Jury Begins Deliberations in Ghislaine Maxwell’s Sex Abuse Trial

Jury Begins Deliberations in Ghislaine Maxwell's Sex Abuse Trial in a sketch Ghislaine Maxwell sits in the court room during her trial, which is closed to media cameras Ghislaine Maxwell sits in the court room during her trial, which is closed to media cameras. (Elizabeth Williams/AP)

Luc Cohen Monday, 20 December 2021 05:10 PM

The jury in Ghislaine Maxwell's sex abuse trial began deliberations Monday after hearing closing arguments over whether the British socialite set up teenage girls to have sexual encounters with the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell, 59, is accused of recruiting and grooming four teenage girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.

On trial for three weeks in federal court in Manhattan, she has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking and other crimes. Epstein killed himself in a jail cell in 2019 at the age of 66 while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges.

Earlier on Monday, prosecutor Alison Moe said in her closing argument Maxwell was Epstein's "partner in crime." Jurors previously heard from four women who said Maxwell groomed them for abuse by Epstein when they were teenagers. Three of the women said Maxwell herself touched their bare breasts.

Moe argued Maxwell's presence made young girls feel comfortable spending time with Epstein. Otherwise, receiving an invitation to be with a middle-aged man would have seemed "creepy" and "set off alarm bells," Moe said.

"Epstein could not have done this alone," Moe said. "When that man is accompanied by a posh, smiling, respectable, age-appropriate woman, that's when everything starts to seem legitimate. And when that woman … acts like it's totally normal for that man to touch those girls, it lures them into a trap."

Maxwell defense attorney Laura Menninger countered Maxwell was an "innocent woman" whom prosecutors had targeted because Epstein is no longer alive.

She argued the women's memories had been corrupted over the decades and said they were motivated by money to implicate Maxwell. All four women said they received millions of dollars from a victims' compensation fund established by Epstein's estate.

The defense had repeatedly pressed the women during cross-examinations as to why they did not mention Maxwell during their initial conversations with law enforcement agents about Epstein.

"They all changed their stories when the Epstein victims' compensation fund was opened up," Menninger told the jury. "That should make you hesitate."