The only thing Ghislaine Maxwell did wrong was befriend disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, her lawyer told a New York jury during closing arguments Monday afternoon in the high-profile sex trafficking case.
"She's being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein," lawyer Laura Menninger said. "Maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life, but that was not a crime."
Maxwell is accused of recruiting, grooming, and preying on teenage girls to be sexually used by Epstein and his famous friends. Prosecutors claimed the British socialite targeted girls who were emotionally damaged, including one whose father had recently died and another who had been molested by her grandfather when she was 4 years old and whose mother was an addict.
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Prosecutors said Maxwell was not only a co-conspirator but also a willing participant in the abuse, but Menninger countered that Maxwell was being targeted because prosecutors needed someone to punish for Epstein's sexual misconduct. Epstein was found hanged in his jail cell in 2019 while awaiting his own sex trafficking case. Maxwell was arrested at her New Hampshire estate the following year.
Menninger also accused prosecutors of cherry-picking evidence that showed Maxwell in a negative light.
"The government wants you to speculate, over and over," she said, adding that Maxwell didn't need to prove her innocence because jurors already knew it.
Menninger spent the majority of her roughly two-hour closing taking swipes at the four alleged victims who testified that Maxwell was very much a part of the nefarious plan to pimp them out.
Menninger pointed out inconsistencies in their testimony, some of which did not align with previous statements they had given authorities. She also suggested the victims were inflating their testimony because of financial settlements they had or will receive from Epstein's estate.
"All of these witnesses have changed their stories many times," she said. "Why?"
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Menninger also questioned the accuracy of the victims' memories.
"Memories have been manipulated in aid of the money," she said.
In the government's rebuttal, Assistant District Attorney Maurene Comey, the daughter of former FBI Director James Comey, said that if the victims were only after monetary compensation, then "they would have told way better lies."
The case will be in the jury's hands after Judge Alison Nathan reads instructions from an 80-page document that details what jurors need to take into account when deciding if Maxwell is guilty or if prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof.
Maxwell, the 59-year-old daughter of the late British media mogul Robert Maxwell, faces six counts of trafficking-related charges, including enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. She is also accused of conspiracy, including using one of Epstein's alleged victims to recruit other girls to participate in "paid sex acts with Epstein." She's also charged with perjury for allegedly lying under oath during depositions in a civil lawsuit against her.
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Maxwell has denied the accusations. If convicted, she could spend decades behind bars.