UPDATE: The jury has found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty on five of six counts in connection to the sex trafficking crimes of Jeffrey Epstein.
The celebrity socialite was found guilty on charges of sex trafficking of a minor, according to CNN, as well as transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three counts of conspiracy.
The one count Maxwell was acquitted of was for enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, which jurors said only applied to one of the four women who testified. She faces up to 65 years in prison.
The jury deliberating on whether Ghislaine Maxwell is criminally responsible for her part in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking ring asked to go home at its regular time Tuesday afternoon, despite Judge Alison Nathan’s effort to encourage the jurors to work longer hours.
Judge Nathan is concerned that Covid-19 could disrupt deliberations and produce a mistrial. She wants to hasten a verdict from the 12-member jury. Accordingly, on Monday she said that, unless it caused hardship, the jurors should be prepared to stay an extra hour each day, until 6 p.m.
‘We Are Making Progress‘
Speaking outside the jury’s presence Monday, Judge Nathan referred to “an astronomical spike” in Covid cases in New York City, where the trial has taken place. “We are, very simply, at a different place regarding the pandemic than we were only one week ago,” she said. She fears Covid could force a mistrial.
Yet late Tuesday, the jury submitted a note to the judge saying, “Our deliberations are moving along, and we are making progress,” but that they would like to break at 5 p.m. and resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Judge Nathan approved the request. She also said that deliberations may have to continue through the New Year’s weekend.
Ghislaine Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to each of the six federal counts she faces: sex trafficking of a minor, 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 counts of conspiracy related to those alleged activities.
Why No Verdict Yet?
Maxwell is accused of recruiting and grooming four teenage girls. On Wednesday, the day before the long holiday weekend break, the jury requested transcripts of the testimony of all of the four alleged victims.
On Monday, the jury had other requests. One of them was for the transcript of the testimony of “Matt,” the ex-boyfriend of one of the accusers, the one who goes solely by the name “Jane” in the context of this trial.
A focus on the testimony of the victims, and of Matt, may argue that conviction on at least some count or counts is likely. But the jury takes seriously its obligation to render separate verdicts on each count, and it is working to see which testimony fits under which count.
The jury has also asked the judge for a definition of the word “enticement,” as it figures in the charge that Maxwell enticed a minor to travel to engage in sex acts. That charge is specifically supported by “Jane’s” testimony. Jane said that she traveled from her home in Florida to locations in New Mexico and New York, and in each place had sexual encounters. She also testified that Maxwell worked on the travel arrangements.
In response to the question about enticement. the judge instructed the jury that “entice means to attract, induce or lure using hope or desire.”
As the deliberations roll on, observers naturally wonder what is going on in the jury room. Only 12 people really know, of course, but that doesn’t prevent others from trying to guess. From the jury’s requests one can suppose that a good answer to the question “why has there been no verdict yet?” is the simple one: the jurors are being careful and conscientious.
Sophisticated Predator or Scapegoat?
Ghislaine Maxwell has been held at a federal facility in New York City since her arrest in July 2020. During the trial, prosecutors referred to her as a “sophisticated predator” who “manipulated her victims and groomed them for sexual abuse” in collaboration with Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein died in federal custody in August 2019. This has been deemed a suicide. Ghislaine Maxwell’s defense has used the argument that — since Epstein is now outside the scope of earthly punishment — the government has fixed upon Maxwell as a substitute and scapegoat.
The scandal surrounding the Epstein-Maxwell sex trafficking ring has been long and drawn-out. And it may not end anytime soon.