June sentence set for Ghislaine Maxwell in sex traffic case

A late-June sentencing date has been set for British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell after her conviction last month on sex trafficking charges

NEW YORK — A late-June sentencing date was set Friday for British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell after her conviction last month on charges including sex trafficking and conspiracy relating to the recruitment of teenage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan announced the June 28 date even as she waits to resolve defense claims that a new trial should be ordered after a juror’s public admissions after the verdict about his childhood sexual abuse.

The juror, who has never been fully publicly identified, told media outlets last week that he told other jurors during a week of deliberations that he was sexually abused as a child and used what he learned about the subject to persuade others to convict Maxwell.

Defense lawyers say the revelations warrant a new trial. The juror has retained a lawyer. And Nathan said she’ll rule at a future date what will happen as a result of the revelations.

Maxwell, 60, was convicted after a month-long trial in which prosecutors maintained that she recruited and groomed teenage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004. Maxwell once had a romantic relationship with Epstein, but later became his employee at his five residences, including a Manhattan mansion and a large estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Epstein, 66, took his own life at a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019 as he awaited a trial on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell’s lawyers argued at trial that she was made into a scapegoat by federal prosecutors after his death.

Prosecutors say that they’ll drop perjury charges against Maxwell if she is sentenced on schedule.

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Opinion: Ghislaine Maxwell’s conviction sends a vital message

Maxwell was accused of facilitating the sexual abuse of children by financier Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide in prison in 2019. She pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and denied the allegations, but didn’t take the stand to defend herself.
The accounts of her victims told a different story. Four women testified that Maxwell groomed them to be sexually abused by Epstein when they were under age 18. Three said Maxwell participated as well.
Chillingly, prosecutor Alison Moe argued that the girls were all picked because they were vulnerable, pointing out that all four were raised by single mothers. “Maxwell and Epstein were a wealthy couple who used their privilege to prey on kids from struggling families,” she said.
Of course, justice would have been better served if Epstein had also lived to be convicted and excoriated for his crimes. But convicting Maxwell sends an important message that anyone involved in the abuse of children will pay for their crimes — no matter their role (Epstein appears to have been the primary perpetrator), gender (it’s surprising and abominable that a woman would facilitate the abuse of other young women) or other privileges (Maxwell was a well-connected socialite). Now it’s time for our society to live up to that promise.
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If prosecutors are serious about punishing people and organizations who facilitate the exploitation of women and girls, Maxwell should be the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is a pervasive problem — and, since Epstein and Maxwell are said to have committed their crimes, it’s only been growing, according to a report by the State Department. This year, the State Department said that, as children spent more unsupervised time online during the pandemic, there were dramatic increases in incidences of sexual exploitation online, all over the world.

Both law enforcement and technology companies have been shockingly slow to address the problem of online sexual exploitation. For example, documents leaked by former Facebook staffer Frances Haugen indicate that Facebook has repeatedly turned a blind eye to trafficking that the company has known happened on its platform.

According to The Wall Street Journal, an internal Facebook report indicated that when the company discovered that Thai women were being recruited by a human trafficking group on its site, detained without food and coerced to engage in sex acts in massage parlors in Dubai, Facebook reportedly failed to notify law enforcement. The company’s decision not to act to protect these women is astonishing.
According to the Journal report, internal documents also reveal that Facebook knew of an operation in the Middle East that was using its site to ensnare people in coercive employment agreements that are widely recognized as human trafficking — but, other than taking down some pages, the company failed to address the problem until Apple threatened to take Facebook out of its App Store unless it took action. This is unconscionable. (Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, told The Journal that the company works with law enforcement around the globe. “We prohibit human exploitation in no uncertain terms,” he said. “We’ve been combating human trafficking on our platform since 2015 and our goal remains to prevent anyone who seeks to exploit others from having a home on our platform.”)

It’s encouraging to see Maxwell held accountable for her behavior. But this should only be the beginning.

It’s time for law enforcement agencies to take a hard look at every single person and organization that facilitates sexual abuse — and hold them every bit as accountable as the perpetrators.

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