Two of the women testified that Mr. Epstein started engaging in sex acts with them when they were only 14 years old. One said Ms. Maxwell was sometimes present in the encounters, and the other said Ms. Maxwell had molested her directly by touching her breasts.
Two accusers depicted Ms. Maxwell, a former socialite, as a kind of mentor and big sister — a picture of elegance and sophistication, one recalled — who took them shopping and to the movies in what prosecutors said was a ploy to build trust. Then she played a key role in normalizing sexualized massages with Mr. Epstein that, in some cases, led to years of sexual abuse.
“Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” a prosecutor, Alison Moe, told the jury in closing arguments last week. “She manipulated her victims, and she groomed them for sexual abuse.”
The verdict was largely a rejection of Ms. Maxwell’s defense, which centered on an argument that the government’s case was based on flimsy evidence, prosecutors’ animus toward Mr. Epstein and the inconsistent accounts of women who were motivated by money to point the finger at Ms. Maxwell.
Throughout the trial, Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers sought to raise doubts about the testimony of her accusers, emphasize the distance between her and Mr. Epstein and criticize how the investigation was conducted.
“The government wants you to speculate, over and over,” a lawyer for Ms. Maxwell, Laura Menninger, told the jury during closing arguments. She said Ms. Maxwell was on trial because of her relationship with Mr. Epstein. “Maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life, but it was not a crime,” she said.
Mr. Epstein’s name surfaced repeatedly during Ms. Maxwell’s trial, and her lawyers spent much of their time trying to distance her from the man who was once also her boyfriend and is now seen as one of the most notorious sex offenders in modern American history.