Ghislaine Maxwell, 60, a British socialite and daughter of a media mogul, was found guilty by a US jury on Wednesday of conspiring with American millionaire-paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to groom and sexually abuse underage girls.
According to the verdict, read by Judge Alison J. Nathan on Wednesday, the British socialite was found guilty on five of six counts, including sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and three counts of conspiracy. She was acquitted of one count of enticing a minor to travel across state lines to engage in an illegal sexual act.
Maxwell’s trial was largely seen as a continuation of the legal process against American millionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein who was arrested in July 2019 and committed suicide a Manhattan jail cell the following month.
Epstein Conspiracy Has Already Ruined Prince Andrew’s Life
Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts) an alleged victim of Epstein, praised the guilty verdict in the Maxwell trial, calling it “another step towards justice” and adding that more people must be held accountable in an apparent reference to British Queen Elizabeth II’s son, Prince Andrew.
Earlier, prosecutors in the Maxwell case decided not to bring charges in connection with Giuffre, who alleges that Epstein and Maxwell flew her around the world when she was 17 and 18 for sexual encounters with billionaires, politicians, heads of state, and royals, including the British prince. Los Angeles attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents several of Epstein’s alleged victims, told the Daily Mail that Maxwell’s conviction ought to be a warning for Prince Andrew.
“Andrew’s accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre was not, as many expected, called as a witness against Maxwell”, Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator and consultant, said. “There was speculation this might be because of possible inconsistencies in any testimony she might give. Andrew was hardly mentioned during the trial, only as a passenger on Epstein’s private jet and when photographs were disclosed showing Epstein and Maxwell at Balmoral. Andrew’s legal team has applied for her civil lawsuit against him for sexual assault to be dismissed”.
On 9 August 2021, Giuffre filed a lawsuit in a federal court in New York against Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was under the age of 18. “US District Judge Lewis Kaplan is due to rule on this on 4 January”, notes Fitzwilliams. “If he rules it should go to trial this is expected to be in the latter part of 2022”. This is not the first time Giuffre has brought forward accusations against the Duke of York. In 2014, she launched legal action in a Florida state court, claiming that Epstein offered her to his influential peers, including the Prince Andrew. The British prince has repeatedly rejected the allegations.
“Even if he were to win the case [in 2022], Andrew’s ‘car crash’ interview on the BBC’s Newsnight programme in November 2019 was calamitous as it turned public opinion against him”, says the royal commentator. “It also appears he has not, as he promised to do, cooperate with the FBI, who seek Epstein’s accomplices. His inability to explain the photograph with Virginia Roberts (now Giuffre) and Maxwell, reportedly taken in 2001, is a huge liability”.
Fitzwilliams has drawn attention to the embattled prince being forced to step down from royal duties in the wake of the scandal and it appears inconceivable that he will ever resume them. Following the controversial November 2019 interview the prince retired from royal duties, while in February 2020 his name was removed from [email protected], the startup-mentoring platform founded by him in 2014. He lost patronages and has been missing from military events since the sex scandal erupted.
“At 61, he does not appear to have a future and his friendships have, without doubt, proven catastrophic”, Fitzwilliams highlights.
Maxwell’s Attorney Vows to Appeal Verdict
Maxwell’s defence attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, and members of her family signalled on Wednesday that they are going to appeal the jury’s guilty verdict. The Guardian cited Sternheim as saying that Maxwell’s legal team had already started working on the appeal, and that they were confident that she would be vindicated.
“It is certainly Ms Maxwell’s right to file an appeal”, says David Levine, professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law. “However, to prevail in an appeal, Ms Maxwell must show that the trial judge made one or more errors in the trial and that one or more of those errors may have made a difference in the outcome of the case. Thus, even if the appellate court thinks that the trial judge made an error, it won’t be the basis for a new trial if the appellate court determines that the error was harmless. I don’t think the trial judge made any reversible errors”.
Yet another issue is whether the trial judge agrees to release Maxwell pending the outcome of the appeal, the professor notes, suggesting that the appeal could easily take more than a year to resolve. According to Levine, the trial judge, Alison Nathan, is very unlikely to release Maxwell “given that she ordered Ms Maxwell held all this time despite numerous defence motions seeking her release”.
“The time Ms Maxwell has spent in custody will be credited toward completion of her sentence but given that she is likely to get a sentence that will approach or exceed her remaining life expectancy, that credit will do her little good”, Levine explains.
Maxwell Verdict ‘Akin to Prosecuting Getaway Driver But Not Bank Robbers’
The outcome of the Maxwell trial has left more questions than answers, Jonathan Turley, an American attorney, legal writer, and a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, who has followed the legal process from the start, argues on Twitter.
“One glaring issue in the conviction is that Maxwell conspired to transport girls for sex but, beyond Epstein, none of the men who allegedly had sex with these girls have been prosecuted”, Turley writes. “It is akin to prosecuting a getaway driver but not the bank robbers. Maxwell was an enabler not just for Epstein but his high-profile friends. Those ‘Lolita Express’ flights [were] transporting girls for these men”.
When you consider these five convictions for Maxwell, this picture becomes more glaring in the total absence of prosecution for the men on the other end of these flights. https://t.co/x7mHd5GM7P
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) December 29, 2021
Turley refers to the Daily Mail’s August 2020 bombshell, showing never-before-seen photographs featuring Bill Clinton and alleged Epstein victim Chauntae Davies. “When you consider these five convictions for Maxwell, this picture becomes more glaring in the total absence of prosecution for the men on the other end of these flights”, the American attorney emphasises.
Turley laments that even though the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York “expressed outrage” over the sex crimes and “aggressively pursued Maxwell”, that “unrelenting” effort is likely to stop with Maxwell.