Ghislaine Maxwell's fate in hands of jury at sex crimes trial
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell (AFP)

A New York jury on Tuesday resumed deliberations on the fate of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of recruiting and grooming young girls to be abused by late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell, the 59-year-old daughter of former newspaper baron Robert Maxwell, faces an effective life sentence if convicted on all six counts following a high-profile three-week trial in Manhattan.

They had already deliberated for about an hour Monday afternoon, following closing arguments and lengthy instructions from judge Alison Nathan about how they should weigh the sex trafficking charges.

They must reach a unanimous decision on each count. If they cannot agree, then the judge could declare a mistrial.

The charges against Maxwell stem from 1994 to 2004. Four of Epstein's alleged victims testified during the trial. Two said they were as young as 14 when Maxwell allegedly began grooming them and arranging for them to give massages to Epstein that ended in sexual activity.

One, identified only as "Jane," detailed how Maxwell recruited her at summer camp and made her feel "special."

She said sexual encounters with Epstein became routine, with Maxwell sometimes present.

Another, going by "Carolyn," said she was usually paid $300 after sexual encounters with Epstein, often by Maxwell herself.

A third alleged victim was Annie Farmer, now 42, who said Maxwell fondled her breasts when she was a teenager at the New Mexico ranch owned by Epstein.

American money-manager Epstein, 66, killed himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting his own sex crimes trial. Maxwell was arrested the following year.

'Sophisticated predator'

Maxwell pleaded not guilty to all counts, which carry a total of up to 80 years behind bars. The prosecution portrayed her as a "sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing."

US prosecutor Alison Moe argued Maxwell was "the key" to Epstein's scheme of enticing young girls to give him massages, during which he would sexually abuse them.

"Epstein liked underaged girls, he liked to touch underaged girls. Maxwell knew that," Moe charged, recalling that three of the four victims testified that Maxwell had participated in the sexual acts, touching their breasts.

Moe also said that Maxwell had been the "lady of the house" at Epstein's properties, handling every detail, including picking the lotions and oils for the massages, which always ended in sexual acts.

Maxwell "was Epstein's partner in crime," said Moe. "It is time to hold her accountable."

Maxwell's defense team countered during its own closing arguments, arguing that there was a "lack of evidence" to convict.

They questioned the accusers' ability to recollect quarter-century-old events. The team also argued that Maxwell was being used as a "scapegoat" for Epstein's crimes after he evaded justice.

'No need' to testify

Specifically, the jury must say whether Maxwell encouraged Jane to have sexual relations with Epstein between 1994 and 1997, when Jane was only 14 to 17 years old. They must also determine whether Maxwell is guilty of sex trafficking Carolyn, also a minor at the time, between 2001 and 2004.

Three of the other six counts involve conspiracy to traffic or entice minors to have sex with Maxwell herself.

The trial had been expected to last into January, but Maxwell now faces the possibility of learning her fate before Christmas Day, her 60th birthday.

Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40-year sentence. The lesser charges have terms of five or ten years.

Maxwell declined to take the stand but made a brief statement to the judge on Friday.

"Your honor, the government has not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt so there is no need for me to testify," she said.

© 2021 AFP