Ghislaine Maxwell: Long-awaited sex-trafficking trial due to begin in New York

British socialite faces six sex-trafficking charges over a 10-year period between 1994 and 2004

Grace Almond
Sunday 28 November 2021 14:52
<p>Ghislaine Maxwell sketched during a pre-trial hearing last week</p>

Ghislaine Maxwell sketched during a pre-trial hearing last week

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The long-awaited sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was due to get underway in a Manhattan court on Monday.

Maxwell, 59, has been accused of recruiting and grooming girls, some of whom were as young as 14, for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Prosecutors have claimed that Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to” Epstein’s abuse. She will also face two counts of perjury tried separately.

Maxwell has denied all charges and pleaded not guilty. The trial is set to last for six weeks and will focus on her alleged involvement in Epstein’s crimes.

Epstein took his own life in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 in the lead-up to his own sex-trafficking trial. Maxwell was arrested almost a year later in New Hampshire.

Jennifer Louis-Jeune, a defence lawyer, has said the prosecution will want to, “lay out their case and give a preview of the type of evidence that’s going to come in and a preview of who the witnesses will be”.

Ms Louis-Jeune added: “The defence usually holds back a little bit more in an opening statement because we don’t know what all the evidence is and we just want the jury to really be thinking critically when they listen to each witness – and to not take what the witness says as being the truth just because they’re on the stand and to think of how all the witnesses fit together.”

Maxwell faces six charges relating to allegations from a 10-year period between 1994 and 2004: conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor 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.

Four accusers are listed in the indictment as Minor Victim-1, Minor Victim-2, Minor Victim-3 and Minor Victim-4.

Maxwell also faces perjury charges. Prosecutors say she gave false information under oath when Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre sued her.

Ms Giuffre alleges Epstein and Maxwell forced her to have sex, aged 17, with Prince Andrew. Giuffre sued Maxwell for saying she was a liar. Both Maxwell and Prince Andrew deny the allegations.

In this trial, Maxwell is accused of grooming Minor Victim-1 from 1994 to 1997 “to engage in sexual acts with Epstein through multiple means” by seeking to “normalise inappropriate and abusive conduct by, among other things, undressing in front of Minor Victim-1 and being present when Minor Victim-1 undressed in front of Epstein”.

Minor Victim-2 allegedly interacted with Epstein at his property in New Mexico and had arrived, “at Epstein’s invitation for the purpose of being groomed for and/or subjected to acts of sexual abuse”.

Maxwell allegedly, “encouraged Minor Victim-2 to massage Epstein”, and groomed her for Epstein to abuse.

Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.

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