Ghislaine Maxwell turns 60 behind bars as verdict looms

NEW YORK (AP) – Ghislaine Maxwell turned 60 behind bars on Saturday as she awaited the outcome of her sex trafficking trial.

The British socialite is expected to return to a Manhattan courthouse on Monday to await a word from a jury entering its third full day of talks after hearing more than two dozen witnesses and viewing dozens of exhibits in three weeks.

Messages sent to his lawyer and to a website that regularly posts material expressing support for Maxwell were not returned on Saturday.

Prosecutors said in oral argument last Monday that crucial evidence was testimony from four women who say they were sexually assaulted as teenagers by financier Jeffrey Epstein with help from Maxwell when she was his girlfriend, and more late when she turned into her close confidante and an employee valued enough to give her over $ 20 million.

Prosecutors called her the “lady of the house” from 1994 to 2004, saying she recruited and trained teens as young as 14 to meet Epstein’s seemingly insatiable need to be touched by vulnerable girls from poor and desperate backgrounds or who relied on his assertions. of wealth and connections to aid their quest for success and fame in the performing arts.

Defense attorneys, however, say she was a scapegoat for the US government after Epstein committed suicide in the Manhattan federal prison cell where he was awaiting his own sex trafficking trial in August 2019. They said his accusers’ memories had been corrupted by the passage of time and the influence of lawyers directing them to multi-million dollar payments from a fund set up to compensate Epstein’s victims.

The jury has already asked to review the testimony of the four women, as well as that of Epstein’s former housekeeper Juan Patricio Alessi, but they gave little clue to their overall progress on six counts. , including one count of sex trafficking punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

Alessi said that while working in Epstein’s sprawling Florida home from 1990 to 2002, he saw “many, many, many” female visitors, appearing to be in their late twenties, often basking topless in the room. edge of the swimming pool. He also said two accusers, underage teenagers at the time, were regular visitors to the Epstein Mansion.

Each day of deliberations without a verdict seems to energize the defense team, which are aware that swift verdicts almost always go in favor of the government and that lengthy deliberations can sometimes indicate dissent or confusion among jurors.

On Wednesday, two defense lawyers congratulated each other.

The deliberations are taking place as a wave of coronavirus infections fueled by the omicron variant sweeps through New York State, particularly severe where jurors live. Concern over the spread was evident when U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan asked jurors to deliberate on Thursday. They refused.

When she fired them on Wednesday for the long vacation weekend, she told them there would be new courthouse protocols to tackle the coronavirus on Monday, including the requirement to wear the most masks. protectors. And she offered to give them the masks to protect themselves and others over the weekend.

“Please stay safe over the long weekend. Obviously we have the variant, and I need all of you here and healthy on Monday, ”Nathan said. “So please take good care of yourself and take precautions. “

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement