The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell is set to begin in a Manhattan courtroom imminently, with opening arguments expected to begin Monday morning.
Ms. Maxwell, 59, the daughter of a British media mogul and once a fixture in New York City’s social scene, faces six counts stemming from what prosecutors say was her role in facilitating the sexual exploitation and abuse of girls by Jeffrey Epstein, her longtime companion.
Prosecutors say Ms. Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to” Mr. Epstein’s crimes by helping him recruit, groom and abuse girls who were under 18.
Ms. Maxwell has denied wrongdoing. Her lawyers have questioned the motives of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office in bringing the case, which is widely seen as a proxy for trying Mr. Epstein himself. The disgraced financier was arrested on sex-trafficking charges in July 2019 and was found dead in a Manhattan jail cell a month later.
Even in death, Mr. Epstein is expected to loom over Ms. Maxwell’s trial, and his conduct is at the heart of the case. The trial is expected to provide a window into the life of one of the most notorious sex offenders in modern American history: Mr. Epstein’s exploits, his dealings with the criminal justice system and his death have been the subject of books, exposés, podcasts, rumors, lawsuits, investigations and documentaries. But they have never been aired in a federal trial.
The trial, which is expected to last around six weeks, is likely to include graphic testimony — including from women who say Mr. Epstein abused them when they were teenagers — and accounts from inside Mr. Epstein’s entourage. Possible government witnesses include at least one of his pilots and a former employee.
While the charged conduct in the case dates from around 1994 to 2004, Judge Alison J. Nathan has said she will allow prosecutors to present evidence that extends beyond this date range.
The jury will learn about the details of Mr. Epstein’s household and also about psychological terms like “grooming,” which is used to describe deliberate efforts made to make somebody — in this case, young girls — susceptible to abuse.
Jurors may also learn about the identities of other people who federal prosecutors say conspired with Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein in the sex-trafficking ring, pretrial filings show. They may learn of “influential men” whom Ms. Maxwell offered to set up on dates with young women, and others with whom Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein socialized.
Ghislaine Maxwell faces six counts in her federal trial, which relate to accusations that she facilitated the sexual exploitation of girls for her longtime companion, the disgraced financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The six counts center on the accounts of four accusers. The charges include:
One count of enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, in which Ms. Maxwell is accused of coercing one girl — identified as Minor Victim 1 in charging documents — to travel from Florida to New York, between 1994 and 1997, to engage in sex acts with Mr. Epstein.
One count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illegal sex acts, which accuses Ms. Maxwell of bringing the same girl from Florida to New York on numerous occasions.
One count of sex trafficking of a minor, which charges that between 2001 and 2004, Ms. Maxwell recruited, enticed and transported another girl — identified in the charges as Minor Victim 4 — to engage in at least one commercial sex act with Mr. Epstein.
And three counts of conspiracy, which are related to the other counts. The conspiracy counts in the indictment are more expansive, involving all four accusers and homes in the United States and in London. These charges involve accusations that Ms. Maxwell worked with Mr. Epstein to secure underage girls for sex acts, for example, by encouraging one to give Mr. Epstein massages in London between 1994 and 1995.
Ms. Maxwell, 59, could face a lengthy prison term if convicted. Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40 year sentence; the other charges have maximum penalties of five or 10 years.
When Ms. Maxwell was arrested in July 2020, she was also charged with two counts of perjury, accusing her of lying under oath in 2016 during depositions for a lawsuit related to Mr. Epstein. In April, Judge Alison J. Nathan granted the defense’s request to sever the perjury counts, which will be tried separately.
A science teacher, a real estate broker, two retired judges and a former personal assistant who reads at least one book a day: They were among the dozens of prospective jurors who appeared in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday as jury selection wrapped up in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial.
A pool of 231 candidates was whittled down to just under five dozen earlier this month during two-and-a-half days of jury selection, where prosecutors, Ms. Maxwell and her lawyers watched as Judge Alison J. Nathan asked each of them a series of questions, including what they knew about Ms. Maxwell and her longtime companion, Jeffrey Epstein, and if that information would affect their ability to be impartial.
Many of the potential jurors said they had heard or seen news reports about Mr. Epstein, a financier who died in July 2019 at a Manhattan detention center while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. His death was later ruled a suicide.
Yet most said they knew little, if anything, about Ms. Maxwell. Some prospective jurors told the court they had seen her name appear in headlines, articles or nightly newscasts in connection to Mr. Epstein, and a few recalled seeing photographs of them together. And while others remembered a bit more, like the nature of the charges against her, all 58 said that, whatever they had heard, they could set it aside and decide the case based on the facts presented at trial.
“It’s my duty as a citizen to be impartial,” said one 25-year-old Walgreens manager, who will be a part of Monday’s jury pool. “This is the cornerstone of our justice system, so I have to do my job.”
As Judge Nathan questioned the jurors about their education, occupations and their familiarity with names and places that were likely to come up during the trial, Ms. Maxwell periodically scribbled in her notebook, ran her fingers through her dark hair and adjusted the collar of her black turtleneck. From time to time she also put her arm around the shoulders of her lawyer, Bobbi C. Sternheim, and whispered in her ear.
On the final day of the jury selection process, Ms. Maxwell embraced each member of her defense team and blew kisses to her sister, Isabel Maxwell, before two U.S. marshals escorted her out of the courtroom.
The final jury was chosen on Monday morning ahead of opening arguments.
The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, a former girlfriend and longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, is set to begin Monday. Here are some of the events that led to the highly anticipated trial:
July 7, 2019
Mr. Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.
Federal prosecutors accused Mr. Epstein of engaging in criminal sex acts with minors and women, some as young as 14.
Aug. 10, 2019
Mr. Epstein killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell.
Mr. Epstein hanged himself in his jail cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center; he was not under suicide watch at the time of his death. He had just been denied bail on federal sex trafficking charges.
Ms. Maxwell sued Mr. Epstein’s estate.
Ms. Maxwell said in the lawsuit that Mr. Epstein and Darren Indyke, a longtime lawyer for Mr. Epstein and the executor of his estate, both promised to pay her legal fees, but she said they hadn’t. Her legal fees mounted as more women claimed she helped Mr. Epstein recruit them for sexual activity when they were underage.
Ms. Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire.
The indictment listed three minor victims who say they were recruited by Ms. Maxwell from 1994 to 1997 for criminal sexual activity.
Ms. Maxwell asks for release on $5 million bond.
Her lawyers asked a federal judge in Manhattan to release her from jail on $5 million bond. Judge Alison J. Nathan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan denied the request after prosecutors argued that Ms. Maxwell posed a high risk of fleeing before her trial.
Ms. Maxwell calls jail “oppressive.”
Ms. Maxwell asked again to be released, this time on $28.5 million bond, arguing that the conditions of her Brooklyn jail were “oppressive.” But once again the request was denied, after prosecutors said the probability she would flee was extremely high. Prosecutors also said the conditions in jail were reasonable, pointing to her personal shower, phone and two computers.
Ms. Maxwell is charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old.
A new indictment accuses Ms. Maxwell of grooming an additional minor. She is charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl who engaged in sexual acts with Mr. Epstein at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate.
Ms. Maxwell goes on trial.
Opening arguments are set for Monday.