British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has been found guilty by a US jury of helping the late financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls.
Maxwell was convicted on the first of six counts. The jury was still delivering the verdict on Wednesday on the other five counts.
Maxwell, 60, was accused of recruiting and grooming four teenagers for Epstein between 1994 and 2004.
Her former boyfriend Epstein killed himself in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges of his own.
Maxwell could be sentenced to up to 70 years in prison for the six counts she faced in this trial. She also faces two perjury counts that will be tried separately.
Along with the trials of movie producer Harvey Weinstein and singer R. Kelly, Maxwell’s case is among the highest-profile trials to take place in the wake of the MeToo movement, which encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse by famous and powerful people.
During the trial’s closing arguments in federal court in Manhattan a prosecutor said Maxwell was Epstein’s “partner in crime”.
“Ghislaine Maxwell made her own choices. She committed crimes hand in hand with Jeffrey Epstein. She was a grown woman who knew exactly what she was doing,” Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe said.
Maxwell’s lawyers argued she was being used as a scapegoat for Epstein and sought to portray the accounts of her four accusers as not credible, saying their memories had been corrupted over the decades and that they were motivated by money.
“Epstein’s death left a gaping hole in the pursuit of justice for many of these women,” Maxwell’s defence lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said.
“She’s filling that hole, and filling that empty chair.”