Ghislaine Maxwell conviction: Will others be charged? Will she flip? Here are the questions left by the trial | US News
Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial was billed as the moment, after years of waiting, when we would get answers.
In reality, the woman at the centre of the case revealed almost nothing, and the courtroom drama, scheduled to last six weeks, was over in three.
Maxwell did not take the stand, and her defence offered little to counter the claims of the four female victims, beyond suggesting they were motivated by money and had suffered from memory lapses.
Prosecutors kept a narrow focus on the defendant and the six charges, and redacted large sections of their documentary evidence including the names of some third parties.
Maxwell’s conviction is a clear win for US law enforcement – but it follows decades of the FBI and prosecutors failing the victims whose lives have been, as one lawyer put it, “diminished and damaged”.
The trial has provoked as many questions as it answered, and it is unlikely to be the final criminal case in the Epstein saga.
What does the verdict mean for Prince Andrew?
The conviction of a close friend on sex trafficking charges increases pressure on the prince, and now Maxwell’s legal fight is over attention will be focused on the Duke of York’s unrelated civil battle.
Virginia Giuffre, Prince Andrew’s accuser, was not one of the four victims in the Maxwell trial. Her name was, however, mentioned almost 250 times in court and photos of Ms Giuffre as a teenager were shown to the jury.
The duke has consistently and strenuously denied Virginia Giuffre’s allegations that she was forced to have sex with him when she was 17.
The Duke of York was not a significant part of proceedings, beyond being mentioned as someone who had travelled on Jeffrey Epstein’s private jets.
The fact that the two women pictured in the infamous image of Prince Andrew – Maxwell and Ms Giuffre – did not give evidence in the trial ensured there were no revelations related to him.
Maxwell’s defence team argued that Ms Giuffre was not called to give evidence because “she has a lot of credibility problems”.
The court was, however, shown an image of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a lodge on the Queen’s Balmoral estate, presumably at the invitation of the duke.
Unlike Maxwell’s criminal trial, the duke is facing a civil claim from Ms Giuffre where the standard of proof is lower. His next court hearing is due to take place on Tuesday.
Will Ghislaine Maxwell flip?
Maxwell turned 60 on Christmas Day. Convicted of five of the six sex-trafficking counts, she is likely to spend the rest of her life in jail. It is possible she may agree to assist prosecutors in other investigations in return for a reduced sentence – a practice known as ‘flipping’.
Although the incentive is clear, Maxwell may prefer to be loyal to her friends – or she may believe she is innocent.
Co-operation deals post-trial are rare… and the government may not be interested in engaging with her.
There was no one closer to Jeffrey Epstein than Maxwell, and usually prosecutors recruit smaller figures to secure the conviction of a ringleader. That is not possible in this case.
There may, however, be individuals who were less involved than Maxwell in the sex trafficking operation, but who did sexually abuse girls knowing they were underage.
Will others be charged?
Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse lasted at least a decade, and some estimated hundreds of women and girls were victimised. Ghislaine Maxwell was a significant figure in the sex trafficking operation but did not act alone.
It is possible the US government will pursue charges against other Epstein employees as well as men who took part in the abuse of young women.
We do not know who is co-operating with the FBI, who has reported further allegations of abuse, and what other evidence the authorities have uncovered in pursuit of Epstein and Maxwell.
Why did we never hear Ghislaine Maxwell’s narrative?
It was always unlikely Maxwell would take the stand: it would have been a risky move to open herself up to cross-examination.
Yet even without her testifying, the defence team could have set out her alternative narrative and version of events. That never came.
We still only have a limited understanding of the true relationship between Maxwell and Epstein, and of her motivations. We know nothing of how she feels about, or how she justifies, her behaviour.
Why was the defence case so short?
Ghislaine Maxwell reportedly paid her lawyers $7m. In return they delivered a defence case that lasted less than two days.
Throughout the trial her legal team’s efforts were focused on challenging the credibility of the four victims, questioning their recollections and suggesting some were motivated by multi-million dollar compensation deals.
Former employees of Epstein have since claimed that they, too, were victims of his abuse, but Maxwell did not make the same argument.
She could have told the jury she was coerced or that she was unaware of Epstein’s depraved behaviour, or that she turned a blind eye and was now sorry.
Instead, Maxwell relied on the jury not believing the four victims. That was a bold and puzzling choice.
Why did Ghislaine Maxwell stay in the US?
Maxwell has passports from the US, UK and France. The last of these countries does not extradite its citizens. She also has access to considerable wealth.
Yet before her arrest, Maxwell chose not to flee the US and avoid her likely arrest and possible jail term.
Perhaps this was because she believed she was untouchable or because she thought she was innocent.
If Maxwell had fled, it would have mirrored the 1978 decision by film director Roman Polanski to travel from the US to the UK and then France shortly before his sentencing for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
Polanski is a French citizen and has lived in France and Switzerland ever since.
How did Jeffrey Epstein earn his millions?
We are still no closer to understanding how Epstein built his wealth so fast, including private jets and mansions across America, yet did so without a clear paper trail.
Associates have accused him of running a Ponzi scheme, committing fraud, and others suggest he may have been guilty of blackmail.
Les Wexner, the billionaire owner of Victoria’s Secret, has also claimed Epstein “misappropriated” $46m of his money.
Epstein’s apparent suicide in prison in 2019 means the chances of us ever getting to the truth are slim.