Maxwell appeared in court in New York on Monday for the first day of a long-awaited trial for sex trafficking charges on behalf of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
She denies the charges and her defence claims she is being used as a scapegoat for Epstein's crimes, following his mysterious death on 10 August 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges in a federal case. Prosecutors argued today the pair were "partners in crime" in sex abuse. They alleged Maxwell was Epstein's "right-hand" , helping to groom vulnerable teenage girls as young as 14 for sexual abuse. Sarah Ransome, one of Epstein's victims, noted as such, stating: "Ghislaine controlled the girls. She was like the madam. She was like the nuts and bolts of the sex trafficking operation."
She stands to face up to 80 years in prison (an effective lifetime sentence) if she is convicted.
Epstein, a multimillionaire financier, was said to have close connections with Prince Andrew, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, and Ohio billionaire Leslie Wexner, Alan Dershowitz, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson; former Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell; the late MIT computer scientist Marvin Minsky; and MC2 model agency cofounder Jean-Luc Brunel, among a plethora of Hollywood celebrities.
"She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them, and served them up to be sexually abused," said Assistant District Attorney Lara Pomerantz in her opening statement. Pomerantz noted one accuser who she said was befriended by Maxwell and Epstein on the pretext of bright future opportunities.
"The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did, but she is not Jeffrey Epstein," her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim retorted.
Maxwell pleaded not guilty today to eight charges of sex trafficking and other crimes. Four victims are expected to testify over the coming days.