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Ghislaine Maxwell turns 60 as sex trafficking jury returns to mull its verdict

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Ghislaine Maxwell is hoping for a belated birthday present from the jury in her sex trafficking trial as she turns 60 behind bars.

The British socialite is scheduled to return to a Manhattan courthouse on Monday to await word from the panel, which is entering its third full day of deliberations after hearing over two dozen witnesses and viewing dozens of exhibits over three weeks.

Prosecutors said in their closing arguments last Monday that the crucial evidence was the testimony of four women who say they were sexually abused as teenagers by financier Jeffrey Epstein with girlfriend Maxwell serving as his procurer.

She subsequently morphed into his close confidante and an employee, with the prosecution alleging Epstein valued her services highly enough to give her more than $US20 million.

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Prosecutors called her the “lady of the house” from 1994 to 2004, saying she recruited and groomed teenagers as young as 14 to meet Epstein’s seemingly insatiable need for a constant supply of vulnerable girls from impoverished and despairing backgrounds or who believed his wealth and connections would further their quests for success and fame in the performance arts.

Defence lawyers, though, say Maxwell was made a US government scapegoat after Epstein was found dead in mysterious circumstances in the Manhattan federal jail cell where he was awaiting his own sex trafficking trial in August 2019.

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They said the memories of her accusers were corrupted by the passage of time and the influence of lawyers steering them toward multi-million dollar payouts from a fund set up to compensate Epstein victims.

The jury already has asked to review the testimony of the four women, along with former Epstein housekeeper Juan Patricio Alessi, but they have given little hint of their overall progress on six charges, one of which could put her behind bars for 40 years.

Alessi testified that when he worked at Epstein’s sprawling Florida home from 1990 to 2002, he saw “many, many, many” female visitors, appearing to be in their late 20s, often lounging topless by the pool.

He also testified that two accusers, underage teens at the time, were repeat visitors to the Epstein mansion.

Seasoned courtroom observers interpret each day of deliberations without a verdict as a possible boost the defence team, which is aware that fast verdicts almost always go in the government’s favour and that stretched-out deliberations often indicate division or confusion among jurors.

-with AAP

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