In the 11 months since Jeffrey Epstein escaped justice one last time by killing himself inside the federal jail in Manhattan where he had been held ahead of his trial, the question has been what happened to his alleged procurer and enabler, his deranged Girl Friday, Ghislaine Maxwell? Had she fled? Had she died? Was she somehow cooperating?
In August it felt like a troll when she was photographed at an In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles, reading a spy novel. In December, we learned that she was the subject of an FBI investigation of “people who facilitated” Epstein’s sex trafficking ring, and on Thursday morning the FBI arrested her at 338 E. Washington Road in the town of Bradford, New Hampshire, a five-hour drive north from Epstein’s infamous Upper East Side mansion. She is being held without bail, which makes sense as she was found with three passports in a house she had purchased in cash on Dec. 13, 2019. According to the 17-page federal indictment, Maxwell has been charged with two counts of perjury and four counts of sex-trafficking a minor. If convicted, the 58-year-old could spend up to 35 years in prison.
But Maxwell is hardly the only surviving villain in this story—the big questions are who else she might name, and why it’s taken so many decades for her to face a trial.
Notably, her case is being handled, as Epstein’s had been, by the Southern District of New York’s Public Corruption Unit rather than the Violent and Organized Crime Unit that usually handles sex trafficking cases. The case against Epstein had been brought by Geoffrey Berman, the Southern District U.S. Attorney whom Attorney General Bill Barr abruptly axed two weeks ago—raising questions about what sort of imminent cases Trump’s fixer might have been trying to bottle up, as his AG tried, unsuccessfully, to install his own pick in the office.
Maxwell has until now avoided this reckoning thanks to the baffling non-prosecution agreement that Epstein struck in 2007 with then Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, a deal that was hidden from Epstein’s victims, and that eventually led Acosta to step down as Trump’s Labor Secretary. That was followed by a second suspicious sweetheart arrangement with the office of Cy Vance Jr.
At almost every point in this sordid saga, powerful men in the government did what they could to protect the powerful while turning their backs on Epstein’s sex-trafficked victims.
In 2011, a sex crimes prosecutor in Vance’s office, according to The New York Times, “argued forcefully in court that Mr. Epstein, who had been convicted in Florida of soliciting an underage prostitute should not be registered as a top-level sex offender in New York”—even though Epstein had multiple homes, multiple planes, multiple passports and multiple victims.
You’ll remember Vance as the fancy Manhattan District Attorney who neglected to prosecute a potential felony fraud case against the Trump kids, and then received a donation from the spawn’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz. The DA who botched the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case, declined to prosecute the Greg Kelly rape case and, for many years, the Harvey Weinstein cases. As New York magazine later reported, “Police later became certain Vance’s office was working to derail their investigation, leading the commander of the NYPD’s special victims division, Michael Osgood, to confine knowledge of the case by keeping it off the department’s computer system.” Oh, did I mention that one of Weinstein’s attorneys was another big donor to Vance?
In 2018, Vance told BuzzFeed’s AM to DM show that, “I frankly was not aware of the extent to which workplace sexual violence existed, and perhaps I should have been.” This is one of the most spectacularly unaware or untrue things anyone has ever said.
Over the last couple of years Vance has gotten more interested in prosecuting wealthy and powerful male sexual predators, including Weinstein. All it took was an enormous public outcry and multiple primary challengers.
While it’s wonderful that Vance has suddenly become interested in doing his job even for women, it’s also worth noting that the local prosecutor has nothing to do with the federal case being brought against Maxwell now.
Bradley Edwards, the lawyer for more than 20 of Epstein’s accusers, said after Maxwell’s arrest that “I have talked with many of my clients this morning who are relieved that justice is being served. They are so thankful for the dedicated work of the New York prosecutors.”
They meant the federal ones. They have more work to do now to restore a measure of confidence that justice applies to the wealthy and powerful along with the rest of us. The cover of the New York Post said loudly what all of us are quietly thinking: “Now Keep Her Alive!”