British socialite stands accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls for billionaire paedophile
Sarah Ransome, one of the women who have accused the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell of abuse, arrived at the court as Ms Maxwell’s trial was set to begin.
“I never thought this day would come,” she told reporters outside the courthouse in New York City on Monday.
Ms Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if she’s found guilty. She stands accused of recruiting and grooming four underage girls for Epstein between 1994 and 2004. Epstein died by suicide in 2019 in a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on charges of sex abuse.
Born in South Africa to a British couple, Ms Ransome has said that she attempted to flee Epstein’s private island in waters teeming with sharks after being raped three times in a single day. She won’t be testifying.
Since she was arrested in July 2020, Ms Maxwell has been awaiting trial in a Brooklyn jail. Opening statements start on Monday and the trial is expected to last until the middle of January.
Ms Maxwell’s legal team is expected to try to distance her from Epstein and to undermine her accusers. She denies all allegations against her.
Ms Maxwell has been charged with six felonies, including 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.
She also faces two charges of perjury to be tried separately. Her brother, Ian Maxwell, told The Associated Press that the case is “the most over-hyped trial of the century”.
“This is designed to break her, I can’t see any other way to read it,” he added. “And she will not be broken because she believes completely in her innocence and she is going to give the best account she can.”
Mr Maxwell told the news agency that his sister has the full support of her family and that a member of the family will be present in the courtroom at all times during the trial.
Prosecutors allege that Ms Maxwell groomed and recruited girls as young as 14 for Epstein and that she lied when she denied that she was aware of his crimes when she testified in another case.
Judge Alison Nathan has rejected multiple requests for bail and Ms Maxwell has now been in jail for 17 months.
“Ms Maxwell chose to blatantly disregard the law and her responsibility as an adult, using whatever means she had at her disposal to lure vulnerable youth into behaviour they should never have been exposed to, creating the potential for lasting harm,” the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s field office in New York, William Sweeney, said during a press conference as the charges were announced.
“This is not quite a put-up job, but nonetheless has been cobbled together so that Ghislaine is made to face the charges that Epstein never faced,” Ian Maxwell told the AP.
“The denial of bail is wholly inappropriate,” he added. “Some very famous, infamous people were granted bail as most recently the killer of George Floyd, a murderer. John Gotti, another murderer, a mobster. Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bernie Madoff. These are all men, of course, who got bail. Ghislaine is a woman who somehow doesn’t get bail.
“The authorities are feeling under pressure … because they lost (Epstein) and they’re feeling under the public’s pressure, and that combination of pressure is keeping Ghislaine inside,” Mr Maxwell said. “But it still doesn’t make it right.”