Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and associate of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested early last month on charges related to her role in Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring. FBI. agents found Maxwell, 58, on a luxurious 156-acre estate in rural New Hampshire. She had been in hiding there, and previously, in Massachusetts, since Epstein’s arrest in July 2019. When agents announced their presence at the front door of her home, Maxwell was seen, through the windows, fleeing to another room, where she was confronted and forcibly taken into custody.
In Maxwell’s home, investigators found a cellphone wrapped in tin foil, an attempt to make the phone untraceable. Further investigation unsheathed other efforts Maxwell had taken to obscure her identity, such as changing her email address and registering the phone under the name “G Max.” A private security guard told investigators that Maxwell never left the property and that Maxwell’s brother had hired ex-members of the British military as her personal security. Following Maxwell’s arrest, the real estate agent who sold the estate saw Maxwell's photo in the news and recognized her from a couple that had viewed the property. Maxwell had identified herself to the real estate agent as a journalist named Jen Marshall, and then purchased the estate through an anonymized LLC. for $1 million paid in cash in December, the same month the FBI opened an investigation on her.
Maxwell’s involvement with Epstein spans over two decades—they met in the early 1990s—though the indictment particularly references offenses that were committed “at least in or about 1994 through 1997.” The charges against Maxwell include the enticement of a minor, sex trafficking of a minor, conspiracies to commit both of the aforementioned offenses, and perjury. “Maxwell assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims,” the indictment reads. “The victims were as young as 14 years old.” The exact number of Maxwell’s victims is unknown—Epstein’s indictment had charged him with the abuse of “dozens” of underage girls—but it’s possible that there were over 100 victims.
The perjury, of which Maxwell is charged with two counts, alleges that she lied in a 2016 deposition. Epstein had pled guilty to soliciting sex from a minor, for which he served 13 months of a meager 18-month sentence. When asked if Epstein had a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages, Maxwell said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She also claimed that she wasn’t aware Epstein had “sexual activities” with anyone other than herself and that she had never interacted with anyone under the age of 18, aside from the plaintiff, on any of Epstein’s properties.
Awaiting a July 2021 trial, Maxwell is being held at a federal detention center in Brooklyn that has been described as notoriously tough. A lawsuit filed against the jail in 2019 called its conditions a "humanitarian crisis” after a week-long blackout in late January/early February left inmates freezing and without access to medical care. Additionally, Maxwell’s infamy makes her a high-risk target for violence from fellow inmates seeking credibility within the jail. For these inmates, harming her “would be a badge of honor,” a former warden told Reuters.
About a week after her arrest, in a hearing conducted virtually due to the pandemic, Maxwell was denied bail. Her lawyers had proposed that she be released on a $5 million bond into house arrest in a hotel in Manhattan. But prosecutors opposed this, citing Maxwell’s opaque but seemingly inexhaustible financial resources and international connections. Maxwell is the owner of multiple foreign bank accounts—15 of which totaling over $20 million have been discovered by investigators so far—and holds passports for the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, the last of which doesn’t extradite its citizens. The judge ruled that Maxwell “poses a substantial actual risk of flight.”
Two of Maxwell and Epstein’s victims spoke during the hearing. “She is a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other young women. She has lied under oath and tormented her survivors,”said Annie Farmer, who was 16 years old when she met Maxwell. Another victim, under the alias Jane Doe, said, in a statement read by the prosecution, “Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did. She was in charge.”
Recently, dozens of documents from a 2015 civil defamation suit filed against Maxwell were ordered to be unsealed by a New York court. The documents include emails between Epstein and Maxwell, police reports, flight logs from Epstein’s private jets, and the 350-page testimony of the plaintiff, Virgina Giuffre, who said that she was forced to have sex with Epstein and other powerful men, such as Prince Andrew. In an email exchange, Maxwell attempts to distance herself from Epstein, writing, "I would appreciate it if shelley would come out and say she was your g'friend - I think she was from end 99 to 2002,” to which Epstein replied "ok, with me." (Maxwell was referring to Shelley Anne Lewis, a British children’s book author who dated Epstein when she was in her twenties.) Epstein also encouraged Maxwell to appear innocent in public: "You have done nothing wrong and i would (sic) urge you to start acting like it. go outside, head high, not as an escaping (sic) convict. go to parties. deal with it." Maxwell did, however, win the legal fight to keep a deposition from the suit discussing her sex life sealed, fearing that embarassing details would make it impossible to find an impartial jury.
Before association with Epstein, Maxwell was wealthy, powerful, and well-connected in her own right. She didn’t need money, and she allegedly aided Epstein even after their romantic relationship had ended—so what drove Maxwell to commit the heinous crimes of which she’s accused? What did she have to gain by recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to abuse?
Men are much more likely than women to commit sex crimes and the majority of sex offenders are male. These are proven facts, and the reason why we find Maxwell’s story so fascinatingly confounding; it subverts everything we think we know about sexual predators, as well as the stereotypes we believe about women being intrinsically virtuous and nurturing. There’s an inherent trust that another female presence provides. Women feel safer being around men when there are other women present. But, ultimately, it’s a betrayal of this trust that enables female perpetrators to abet men’s sexual abuse of women and to abuse other women themselves.