NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial began in New York City on Monday, with jurors selected to participate in the case and opening statements set for later in the day.
Federal prosecutors say Maxwell, 59, recruited and groomed financier Jeffrey Epstein's female victims to participate in a sex trafficking operation he allegedly ran. Investigators say some of the victims were as young as 14.
What You Need To Know
- Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial began in New York City on Monday, with jurors selected to participate in the case and opening statements set for later in the day
- Federal prosecutors say Maxwell, 59, recruited and groomed financier Jeffrey Epstein's female victims to participate in a sex trafficking operation he allegedly ran
- Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail complex in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges; Authorities charged Maxwell in July of last year
- Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges; If found guilty on all counts, she could face 70 years in prison
Prosecutors say there’s evidence Maxwell knew that the victims, including a 14-year-old, were below the age of consent and that she arranged travel for some between Epstein’s homes, including his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his posh Manhattan townhouse and at other residences in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and London.
Authorities charged Maxwell in July 2020, arresting her after tracking her to a $1 million New Hampshire estate where she had been holed up during the coronavirus pandemic.
Maxwell, however is "the exact opposite of the kind of women that Jeffrey typically liked, in that she didn’t need to be molded by him at all," said journalist Vicky Ward, the host of "Chasing Ghislaine," a new documentary streaming on streaming on Discovery+.
"She was far more worldly — she had a much more extensive Rolodex than he did,” Ward said.
Ward — who first profiled Jeffrey Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2002 — described Maxwell as an enigma.
“She was, in many ways, a gateway to this very shadowy world of men that Jeffrey Epstein managed to be so powerful in,” Ward said. "The idea of a privileged, educated woman doing this to... female children is just sort of unspeakably horrifying."
Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail complex in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, one month after his arrest.
“I think it’s really interesting to note how many important, powerful names of men have emerged since his death as being associated with him,” Ward said.
“One of the defense arguments that they tried to make right, that the judge ultimately disallowed, was that the prosecution is going after Maxwell because they couldn’t go after Epstein," said Dmitriy Shakhnevich, an attorney and assistant adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "So, that’s going to be a big part of this case."
Ward said the big question is whether or not the defense will put Maxwell on the stand.
“She is an incredibly compelling performer," Ward said. "I know this because I ran into her over the years at various New York events. She is extraordinarily persuasive."
Maxwell could face 70 years in prison if she is found guilty on all counts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.