Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who was accused of grooming girls as young as 14 for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s sex abuse ring, was found guilty today of sex trafficking charges. The federal jury found Maxwell, 60, guilty on five of six charges brought against her. She faces up to 65 years in prison, though a sentencing date has not yet been set. Epstein reportedly died by suicide in August 2019 after being hit with federal sex trafficking charges, so for survivors of his abuse, Maxwell’s trial is the only courtroom reckoning they’ll get.
Prosecutors alleged that Maxwell was not, as the defense suggested, simply Epstein’s paramour and business manager and being unfairly targeted since Epstein wouldn’t stand trial. Maxwell was actively involved in recruiting and grooming young girls for Epstein to abuse, scheduling the massages where Epstein would offer cash for oral sex and intercourse, and even abusing them herself. Of the four women who testified at the trial, three said that Maxwell groped them. One witness said Maxwell groped her while saying she had “a great body for Mr. Epstein and his friends.”
It’s important to note that today’s verdict may not have happened without local reporting, specifically that of Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald. Brown kept looking into Epstein’s abuse following a cushy private plea deal in 2008 for which he served a little over a year in a county jail but was able to work out of his own office six days a week. Brown uncovered the plea deal in a November 2018 Herald investigation, detailing how federal prosecutors could have sought life in prison for Epstein in 2008 for crimes committed at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate. The Herald also identified 80 women who said Epstein sexually abused them. Following Brown’s reporting, Epstein was arrested in July 2019 and died by suicide in a Manhattan jail the following month.