Ghislaine Maxwell sex-trafficking trial’s opening statements delayed

Ghislaine Maxwell’s much-awaited sex trafficking trial in Manhattan was poised to go before a jury on Monday, with opening statements.

The opening statements were delayed, however, after several selected jurors voiced issues with serving. One cited financial hardship. Another said their spouse had “surprised them with a trip”.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty on six counts related to her alleged involvement in the late financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of teen girls, some as young as 14.

The charges include conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor.

The indictment cites four accusers – referred to as Minor Victim-1, Minor Victim- 2, Minor Victim-3 and Minor Victim-4 – though it is believed more will take the stand.

Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019, while awaiting trial. Maxwell’s alleged crimes took place from 1994 to 2004, prosecutors have said.

On Monday, throngs of media started gathering outside the courthouse before dawn, in hope of securing a much-coveted seat in court or a place in an overflow viewing room. An Epstein accuser, Sarah Ransome, arrived at the courthouse shortly before proceedings began, telling reporters: “I never thought this day would come.”

Authorities arrested Maxwell, the daughter of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell, on 2 July 2020 at a secretive, expensive estate in the small New Hampshire town of Bradford.

Audrey Strauss, acting Manhattan US attorney at the time, contended that Maxwell “played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims” and that “in some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse”.

The indictment charges that Maxwell “would try to normalize sexual abuse for a minor victim by, among other things, discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein”.

The Manhattan US attorney has also accused Maxwell of trying to cover up her involvement in Epstein’s crimes by providing untrue information “under oath” during civil litigation.

That lawsuit was the defamation case which Virginia Giuffre, a longtime Epstein accuser, brought against Maxwell. Giuffre has claimed Maxwell and Epstein coerced her into sexual activity with Prince Andrew when she was 17.

Giuffre sued Maxwell, who called her a liar. Both Maxwell and the Duke of York maintain their innocence. Maxwell is charged with two counts related to the alleged lying. Those will be tried in a separate proceeding.


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