Closing arguments begin in Maxwell sex crimes trial
New York (AFP) – Closing arguments in Ghislaine Maxwell's sex crimes trial began on Monday before a New York jury was set to consider the fate of the British socialite.
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Maxwell, 59, faces an effective life sentence if convicted of six counts of enticing and transporting minors to be abused by late financier Jeffrey Epstein, her long-time companion.
The government and Maxwell's lawyers are expected to take between two and three hours each to sum up their case in the Manhattan federal court in New York.
Judge Alison Nathan will then instruct the 12 jurors how to consider the charges before directing them to retire to deliberate over their verdict.
They must reach a unanimous decision to convict. If they cannot agree, then the judge could declare a mistrial.
Prosecutors have sought to portray Maxwell as Epstein's partner-in-crime in the high-profile trial that began on November 29.
They argued that between 1994 and 2004, she recruited young girls to be sexually exploited by the American money-manager who killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting his own trial.
The trial heard lurid claims by four women against Maxwell, the daughter of former newspaper baron Robert Maxwell.
Two said they were as young as 14 when Maxwell allegedly began grooming them and arranging for them to give massages to Epstein that ended in sexual activity.
One, identified only as "Jane," detailed how Maxwell recruited her at summer camp and made her feel "special."
She said sexual encounters with Epstein became routine, with Maxwell sometimes present.
Another, going by "Carolyn," said she was usually paid $300 after sexual encounters with Epstein, often by Maxwell herself.
A third alleged victim was Annie Farmer, now 42, who said Maxwell fondled her breasts when she was a teenager at the New Mexico ranch owned by Epstein.
The defense has argued that Maxwell was being used as a "scapegoat" for Epstein's crimes after he evaded justice.
They also quizzed the women's ability to recollect quarter-century-old events.
Maxwell's attorneys argued that "false memories" had been implanted into the minds of the women under questioning and due to intense media scrutiny.
The socialite declined to take the stand but made a brief statement to the judge on Friday.
"Your honor, the government has not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt so there is no need for me to testify," she said.
The trial had been expected to last into January, but Maxwell now faces the possibility of learning her fate before Christmas Day, her 60th birthday.
If the jury doesn't reach a verdict by the end of Wednesday's session then they will reconvene on Monday.
Maxwell pleaded not guilty to all counts, which carry a total of up to 80 years behind bars.
The conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40-year sentence. The lesser charges have terms of five or ten years.
© 2021 AFP