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Ghislaine Maxwell accuser says jury 'sent a strong message' on sexual abuse and exploitation

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By AP with Euronews
A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell (L) with her lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca, as a jury returns a guilty verdict in her sex trafficking trial, New York, Dec. 29, 2021.
A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell (L) with her lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca, as a jury returns a guilty verdict in her sex trafficking trial, New York, Dec. 29, 2021.   -   Copyright  Elizabeth Williams via AP

The conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell capped a month-long trial featuring sordid accounts of the sexual exploitation of girls as young as 14.

The British socialite was found guilty on Wednesday of luring teenage girls to be sexually abused by the American millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

Four women described being abused as teens in the 1990s and early 2000s at Epstein's palatial homes in Florida, New York and New Mexico.

In an interview with ABC News, one of Maxwell's accusers, Annie Farmer, said the jury "sent a strong message, adding that she hoped investigations would continue.

"I wasn't sure that this day would ever come. And I just feel so grateful that the jury believed us and sent a strong message that perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation will be held accountable no matter how much power and privilege that they have," she said.

The defense had insisted Maxwell was a victim of a vindictive prosecution devised to deliver justice to women deprived of their main villain when Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial in 2019.

But a lawyer for Epstein's victims described Maxwell's conviction as a "monumental day for justice." Lisa Bloom said Maxwell had not just been a bystander but actively took part in the abuse for years.

"She was the one who was luring these girls in, having them over for tea, charming them, showing them how to massage Jeffrey Epstein, which massages turned into disgusting acts of sexual abuse, normalizing the behaviour, sometimes participating in the sexual abuse herself," Bloom said, adding she expected Maxwell to be sentenced to decades in prison.

Jurors deliberated for five full days before finding Maxwell guilty of five of six counts.

With the maximum prison terms for each charge ranging from five to 40 years in prison, Maxwell faces the likelihood of years behind bars - an outcome long sought by women who spent years fighting in civil courts to hold her accountable for her role in recruiting and grooming Epstein’s teenage victims and sometimes joining in the sexual abuse.

Her brother, Kevin Maxwell, said the family believes she will be vindicated on appeal.

The legal fights involving Epstein and Maxwell are not over.

Maxwell still awaits trial on two counts of perjury.

Lawsuits loom, including one in which a woman not involved in the trial, Virginia Giuffre, says she was coerced into sexual encounters with Prince Andrew when she was 17.

Andrew has denied her account and that lawsuit is not expected to come to trial for many months.

"Anyone who was connected with Jeffrey Epstein, who either participated in sexual abuse or helped him by way of sending girls to him trafficking etc should be very concerned today about this verdict against Ghislaine Maxwell," Bloom said.