Jurors deliberated for less than an hour Monday at Ghislaine Maxwell’s federal trial after the prosecution and defense presented closing arguments that focused on her relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
As the prosecutors argued, Maxwell manipulated and enticed vulnerable girls as a key accomplice in Epstein’s extensive scheme to sexually abuse underage girls.
“Maxwell and Epstein were a wealthy couple who used their privilege to prey on kids from struggling families,” prosecutor Alison Moe said. “The way that they selected these girls tells you that they were targeting vulnerable kids. It is not an accident that Jane and Kate and Annie and Carolyn all came from single-mother households.”
In response, Maxwell’s defense used its closing argument to attack the motivations of the women who testified about the abuse and to contend that Maxwell’s association with Epstein is not criminal.
“She’s being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein, and maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life, but it was not a crime,” attorney Laura Menninger told the jury.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to six federal counts, including sex trafficking of minors, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. If convicted on all six counts, she faces up to 70 years in prison.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour Monday before adjourning for the day. They are expected to return Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.
The closing arguments come after a three-week trial highlighted by testimony from four women who alleged Epstein sexually abused them and that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in that abuse. The abuse occurred when they were younger than 18 and their accusations stretched from 1994 to 2004.
“Jane” testified that Maxwell organized sexual massages with Epstein and sometimes joined in the abuse. “Kate” testified Maxwell set up those sexual meetings. Carolyn testified Maxwell touched her breasts, hips and butt and told her – when she was 14 – she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends.” Finally, Annie Farmer testified she was 16 when Maxwell massaged her naked chest at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in 1996.
The defense rested Friday after presenting its case over two days. They argued that Maxwell is being scapegoated for Epstein’s criminal behavior and tried to attack the women’s memories and motivations.
Maxwell declined to testify Friday, telling Judge Alison Nathan when asked whether she understood her rights: “Your honor, the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. And so there is no need for me to testify.” The jury was not present.
Epstein, the elusive financier who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019 but died by suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell, his close companion and longtime associate, was arrested in 2020.
Prosecution links Maxwell to Epstein
While the four women’s testimony is the crux of the charges, the prosecution has also focused on closely linking Maxwell to Epstein. For example, the prosecution showed a series of photos to jurors of the two embracing and smiling together over the years, including several images of her massaging his foot.
In closing arguments, the prosecution said that close relationship was key to the abuse.
“When you’re with someone for 11 years, you know what they like,” Moe said. “Epstein liked underaged girls. He liked to touch underaged girls. Maxwell knew it. Make no mistake, Maxwell was crucial to the whole scheme. Epstein could not have done this alone.”
Maxwell normalized physical touch and sexuality to the alleged victims she groomed for Epstein, the prosecution argued.
“A single middle-aged man who invites a teenage girl to visit his ranch, to come to his house, to fly to New York, is creepy,” Moe told jurors. “But 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 encourages those girls to massage that man, when she acts like it’s totally normal for the man to touch those girls. It lures them into a trap. It allows the man to silence the alarm bells.”
Jurors again saw pages from Epstein and Maxwell’s “little black book with their victims’ names in it” recovered from Epstein’s home. One page titled “Massages Florida” had notes “Mom,” “dad,” and “parents” next to some females’ names. “When you contact a professional masseuse you don’t need to call her mom or dad,” Moe said.
The prosecutor told jurors to believe the four women who testified about the abuse and suggested the similarity of their stories was important to their credibility.
“They’re not all somehow suffering the same mass delusion,” she said.
Moe also said Maxwell made her own choices and now has to answer for them.
“She committed crimes hand in hand with Jeffrey Epstein. She was a grown woman who knew exactly what she was doing and she’s sitting here in this courtroom being held accountable for breaking the law,” she said.
Defense says Maxwell is innocent and attacks accusers
Menninger, Maxwell’s defense attorney, spoke for two hours as she worked to poke holes in the prosecution’s case and attacked the women who said they were abused.
She said the prosecution’s case is based on speculation and distracting photos of Maxwell with Epstein, reminding jurors several times, “Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein.”
“Ghislaine Maxwell is an innocent woman wrongfully accused of crimes she did not commit,” Menninger said.
The government “certainly proved to you that Epstein had abused his money and his power. They proved to us that he was a master manipulator. That has nothing to do with Ghislaine and everything to do with Jeffrey Epstein. We are not here to defend Jeffrey Epstein. He is not my client,” she said.
Menninger suggested several theories in attempts to undermine the four women who testified they were abused. She theorized that they may be misremembering or lying for their personal gain, that they added Maxwell to their stories at the government’s suggestion, and that the abuse may have happened years later when they were above the age of consent.
“The money brought the accusers to the FBI, with their personal injury lawyers sitting right there next to them. The lawyers manipulated their stories, and the government accepted those stories at face value. Without ever testing them or corroborating them or checking with other witnesses to see if they were accurate,” Menninger said.
The defense attorney went through the testimony of each accuser and questioned their “highly flawed” memories of decades-old allegations, highlighting the inconsistencies in their timelines and their previous interviews with law enforcement. Two of the victims, Carolyn and “Jane,” did not mention Maxwell in their initial law enforcement interviews, according to trial testimony.
“Why would you go decades without mentioning Ghislaine Maxwell and suddenly when you have your personal injury lawyer you add her to the mix?” Menninger said.
Menninger also suggested Maxwell herself was manipulated by Epstein, who showed her only parts of his life so she didn’t know anything about Epstein’s sexual proclivities or crimes.
“It was clear Epstein was a manipulator of everyone around him,” Menninger said. “Someone like Jeffrey Epstein is always trying to control the people around them – use his position to manipulate people and play them off against one another.”
CNN’s Holly Yan, Dakin Andone and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.