- by theguardian
- 25 Jun 2022
When Ghislaine Maxwell's sex-trafficking trial neared its end, the British socialite's lawyers had their work cut out for them. For weeks, prosecutors had painted Maxwell as a member of the elite who carried out unspeakable acts to maintain her charmed life with the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.
They presented abundant evidence that Maxwell lured girls, some just 14 years old, into Epstein's orbit for him to sexually abuse - while carrying herself as an untouchable "lady of the house". In the prosecution's telling, Maxwell didn't just do bad things: she was gleefully committed to doing them.
After the prosecution rested its case, Maxwell's lawyers were left with few options for mounting a defense. They tried to make her look likable, and elicited fawning testimony from several of Maxwell's former employees, as part of this effort.
The likability strategy didn't appear to work, as Maxwell was found guilty on 29 December, but her attorneys have now launched another humanization campaign, to secure leniency when she is sentenced on 28 June. But their strategy has shifted from likability to pathos - casting her as an abused girl turned traumatized woman who was susceptible to Epstein's influence and thus led into her crimes by him.
In sentencing paperwork, they describe Maxwell's upbringing in terms that rival the dark depiction of privilege in Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca. Maxwell's lawyers claim that her life was primed for emotional neglect shortly after her birth on Christmas 1961.
Two days after Maxwell was born, her eldest sibling, Michael, was seriously and permanently injured in an auto accident. Her mother, Elisabeth Maxwell, went on a lengthy sojourn through India and Australia "on doctor's orders" one year later, "leaving Ghislaine and her siblings not already in boarding school at home in the care of a nanny".
"Ghislaine was hardly given a glance and became anorexic while still a toddler," the attorneys claimed in sentencing paperwork. "At age three, she stood in front of her mother and said simply, 'Mummy, I exist.'"
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