Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein thought they could get away with anything | Nancy Jo Sales

Maxwell had reason to believe she would get away with her crimes – she was a rich, well-connected member of the elite

2021 has been quite the year. To call it a dumpster fire would be an insult to dumpster fires. From the 6 January assault on the US Capitol to the emergence of Omicron, it was the year that never failed to disappoint. And yet, there have been glimmers of hope: the miracle of coronavirus vaccines. The miracle of the conviction of a murderous cop, Derek Chauvin. And now, the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell, 60, who was found “guilty of one of the worst crimes imaginable: facilitating and participating in the sexual abuse of children. Crimes that she committed with her long-time partner and co-conspirator, Jeffrey Epstein,” said Manhattan US attorney Damian Williams.

Chauvin and Maxwell are similar monsters in that they thought they could get away with anything: Chauvin because he was a police officer, a position he had reason to believe would relieve him of any accountability in the killing of an innocent Black man, convictions in such cases being extremely rare. And Maxwell because she was a socialite, a member of the elite, as well as the paramour of a multimillionaire who was closely connected to other rich and powerful men – notably Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and the lawyer Alan Dershowitz, whose client list has featured such choir boys as Harvey Weinstein, Trump and Epstein himself.

Maxwell had reason to believe she would get away with her crimes, too – Epstein had already been let off easy once before, in 2008, when through a shockingly generous plea deal he was sentenced to just 13 months despite the fact that federal officials had identified 36 underage girls he had allegedly sexually abused. Maxwell knew that the courts often have very different rules for the likes of Epstein and her.

She also seemed to think that no one would listen to the four brave women who testified against her – the victims of her crimes, two of whom she had lured into Epstein’s bed when they were just 14 years old. “In her eyes, they were just trash, beneath her,” assistant US attorney Maurene Comey said at the trial. These women didn’t go to Oxford, like Maxwell did, nor did they come from money. But Maxwell’s own pedigree was less than exemplary.

When her father, Mirror Group publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, fell off his yacht and drowned in 1991, there was speculation that it was suicide, or perhaps even that he had been killed by someone who resented the fact that he had allegedly stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from his company’s pension fund. It was all strangely similar to the speculation surrounding the hanging death of Epstein in his prison cell in 2019 before the beginning of his trial for the sex trafficking of minors. Who wanted him silenced before all the sordid details – and all the names – came out at his trial? the Internet buzzed.

Just when you thought nothing could be added to the Epstein-Maxwell story to make it even more symptomatic of the rot of our institutions, here come the conspiracy theories. In a surreal sign of the times, there is a parallel mass delusion involving much the same scenario as Maxwell and Epstein’s real-life activities: it’s QAnon, which posits the existence of a secret global child trafficking network run by powerful elites, and which Trump was allegedly trying to stop. This delusion factored into 6 January, when some QAnon believers showed up at the “Stop the Steal” rally, thinking Trump was about to vanquish the cabal.

Meanwhile ,Trump had actually been a friend of Epstein and Maxwell’s (“I wish her well,” he said when she was arrested in 2020) and he had been a passenger on the “Lolita Express”, the derisive name members of the media gave to the private plane Epstein used to fly his underage victims to his residences. Other passengers included problematic rich guys Kevin Spacey and Bill Gates.

That plane, a luxury Boeing 727, featured private bedrooms and padded floors allegedly designed for sex in flight. It was just one aspect of the lavish lifestyle Maxwell dangled in front of the girls she enticed into having sex with Epstein and her. Maxwell performed the same role as the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, though decked out in designer goods and proffering clothes and money instead of lollipops.

There is a complicated process to grooming, and Maxwell became an expert at it; but tellingly, she mostly just picked girls who came from families that needed money. They were not well-off, like Epstein and she. “Selecting these girls was predatory behavior,” assistant US attorney Alison Moe said in her closing statement. “Maxwell and Epstein picked vulnerable girls. Maxwell was Jeffrey Epstein’s right hand.”

A 2020 global study from the United Nations reported that almost two-thirds of people convicted of human trafficking in 2018 were men, although the number of women involved in this crime is higher than others. That’s because women are often used to gain the trust of women and girls, which they can usually do more easily than men. Maxwell is facing up to 65 years in jail for five counts of enticing, transporting and trafficking minors to engage in illegal sex acts and criminal sexual activity. That is, unless she tries to get a shorter sentence by naming names of other people who might have been involved.


Nancy Jo Sales

The GuardianTramp

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