The judge overseeing Ghislaine Maxwell’s federal sex trafficking trial expressed her concern that Covid-19 could upend deliberations and requested the panel to stay later each day, but the jury Tuesday asked to go home at its regular time.
Jurors must be available to deliberate every day unless they have a substantial hardship because of an unmovable commitment, the judge told the panel before dismissing them for the day.
If convicted on all six counts, Maxwell faces up to 70 years in prison.
The jurors were dismissed at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday without a verdict after roughly 16 hours of deliberating. They are expected to return Monday at 9 a.m.
Shortly before sending the jurors home for the holiday, Judge Alison Nathan sent them a note asking if they’d consider deliberating Thursday.
Minutes later, the jury responded with a note of its own: “No, thank you. Jurors have made plans for tomorrow.”
Upon dismissing the jury, Nathan made a pandemic-related plea: “Obviously, we’ve got the variant and I need all of you here and healthy on Monday. So please take good care and cautions.”
Maxwell will spend her 60th birthday in federal prison in Brooklyn on Christmas Day. She hugged her attorneys before being led out of the courtroom.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour Monday and for about eight hours Tuesday. In the deliberations, they have asked the court three questions related to testimony from the women who form the core of the case against Maxwell.
First, jurors asked the judge for the transcripts of testimonies from Annie Farmer, Carolyn and “Jane” – three of the four women who testified they were sexually abused by Epstein and that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in the abuse.
Jurors also asked for the FBI notes from a 2007 interview with Carolyn that the defense has said is inconsistent with her testimony in court. The FBI notes are not in evidence, but some excerpts were read into the record during her cross-examination.
Further, the jury asked whether it can consider Farmer’s testimony for two of the conspiracy counts. Nathan said jurors may do so.
The deliberations cap a three-week trial highlighted by testimony from the four women, who said Maxwell recruited and groomed them to be sexually abused by Epstein and sometimes participated in that abuse. The abuse allegedly began when they were younger than 18, and their accusations stretched from 1994 to 2004.
The prosecution called 24 witnesses over 10 days of testimony. Their case rested primarily on four women with personal stories of her alleged role facilitating Epstein’s abuse.
In closing arguments, attorney Laura Menninger sought to distance Maxwell from Epstein and suggested he had manipulated her as well. She said the prosecution’s case is based on speculation and distracting photos of Maxwell with Epstein, including several that show her giving him a foot massage.
Carolyn testified that when she was 14, Maxwell touched her breasts, hips and butt and told her she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends.” The child sex trafficking count – the most serious of all the charges – relates to her testimony.
“Jane,” testifying under a pseudonym, said Maxwell organized sexual massages with Epstein and sometimes joined in the abuse. The enticing and transporting counts relate to testimony solely from her.
The fourth accuser, “Kate,” testified Maxwell invited her over and directed her how to give Epstein a sexual massage. She said Maxwell spoke often of sexual topics with her and asked Kate to invite other young girls for Epstein’s sexual desires.
Epstein, an 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 was arrested in 2020 and has been held behind bars under close watch since.
What happened at the trial
In its closing argument, the prosecution said Maxwell’s close relationship with Epstein and manipulative actions were key to the international abuse scheme at his properties in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands.
“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,” prosecutor Allison 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.”
In the defense’s closing argument, attorney Laura Menninger sought to distance Maxwell from Epstein and suggested he had manipulated her as well. She said the prosecution’s case is based on speculation and distracting photos of Maxwell with Epstein, including several that show her giving him a foot massage.
“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,” Menninger told the jury.
Menninger also went through the testimony of each accuser and highlighted inconsistencies in their timelines and their previous interviews with law enforcement in which two of the victims, Carolyn and “Jane,” did not mention Maxwell.
The attorney suggested they misremembered what happened and said they may have changed their stories for money.
“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.
Prosecutor Maurene Comey rejected those arguments in a rebuttal that alluded to broader societal and economic forces at play in this case.
“The defendant never thought that those teenage girls would have the strength to report what happened. In her eyes, they were just trash beneath her,” she said. “Those girls would never stand up to a power couple like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. And if they did, who would believe them?”