Jeffrey Epstein’s sometime assistant and lover goes on trial Monday, November 29, in a Manhattan courtroom. New York prosecutors will attempt to prove Ghislaine Maxwell facilitated sex crimes perpetrated by Epstein from 1994 through 1997.
Born in France and raised in England, Maxwell moved to the United States soon after her wealthy father died in 1991. She took up hobnobbing with the rich and famous, eventually including Jeffrey Epstein. The charges she is fighting in court surround her actions in support of Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking. He is accused of paying teenage girls for sexual services performed as part of massage treatments. Ms. Maxwell’s charges come from allegations she facilitated these transactions.
Maxwell has been in federal custody since being arrested on July 2, 2020. She will be tried by District Judge Alison J. Nathan, an Obama appointee. Maurene Ryan Comey, daughter of the disgraced former FBI director, is the lead prosecutor and an assistant United States attorney in the (in)famous Southern District of New York.
Across State Lines
Unlike the Kyle Rittenhouse case, state lines are important in this trial. Here is a law Maxwell is accused of breaking:
18 U.S. Code § 2422 – Coercion and enticement
(b) Whoever, using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life.
The complaint alleges that Maxwell “groomed” the teenagers for Epstein. The government says that by befriending Epstein’s victims, she is guilty of the enticement prohibited by law. The complaint says the grooming started by taking the victims to the movies, for instance, and developing a rapport with the young women. After that, the government argues Maxwell would talk about sexual topics with the them, undress in their vicinity, and be present when Epstein and his victims were having sexual interactions. She is specifically alleged to have encouraged some of the girls to travel to meet with Epstein across state lines.
Ghislaine Maxwell is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, the British media mogul who at one point owned the New York Daily News. After he died, Mr. Maxwell was discovered to have committed fraud to the tune of hundreds of millions from pension funds. He was found floating in the vicinity of the Canary Islands near his yacht, The Lady Ghislaine. While his death was ruled an accidental drowning, rumors of murder at the hands of intelligence agencies are widespread. He was buried in Israel, where his funeral was attended by many intelligence officials and both Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and President Chaim Herzog, who eulogized him.
Many case details, including the victims’ identities and what the allegations against Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein include, are clouded in mystery. Because the crimes involve underage victims and alleged victims of sex trafficking, many details are redacted, and filings are made under seal, outside of public view. The trial will be conducted this way as well. Federal criminal trials are not broadcast on television, so the public will have to rely on the limited number of reporters who can attend the proceedings in person for information.
The case is ripe with conspiracy theories, ever more since Epstein died in federal custody on August 10, 2019. It’s hard to understate how connected Maxwell was before she became infamous. She can be seen in photos with Donald Trump before he became president, for instance, and was a guest at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. She was born among the rich and famous, and her father’s legacy left her familiar with infamy as well.
Multiple reports state the trial is predicted to take up to six weeks. Expect all details to be examined through the lens of conspiracy theory, and given the history of the defendant and those around her, it’s no wonder. Maxwell has pled not guilty to all the charges.
~ Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.