Ghislaine Maxwell: judge lines up long list of jury options
Arrested by the FBI in 2020, Maxwell was accused of playing a "critical role" in alleged sex crimes involving Jeffrey Epstein. Her trial is set.
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell faces charges of sexual abuse and her trial in New York is just weeks away from beginning, with some powerful global powers potentially feeling nervous about what information and names could come to light. As part of the preparations, the judge overseeing the trial has stated that she plans to question 231 potential jurors.
Maxwell-Epstein trial: jurors decision
US District Judge Alison Nathan started questioning the candidates today, Tuesday 16 November. She plans to ask jurors whether they know any of the people who say they were victims of the abuse and will testify, as well as whether they have opinions about "people who are wealthy or have luxurious lifestyles."
Twelve jurors and six alternates will be selected from the pool.
Maxwell, 59, is accused of grooming underage girls for deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein to abuse. She has pleaded not guilty to six counts of sex trafficking and other crimes.
The trial's opening statements are scheduled for 29 November.
Attorneys for Maxwell have argued that extensive media coverage of her arrest and ties to Epstein have tainted the jury pool.
More than 600 potential jurors filled out questionnaires this month asking them what they have heard about Epstein and Maxwell, and about their own experiences with sexual abuse.
The questioning this week, known as voir dire, is intended to further weed out potential jurors who may be biased.
Maxwell is a former girlfriend of Epstein, a teacher-turned-globetrotting-investor who counted Britain's Prince Andrew and former U.S. President Donald Trump among his associates. Epstein died by suicide at age 66 in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while awaiting his own trial on sex crimes charges.
Maxwell trial: how we got here
In the summer of 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Ghislaine Maxwell appeared in court via video link after being accused by United States prosecutors of playing a "critical role" in alleged sexual-abuse crimes involving the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell was also charged with committing perjury four years previously in statements relating to allegations of sexual abuse.
Epstein died in custody in August 2019, as he awaited trial in New York over sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges. The 66-year-old was accused of paying dozens of girls under the age of 18 to perform sex acts, and faced 45 years in prison.
He had already served 13 months of an 18-month jail sentence in Florida a decade previously, after pleading guilty to soliciting prostitution from underage girls in 2008.
Prosecutors say Maxwell involved in "grooming and abuse of minor victims"
A statement released by the US Department of Justice at the time of the court appearance alleged that Maxwell and Epstein "exploited girls as young as 14, including by enticing them to travel and transporting them for the purpose of engaging in illegal sex acts".
It continued: "As alleged, knowing that Epstein had a preference for young girls, Maxwell played a critical role in the grooming and abuse of minor victims that took place in locations including New York, Florida, and New Mexico. In addition, as alleged, Maxwell made several false statements in sworn depositions in 2016."
Maxwell "set the trap" for Epstein victims
"Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse," Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, said. "In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse. She set the trap. She pretended to be a woman they [alleged victims] could trust.
"All the while, she was setting them up to be abused sexually by Epstein and, in some cases, Maxwell herself. Today, after many years, Ghislaine Maxwell finally stands charged for her role in these crimes.”
Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?
Maxwell, 59, is the youngest child of media tycoon Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after apparently falling overboard from his 180-foot yacht - which he had named Lady Ghislaine after his daughter - while it was cruising off the Canary Islands.
Ghislaine, who moved to the US after her father’s death, is a former girlfriend of Epstein. After their romantic relationship came to an end, reportedly at some point in the 1990s, she became "something more akin to […] a close friend, confidante and personal assistant" to Epstein, a Guardian profile said.
She has been named in several lawsuits filed by woman who say they were victims of sexual abuse. One accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has alleged that she was coerced by Epstein and Maxwell into having sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17.
Giuffre, who says Maxwell recruited her to work as Epstein’s masseuse when she was 15, alleges that the disgraced financier paid her $15,000 to have sex with the prince, who denies the claims and says he has "no recollection" of meeting his accuser.
In 2015, Giuffre sued Maxwell over the socialite’s claims that her accusations were lies. During the defamation case, which was settled two years later, Giuffre said she was "forced to have sexual relations" with Prince Andrew "in three separate geographical locations".
FBI investigation lead to Maxwell arrest
Maxwell was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire in July 2020.
“We have been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts as we worked this investigation,” said William Sweeney, the assistant director of the FBI’s New York office, at the time.
"More recently, we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims lived with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago."