Jurors in Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial return to resume deliberations

Originally Published: 27 DEC 21 08:19 ET

    (CNN) -- After taking a long weekend for the Christmas holiday, jurors in Ghislaine Maxwell's federal sex trafficking trial are set to resume deliberations Monday morning in New York.

Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has pleaded not guilty to six federal counts: 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 related counts of conspiracy.

If convicted on all six counts, Maxwell faces up to 70 years in prison.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour on Monday and then all of Tuesday and Wednesday. At the end of Wednesday's deliberations, the judge asked if they would consider returning Thursday, but they declined.

During deliberations, the jury has asked the court a series of questions related to testimony from the women whose claims form the core of the case against Maxwell.

First, jurors asked the judge for the transcripts of testimony from Annie Farmer, Carolyn and "Jane" -- three of the four women who testified that they were sexually abused by Epstein and that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in the abuse.

Jurors also asked for the FBI notes from a 2007 interview with Carolyn that the defense has said is inconsistent with her testimony in court. The FBI notes are not in evidence, but some excerpts were read into the record during her cross-examination.

Further, the jury asked whether it can consider Farmer's testimony for two of the conspiracy counts. Jurors may do so, Judge Alison Nathan said.

The deliberations cap a three-week trial highlighted by testimony from the four women, who said Maxwell recruited and groomed them to be sexually abused by Epstein. The abuse allegedly began when they were younger than 18, and their accusations stretched from 1994 to 2004.

Epstein, an elusive financier who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019; he died by suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell, now 60, was arrested in 2020 and has been held behind bars since then under close watch.

What happened at the trial

The prosecution's case against Maxwell rested primarily on four women with personal stories of her role facilitating Epstein's abuse.

"Jane," testifying under a pseudonym, said Maxwell organized sexual massages with Epstein and sometimes joined in the abuse. The charges of enticing and transporting relate to testimony solely from her.

Carolyn testified that when she was 14, Maxwell touched her breasts, hips and butt and told her she "had a great body for Epstein and his friends." The child sex trafficking count -- the most serious of all the charges -- relates to her testimony.

"Kate" testified Maxwell invited her over and directed her how to give Epstein a sexual massage. She said Maxwell spoke often of sexual topics with her and asked Kate to invite other young girls for Epstein's sexual desires.

Farmer, the only accuser to testify by her full name, testified that she was 16 when Maxwell massaged her naked chest at Epstein's New Mexico ranch in 1996.

Prosecutors sought to closely link Maxwell and Epstein and said her actions normalizing sexual massages were crucial to his international abuse scheme at his properties in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands.

"A single middle-aged man who invites a teenage girl to visit his ranch, to come to his house, to fly to New York, is creepy," prosecutor Alison Moe said in closing arguments. "But when that man is accompanied by a posh, smiling, respectable, age-appropriate woman, that's when everything starts to seem legitimate.

"And when that woman encourages those girls to massage that man, when she acts like it's totally normal for the man to touch those girls, it lures them into a trap. It allows the man to silence the alarm bells."

The defense, meanwhile, focused its case on lengthy cross-examinations of the four accusers and attacked their motivations and memories of the alleged incidents. Maxwell declined to testify in her own defense.

In closing arguments, attorney Laura Menninger sought to distance Maxwell from Epstein and suggested he had manipulated her as well. She said the prosecution's case is based on speculation and distracting photos of Maxwell with Epstein, including several that show her giving him a foot massage.

"She's being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein, and maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life -- but it was not a crime," Menninger told the jury.

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