One of the most highly anticipated trials in recent memory is about to get underway with the hearing of Ghislaine Maxwell before a federal court in New York.
Once one of the most powerful women on the planet, photographed alongside everyone from Elon Musk, The Rolling Stones, former and current Presidents of the United States, and royalty from across the globe, Maxwell has spent the past 15 months eating mouldy food and breathing raw sewage in a Brooklyn jail.
This is because, as almost everyone in the world seems to be aware, Maxwell was a close friend and accomplice to convicted paedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who took his own life in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial. Maxwell appears to have been Epstein’s right-hand woman, organising and facilitating the trafficking of underage girls for abuse by the wealthy financier.
The case is set to begin on Monday, 29 November and international high society is on edge waiting to see who could be named in the exposition of Epstein and Maxwell’s decades of alleged sexual assault. It’s little wonder the case has attracted such attention as the details read like confirmation of the wildest conspiracy theories and suspicions about the global elite and how they like to spend their time and money.
The couple’s actions go right to the heart of global power, with politicians, film stars, and tech moguls implicated by association with the pair. As the trial gets underway, here’s everything you need to know about Ghislaine Maxwell and what the case could reveal.
Ostensibly a “socialite,” Maxwell is the daughter of disgraced media mogul Robert Maxwell, owner of the Mirror Group of newspapers and former rival of Rupert Murdoch.
She’s kind of the original “influencer” and appears to have spent most of her life bouncing between lavish parties, philanthropic causes, and failing businesses, always moving in social circles at the upper echelons of society.
This is how she came to meet and befriend Jeffery Epstein, a wealthy financier and con man from New York. Maxwell and Epstein had an ongoing on-again-off-again relationship through the 1990s and 2000s. Maxwell introduced Epstein to her close friend Prince Andrew, something she has since denied, and together the pair dominated the US and, to a lesser extend, British elite social scenes throughout those decades. They went into business together and lived between Epstein’s numerous mansions and private islands across the US and the Caribbean.
Rolling Stone journalist Vicky Ward, who has been reporting on Maxwell and Epstein for years, describes her as “funny, witty, extraordinarily charming and supremely confident.” It’s not surprising that someone like her, with enormous inherited wealth and powerful connections, could become such a prominent figure in public life, she writes.
However, it’s the darker side of her relationship with Epstein and others that has really caught the attention of the public — and law enforcement. There have long been rumours of horrific sexual activity carried out by the pair, captured in documentaries like Netflix’s Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich. In 2015, the couple paid out millions in a civil suit against Virginia Guiffre who accused them of trafficking and grooming her for sexual acts when she was underage.
The latest case is just one of at least 21 similar legal cases involving multiple women all accusing the pair of similarly horrific acts that have emerged since 2005.
When Epstein was arrested by the FBI in July 2019 on charges of sex trafficking, Maxwell went into hiding. She too was under investigation by the bureau and had reportedly been laying low for several years, not having been photographed at events since 2016.
The 59-year-old was eventually located and arrested in New Hampshire in July 2020 using a phone tracking device and charged with “enticement of minors,” sex trafficking of children, and perjury between 1994 and 1997. She was denied bail after being determined a flight risk and has spent the past 15 months in a prison cell that her lawyers describe as “invasive.”
She has apparently been deprived of water for long periods of time and has had round the clock check ups involving guards shining torches into her cell to check that she isn’t attempting to take her own life.
The trial was originally scheduled for July but US District Court Judge Alison Nathan agreed to a postponement as Maxwell was subsequently charged with additional sex trafficking crimes. The upcoming date has been described as “firm.”
Maxwell has been unrelenting in her denial and refusal to cooperate with law enforcement during the proceedings. She has pled not guilty on all counts and has appealed for bail on five separate occasions, including a USD $28.5 million package that would see her remain in her New York apartment under 24-hour armed guard. Her lawyers have argued that she is only being brought before the court because Epstein himself can no longer face justice. Her brother, Ian Maxwell, has said that he believes it is unlikely Ghislaine will receive a fair trial because of the publicity surrounding the case.
Judge Nathan has permitted Maxwell permission to call a psychologist who specialises in false memories to testify in court and it appears that the defence will try to dissect and discredit the testimony of four women who claim they were abused by Epstein when they were as young as 14.
All eyes will be on the trial as it unfolds, not least of which those of the QAnon and conspiracy theory communities who believe that Epstein and Maxwell represent just a fraction of the paedophilic elite pulling the strings in the background of society. Already, pre-trial hearings have been interrupted by QAnon followers streaming the proceedings online.
For many, seeing Maxwell get her day in court will be a somewhat bitter-sweet chapter in the decades of abuse the pair have perpetrated. Sceptics have always claimed that Epstein was in fact killed in prison on the orders of powerful collaborators who wanted him silenced. New evidence continues to emerge that there may in fact be something to these wild claims, with records showing that Epstein had claimed to be living a “wonderful life” and had “no interest” in taking his own life in the hours and days leading up to his apparent suicide. However, there is no hard evidence that his suicide was the actions of anyone else.
The trial itself is expected to last around six weeks, with Maxwell facing decades in prison if she is convicted. If she does manage to get off, a second trial is also awaiting her to deal with child sex trafficking charges relating to incidents between 2001 and 2004. Whatever the outcome, it’s sure to be a very interesting few months for Maxwell and the world.