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Jeffrey Epstein paramour Ghislaine Maxwell on trial for sex crimes

Ghislaine Maxwell, the UK socialite accused of grooming young girls for Jeffrey Epstein, has appeared in a New York court. Prosecutors say she gained the girls' trust by taking them to movies and sending them gifts.

In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell enters the courtroom escorted by U.S. Marshalls at the start of her trial

More than two years after Jeffrey Epsten committed suicide in prison, the trial of his alleged accomplice, Ghislaiine Maxwell, is set to begin

Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, appeared in Manhattan federal court Monday as a jury was selected in her trial on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell is accused of procuring young girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

She wore a white face mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic and listened in court as US District Judge Alison Nathan inquired if both prosecutors and the defense were ready for trial. Both sides said they were prepared.

What is happening in the trial?

The charges Maxwell faces are based on allegations made by four women who were teenagers between 1994 and 2004 when they say Epstein sexually abused them. The women say Maxwell earned their trust by taking them to movies, sending gifts like lingerie and introducing sexual matters into conversation.

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Jury selection was finalized Monday ahead of opening remarks in the case. Jurors were chosen from a pool of dozens who made it beyond initial questioning.

The government's attorneys say evidence shows Maxwell knew the victims were minors, including one who was just 14 at the time. Maxwell allegedly arranged travel between Epstein's homes for some of his victims.

"She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them, and served them up to be sexually abused," Assistant District Attorney Lara Pomerantz told the court.

Pomerantz said the abuse took place at Epstein's homes in Palm Beach, Florida, his Manhattan townhouse, a ranch in Santa Fe, Mexico, a Paris apartment and an estate in the Virgin Islands.

"Make no mistake: she knew exactly what Epstein was going to do with those children when she sent them to him inside the massage rooms," said Pomerantz.

The prosecutor said Maxwell and Epstein were "partners in crime" who made the sexual abuse seem "casual and normal." 

Defense lawyers alleged that because Epstein died prior to trial, the government hopes to use their client Maxwell as a scapegoat for the inability to prosecute Epstein.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Maxwell is the rich, Oxford-educated daughter of the late British media magnate Robert Maxwell. She holds US, British and French citizenship.

Her father Robert died in 1991 while aboard his yacht named for his daughter, the Lady Ghislaine, near the Canary Islands. At the time of his death under unclear circumstances, he was facing scrutiny due to allegations he had looted his media company's pension accounts.

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As a former employee and girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell stands accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls for him to sexually abuse. She has been jailed in Brooklyn since her arrest in July 2020.

At the time of her arrest, Maxwell was holed up in a discrete million-dollar New Hampshire mansion.

Epstein died by suicide at age 66 in August of 2019 in a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial. His death is the subject of conspiracy theories given his influential network, which included two former US presidents.

Maxwell faces up to 80 years in jail if convicted on all counts. Her case stands out from other high profile sex crimes cases of the #MeToo era like Harvey Weinstein or R. Kelly because she is a woman accused in the abuse of young girls.

She vehemently denies the charges.

ar,jc/nm (AP, Reuters)