(NEW YORK) -- The fate of Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein who is facing charges related to the alleged abuse and trafficking of underage girls, has been placed in the hands of a 12-person jury.
Judge Alison Nathan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York instructed seven women and five men to begin deliberating on Monday, following closing arguments that highlighted three weeks of opposing testimony from Maxwell's accusers, former Epstein employees, and various other associates of the once glamorous, globetrotting couple.
Maxwell and Epstein "were partners in crime who sexually exploited young girls together," according to prosecutors, who described Maxwell in their closing arguments as "a grown woman who preyed on vulnerable kids, young women from struggling families."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe said the pair selected their victims carefully, suggesting that it was no accident the four accusers who testified -- "Jane," "Kate," Carolyn and Annie -- came from single-parent households. They were isolated, Moe said, and plied with gifts and promises of career assistance in what she called a pattern of grooming and abuse.
"Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing," Moe said. "She ran the same playbook again and again and again. She manipulated her victims and she groomed them for sexual abuse. She caused deep and lasting harm to young girls. It is time to hold her accountable."
But Maxwell's defense attorneys said that "Ghislaine Maxwell is an innocent woman" -- the victim of "straight-up sensationalism" by prosecutors who "pivoted" to Maxwell once Epstein died by suicide in jail in 2019.
Defense attorney Laura Menninger urged the jury to find Maxwell not guilty on each count she faces, arguing that the government's case relied on the "erroneous memories" of four accusers who Menninger said "inserted" Maxwell into accounts that initially included only Epstein.
Prosecutors "bombed," Menninger said, and "failed to deliver the goods" to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, relying on "smoke and mirrors" to equate Maxwell with Epstein.
"Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein," Menninger said. "She's being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein. Maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life, but it was not a crime."
In contrast, prosecutor Maurene Comey called Maxwell "essential" to Epstein's abuse. In a theatrical flourish to finish the case, Comey during her rebuttal pointed to Maxwell, seated at the defense table in a light colored sweater and black mask, and said, "This case is about that woman."
"It's about the children that she targeted, the steps that she took to serve those children up to be abused," Comey said.
Menninger, in response, said, "What you heard, and more importantly what you did not hear over the last three weeks, is going to convince you the only verdict is not guilty."
Maxwell faces a six-count indictment for allegedly conspiring with and aiding Epstein in his sexual abuse of underage girls between 1994 and 2004. She has been held without bail since her arrest in July 2020 and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
If convicted, Maxwell could spend decades in prison.