocent or she may be afraid to give up her powerful associates, and prosecutors must want her cooperation.

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"In [the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York], cooperation is all-or-nothing," Honig said. "Maxwell would have to give up *everything* she ever did, and everything she knows about *anybody else.* No hedging, no holding back, no half-truths. If the SDNY is completely convinced she'll do that, cooperation is possible."

Prosecutors would fully brief her and decide whether they believe she's being honest before offering a deal that could lessen her sentence, and the fact that Epstein died while awaiting trial doesn't help her case.

"The SDNY (and all prosecutors) prefer to "cooperate up" -- use cooperators against more powerful players, not less," Honig said. "This is a preference, but not an ironclad rule. Here Maxwell was #2 and #1 (Epstein) is gone. So that'll be tough."

However, they might still be interested in prosecuting men who knowingly had sex with underage girls provided by Epstein, but federal authorities might not be willing to charge some of the powerful individuals linked to the late financier.

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"That'll depend on the willingness of DOJ / SDNY, and perhaps state prosecutors, to go after these powerful people, and whether relevant laws (statutes of limitations, etc.) still permit such prosecutions," Honig said. "Bottom line: Maxwell's cooperation is not particularly likely, but it is possible. You'd need (1) Maxwell to be willing and fully on board, (2) SDNY to be fully convinced of her truthfulness, and (3) a realistic plan to use her information vs. others."