New York, Dec 29 (EFE).- British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty here Wednesday on charges she helped the late Jeffrey Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse multiple underage girls in the 1990s.
The federal jury of six men and six women convicted Maxwell on five of six counts, including sex trafficking of a minor, after some 40 hours of deliberation over six days.
As the sex-trafficking charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, Maxwell, who turned 60 on Christmas Day, could spend the rest of her life behind bars in the United States.
She has remained in custody since her arrest in July 2020.
The clarifications requested by the jurors during deliberations had led some observers to suggest that they were leaning in the direction of acquittal.
People who were inside the Manhattan federal courtroom when the verdict was read said that Maxwell betrayed no emotion, taking a few sips from a water bottle before whispering something to one of her lawyers.
The jury heard from four women who said that Maxwell enabled and – in some instances – participated in their sexual abuse at the hands of Epstein when they were minors.
The defendant, who pleaded not guilty on all counts, declined to take the witness stand.
“Your honor, the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and so there is no need for me to testify,” she said with the jury absent when Judge Alison Nathan asked Maxwell if she understood her right to speak in her own defense.
The charges against Maxwell were brought by the Office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which charged Epstein with sex trafficking of minors in July 2019.
The case against Epstein was formally closed after the 66-year-old financier was found dead in his jail cell in August 2019, in what coroners ruled a suicide, though experts retained by the dead man’s lawyers said he was murdered.
Defense attorneys insisted throughout the trial that Maxwell was being made a scapegoat for the crimes of Epstein.
“The road to justice has been far too long. But, today, justice has been done,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “I want to commend the bravery of the girls – now grown women – who stepped out of the shadows and into the courtroom.”
The crimes in the Maxwell case date back to the years between 1994 and 1997, when the daughter of disgraced British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell (1923-1991) was in an intimate relationship with Epstein and also managed properties of his in New York City; Palm Beach, Florida; and Santa Fe, Mexico.
Epstein, the source of whose wealth was never entirely clear, numbered many powerful people among his friends, including former US President Bill Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Britain’s Prince Andrew. EFE