Ghislaine Maxwell trial jury: What happened in deliberations?

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  • Ghislaine Maxwell
    Ghislaine Maxwell
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The jury in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial on Wednesday found her guilty of five out of six charges after six days of deliberation.

Ms Maxwell faces up to 65 years in prison if ordered to serve the five sentences consecutively. The top charge of “sex trafficking of minors” carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.

The case landed in the hands of the jury late on 20 December. Jurors deliberated for the next two days before taking a four-day break for the holiday weekend and resuming on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Ms Maxwell spent Christmas – which was also her 60th birthday – behind bars.

Ms Maxwell was accused of recruiting and grooming teenage girls for convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to abuse – and sometimes taking part in the abuse herself.

The defence maintained Ms Maxwell’s innocence and claimed she was being made a scapegoat for Epstein’s crimes after he died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting his own trial.

Follow live coverage on the Ghislaine Maxwell trial

Over roughly 40 hours of deliberation, jurors submitted more than a dozen notable questions to the court which together painted a portrait of how they came to the verdict.

Focus on accuser testimony

Jane

On its first full day of deliberations, the jury asked Judge Alison Nathan for transcripts of testimony from three of the four women who claimed to have suffered abuse at her hands and Epstein’s: Annie Farmer, Carolyn and “Jane”.

Jane, who testified under a pseudonym, said Ms Maxwell and Epstein befriended her at an arts school under the guise of mentoring the vulnerable 14-year-old who was broke and grieving the loss of her father. After making her feel special, the relationship soon escalated – first to sexualised massages with Epstein and then to other sexual encounters.

Jane testified that Ms Maxwell was sometimes “in the room” and joined in the sexual abuse. The teenager was also forced into sexualised orgies with other older women, she alleged.

Her testimony was the subject of a question submitted by the jury on Monday afternoon which drew significant confusion from the defence, the prosecution and the judge.

It was in regards to count four, transporting a minor – Jane, to New Mexico. Jurors asked, if they determined that Ms Maxwell aided in Jane’s return flight but not her flight there, could they still convict on that count?

The question sparked a debate in the court, including a lengthy discussion of a comma. The prosecution asked Judge Nathan to respond by directing jurors to the jury instructions, while the defence wanted her to reply, simply: “No.”

In the end, Judge Nathan sided with the prosecution and pointed to page 28 of the instructions because the question was so unclear. The decision prompted Ms Maxwell to drop her head into her hands at the defence table.

Witness “Jane” testifies in court on 30 November (REUTERS)
Witness “Jane” testifies in court on 30 November (REUTERS)

Carolyn

Carolyn, who testified only under her first name, alleged that Ms Maxwell groped her naked body when she was 14, assessing that she had a “great body for Epstein and his friends”.

She said she was recruited to give Epstein sexualised massages in exchange for $300, with Ms Maxwell arranging the “appointments” for the underage girl and sometimes handing over the cash.

Under cross-examination, defence attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca sought to undermine Carolyn’s credibility, pressing her about why she did not mention Ms Maxwell in a 2007 conversation with the FBI.

Jurors asked the judge to see the record of the FBI conversation last week. Judge Nathan told the jury it was not in evidence, but they could review the trial transcript.

“In this entire first discussion with the FBI in 2007, it’s true that you never said the name Ghislaine Maxwell once, correct?” Mr Pagliuca asked Carolyn, according to the transcript.

“Yes, because it’s not who we were talking about,” Carolyn replied.

Carolyn’s case underlies the sex trafficking charge, the most serious count Ms Maxwell faces with a prison sentence of up to 40 years.

Witness Carolyn testifies in court on 7 December (REUTERS)
Witness Carolyn testifies in court on 7 December (REUTERS)

Annie Farmer

The jury also appeared to be paying close attention to testimony from Ms Farmer, the only accuser to testify under her full name at trial.

Ms Farmer told the court that Ms Maxwell gave her a nude massage and groped her breasts at Epstein’s ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when she was just 16.

She said she had first met Epstein through her sister and believed he and Ms Maxwell wanted to help with her education.

In a note to the judge on Tuesday, jurors asked whether they could consider Ms Farmer’s testimony in weighing whether Ms Maxwell conspired to lure underage girls to travel for illegal sex acts or conspired to transport them for illegal sex acts, two of the six counts.

Judge Nathan informed the jury that because Ms Farmer was above the age of consent in New Mexico at that time, any encounters she described were not considered "illegal sex acts”.

That meant Ms Farmer could not be considered a victim of being transported or lured to travel for sex by Ms Maxwell – two of the other counts.

However, the judge said jurors could still consider Ms Farmer’s testimony in determining whether Ms Maxwell conspired to violate those laws.

Witness Annie Farmer testifies on 10 December (REUTERS)
Witness Annie Farmer testifies on 10 December (REUTERS)

Kate

On their second full day of deliberation, jurors asked for a transcript of testimony from accuser “Kate”, who said Ms Maxwell first instructed her to give Epstein sexualised massages at the socialite’s London townhouse when she was 17.

Ms Maxwell then allegedly continued to set her up with sexual meetings with Epstein as the teenager was flown between his homes in New York, Florida and his island of Little St James.

One time, Ms Maxwell told her to dress in a schoolgirl outfit for the paedophile and she also asked her if she had other friends who could come to give him oral sex, Kate testified.

The other key players

Jurors have also asked for transcripts of testimony from four other witnesses.

The first was Juan Alessi, a former house manager at Epstein’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida. That request came in late on 22 December.

On Monday, jurors requested a transcript from Jane’s ex-boyfriend “Matt”, who testified under a pseudonym to protect her identity.

Matt, who lived with Jane from 2007 to 2014, said that Jane initially described Epstein as a godfather who helped her family pay bills after her father’s illness and death depleted their finances.

He said she eventually told him that the help Epstein provided “wasn’t free”, but did not provide any details about what happened.

When he was asked what her demeanour was like when he asked Jane questions about her encounters with Epstein, he testified that she was “ashamed, embarrassed, horrified”.

Matt said she also told him that she felt more comfortable in her encounters with Epstein because there was a woman around. Matt said he contacted Jane after Ms Maxwell’s July 2020 arrest and asked her if Ms Maxwell was the woman she had referenced as making her feel more comfortable in her dealings with Epstein.

He testified that she confirmed Ms Maxwell was the woman.

Jurors also asked for testimony from Gregory Parkinson, the police officer who led a 2005 raid on Epstein’s Palm Beach compound.

In addition, they sought testimony from David Rodger’s, a pilot on Epstein’s “Lolita Express” who testified that he saw Jane on the plane.

Jurors signalled that they’re discussions were growing more complicated on Monday by requesting a slew of office supplies, including coloured Post-It notes, a white board and highlighters.

At the end of Monday’s proceedings, Judge Nathan told jurors to expect to stay late until 6pm on Tuesday if they have yet to reach a verdict.

The defence balked at this instruction, saying it sends a message to “Hurry up.”

Tuesday’s proceedings were quiet - with the only note from the jury coming just before 5pm. It featured a request to finish at the regular time and resume at 9am tomorrow, to which Judge Nathan agreed.

Half an hour into deliberation on Wednesday, jurors asked for transcripts of testimony from five more witnesses: Cimberly Espinosa, Amanda Young, Jason Richards, Shawn and Elizabeth Loftus.

Ms Espinosa, who was Ms Maxwell’s assistant between 1996 and 2002, took the stand for the defence on 16 December and recalled meeting accuser Jane when she visited Epstein’s New York City office “a few times” in the late 1990s.

She said Jane appeared to be 18 years old, and recalled that Jane’s mother had told staff at the office she was Epstein’s goddaughter.

Because of the close connection, Jane “was treated with utmost respect”, Ms Espinosa said.

She said she was left with the impression “it was a loving relationship”, she added.

Asked about Ms Maxwell’s relationship with Epstein, Ms Espinosa said when she first started working for the socialite “they were a little flirty” and “behaved like a couple”.

Shawn is the former boyfriend of accuser Carolyn, who told the court he drove her to Epstein’s Palm Beach home on multiple occasions when she was 15. He said she stayed in the house for about an hour and frequently came out with cash and gifts.

Ms Young and Mr Richards are FBI agents who testified for the defence.

Ms Young was asked to read notes from a prior interview with Jane. The notes showed Jane said she was “not sure” if Ms Maxwell made appointments for her to massage Epstein and that she did not recall being abused at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico.

Ms Richards testified about a 2007 interview with accuser Carolyn. He said Carolyn told him she found Epstein’s number in a phone book - contradicting her testimony that she was introduced to him by another accuser, Virginia Giuffre.

Dr Loftus, a psychologist and “false memory” expert, also testified for the defence in a bid to cast doubt on the accusers’ recollections. “One thing we know about memory is that it doesn’t work like a recording device,” she told the court.

In the same note requesting those five transcripts, the jury asked for clarification about the deliberation schedule - including whether they will be asked to come in over the weekend.

Despite objections from the defence, Judge Nathan said they will have to continue deliberating every single day until a verdict is reached due to the risk posed by the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Just hours later, the jury returned its verdict:

  • Count 1 - GUILTY: Conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts - maximum sentence of five years

  • Count 2 - NOT GUILTY: Enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts - maximum sentence of five years

  • Count 3 - GUILTY: Conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity - maximum sentence of five years

  • Count 4 - GUILTY: Transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity - maximum sentence of 10 years

  • Count 5 - GUILTY: Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors - maximum sentence of five years

  • Count 6 - GUILTY: Sex trafficking of minors - maximum sentence of 40 years

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