Former British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial ended on Wednesday when the Manhattan federal court jury weighing her fate rendered a guilty verdict.
It was a trial that captured headlines around the world and offered a rare and intimate look into the elite social circles that Maxwell and her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein moved in, as well as the wealth and power that the disgraced financier wielded to help carry out his crimes.
The prosecution presented 24 witnesses, over the course of 10 days, to make their case that between 1994 and 2004, Maxwell lured girls as young as 14 into Epstein’s abusive orbit. Maxwell was present during some of the late financier’s abuse and at some points, she participated in his predatory misdeeds, prosecutors said.
Maxwell’s defense presented nine witnesses over the course of two days in their attempt to clear her. They elicited testimony to undermine allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with minors – including calling Eva Dubin, a former Miss Sweden and Epstein ex-girlfriend, to the stand.
They also called two of Maxwell’s former assistants to testify. Both described Maxwell in glowing terms, in an apparent campaign to make the British socialite seem more likable.
Here are some key moments from the trial:
While all of Maxwell’s accusers provided upsetting testimony, Carolyn’s statements were even more harrowing. Carolyn was an archetype of vulnerability when she met Maxwell at age 14 – with an alcoholic mother at home, a 17-year-old boyfriend and a history of sexual abuse.
Her boyfriend, Shawn, introduced Carolyn to then 18-year-old Virginia Giuffre, who has been among the most vocal Epstein and Maxwell accusers. Giuffre asked Carolyn if she wanted to make some money, giving a massage to an older man she knew on Palm Beach island.
Maxwell subsequently scheduled sexualized massage sessions with Epstein. Carolyn’s voice broke, and she wiped her eyes, after saying that she went to Epstein’s house “over 100” times from ages 14 and 18. Sometimes, Carolyn scheduled appointments, saying she needed money for drugs: “Marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, anything that could block out … the appointment.”
Carolyn wept when addressing the defense’s contention that she was testifying for financial gain, saying: “Money would not ever fix what that woman has done to me.”
The exact nature of Maxwell’s role in Epstein’s life remains somewhat mysterious, but a cache of photos presented to jurors showed them as a seemingly enamored couple. The images included notorious snaps of a cleavage-baring Maxwell rubbing Epstein’s feet. There are photos of Maxwell giving Epstein cheek-kisses while they appear to be on holiday. Jurors also saw a photo of Maxwell and Epstein swimming naked.
Showing Maxwell and Epstein as a couple and not just business associates was integral to prosecutors case. “Ladies and gentlemen, when you’re with someone for 11 years, you know what they like,” prosecutor Alison Moe said in her closing. “Jeffrey Epstein liked underage girls. He liked to touch underage girls. Maxwell knew it.”
Visuals of the relationship was key to bolstering witness accounts that described Maxwell and Epstein as romantically linked, thus supporting prosecutors’ claim that Maxwell was well aware of what was going on. Kate, the second accuser to testify against Maxwell, had testified that she described Epstein as her boyfriend.
Maxwell “would ask me if I knew anybody who could come and give Jeffrey [oral sex] because it was a lot for her to do”, Kate said. “She said, ‘You know what he likes: cute, young, pretty, like you.’ She said he needed to have sex about three times a day.”
Prosecutors have argued that Maxwell’s motive in fostering Epstein’s crimes was financial. Maxwell’s father, the British publishing baron Robert Maxwell, died shortly after her arrival to New York City in 1991. Maxwell wasn’t particularly wealthy when she first got involved with Epstein. Satisfying his needs, however, got her back to the high life, they claimed.
An officer from JP Morgan bank testified about transfers from Epstein’s accounts to Maxwell’s. This banker, Patrick McHugh, explained documents which demonstrated that Epstein transferred more than $30m to Maxwell’s accounts between 1999 and 2007.
“You don’t give someone $30m unless they’re giving you exactly what you want, and what Epstein wanted was to touch underage girls,” Moe argued in her closing. “When Maxwell took that money, she knew what it was for and now you do, too.”
Testimony from Alessi, the former house manager of Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion, painted a damning portrait of Maxwell both as his domineering consigliere and indisputable lover.
“Ms Maxwell was the girlfriend of Mr Epstein; I understand she was the lady of the house,” Alessi said. “From the day she came to the house, she right away took over, and she mentioned to me she was going to be the lady of the house. Also, she was in charge of other homes, other properties.”
Alessi’s words, by showing Maxwell’s deep involvement in Epstein’s affairs, strengthened prosecutors’ argument that she was so enmeshed with him, she had to know about his abuse. “You should never look at his eyes. Just look at another part of the room and answer to him,” Alessi recalled Maxwell saying.
His specific recollections of Epstein and Maxwell’s intimacy further spoke to the twisted personal-and-business relationship that prosecutors said paved the way for abuse.
“She was sleeping at Mr Epstein’s bedroom,” he said. Alessi once found a large dildo in Epstein’s massage room, which he then placed in Maxwell’s bathroom. “That’s the place what I was told – it was kept all the time.”