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A look back at the Ghislaine Maxwell verdict

By Monica Chen

When Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty last December of trafficking girls for sexual abuse, it was on social media that not only did the news break, but also where the most relevant coverage happened, making up for the lack of attention from mainstream media.

The elation of the verdict, the intensity of the trial, as well as discussions of the crimes of Maxwell and her ex-boyfriend, pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, happened only on social media.

It was a collective effort of independent journalists and women working in established media, mostly young women, who made up for the lack of mainstream coverage. The real coverage of the Ghislaine Maxwell verdict was not on TV or newspapers but what was happening in real-time on Twitter.

At the federal district court at the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in New York, presided over by Judge Allison Nathan, the verdict came suddenly and expectedly on the late afternoon of Wednesday, December 29.

It was the dead of winter and the jury began deliberating before Christmas. Earlier on this fifth day, there were signs that the jury would take longer to deliberate, or even find Maxwell not guilty.

As British journalist Lucia Osborne-Crowley reported, the jury was requesting more transcripts throughout the day:

But then, around 5 p.m., the news broke:

Reporters began live-tweeting, including the courts and United Nations stalwart, independent journalist Matthew Russell Lee:

Complete elation was the mood. Watch the video by independent journalist Addy Adds:

More from Lee when the verdict was read:

A story was quickly put up by Julie K. Brown, The Miami Herald reporter who wrote the investigative series on Epstein and Maxwell in 2018 and blew the scandal wide open. Here’s how Brown described Maxwell’s reaction:

“When U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan read the verdict, Maxwell appeared shaken, and struggled to stand. She did not shed a tear. Afterward, she slumped in her chair and sipped a cup of water, barely looking at her family members — sisters Isabel and Christine and brother Kevin, sitting in the front row.”

Amid the lack of coverage by CNN and other major networks, Sky News Australia’s Martha Kelner captured the mood outside the courthouse:

Maxwell’s attorneys quickly left the courthouse with no comment, as captured by Alyssa Paolicelli with Spectrum News NY1:

Photojournalist Sandi Bachom had the best view of the chaos of media throngs after the verdict. Maxwell’s lead attorney Bobbi Sternheim exited the courthouse, made her way down to the assembled media — and their bright lights — and provided a brief statement. After that, Sternheim also quickly left the scene.

A statement from Virginia Giuffre, a victim of Epstein and Maxwell’s, whom she has accused of sex trafficking her to various powerful men, including Prince Andrew when she was 17:

Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, made a statement:

The Clinton Foundation had tweeted about islands earlier in the day:

The significance of the verdict and the elation of that moment unfortunately were not conveyed by newspapers the next day. The Miami Herald’s front page was very dark. The New York Times downplayed the news with a story in the corner near the fold.

The Daily Mail as usual understood what news the British public wants, pivoting immediately to consequences for Andrew. The paper had been following the growing Epstein-Maxwell scandal for a decade. Among the other newspapers, many of the front pages were accompanied by stories on rising COVID cases.

The BBC sank to a new low by interviewing Alan Dershowitz for a legal take. Dershowitz was Epstein’s long-time attorney who was also accused by Giuffre for having sex with her while she was underage.

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