As I await my sister Ghislaine Maxwell’s sentencing next Tuesday there is one question that’s constantly in my mind.
Why did she not get out of the US and go to France, from where there is no extradition to the former, if there was the slightest chance of her being arrested? She has French citizenship. She has many friends in France and she could now be cooling her heels in the Med rather than sitting in the third-world hellhole that is New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center.
It’s a question to which I know part of the answer but it still puzzles me. I believe she stayed because she had a clear conscience. I believe her when she says that she has committed no crime whatsoever and, apart from the fact that I believe her because I know her so well, the fact of her staying convinces me even more.
There’s no doubt that her trusting faith in the US justice system betrayed her and that really puzzles me. She has lived in the US for 30 years and she must know that it’s a strange place, where politicians are easily swayed by lynch mobs.
In the US, lynch mobs can spring from nowhere. As David Aaronovitch wrote in The Times just this week, the film Sibyl prompted a sudden increase in the diagnosis of multiple personality disorder in the US from under 100 to several thousand, leading to false narratives of abuse and innocent people being sent to prison.
I also ask why former US attorney general William Barr appears to have launched a personal vendetta against Ghislaine.
The most obvious answer is that Barr was embarrassed by his abject failure to keep Jeffrey Epstein alive while in Federal custody. The verdict is that Epstein committed suicide but some believe he was murdered, including his own brother Mark, and there is forensic support for that.
However he died, the fact is that he was unable to stand trial and the case had achieved such notoriety that there was a vacuum that demanded to be filled. Barr accomplished that by pointing the finger at Ghislaine, which led directly to the TV press show post her arrest that branded her guilty in the eyes of the world. It would never have happened in the UK.
I’ve been travelling in and out of the US pretty well all my adult life. Mercifully, I’ve never sampled its prison system but Ghislaine’s experience has shown me that there’s only one word for it: disgusting.
This is a country that has four per cent of the world’s population but houses 20 per cent of the world’s prisoners. Milwaukee County circuit judge Joe Donald said: “We lock up close to 2.4 million in this country. We’re locking up more people than China or Russia.” Senator Bernie Sanders has said: “Today in America we have put more people in jail than any other country on earth.” China comes second to the US, with 1.6 million prisoners and Russia is third with 642,470, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research.
Political observers have often referred to the cowboy culture that rots the soul of the US people. It leads to mass shootings, as well as mass hysteria.
In 2021 there were 693 mass shootings in the US, leaving 703 people dead and 2,842 people injured for a total of 3,545 victims.
The mass hysteria is well documented: a 2020 survey by political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Adam Enders found that 35 per cent of US citizens think the number of children who are victims of sexual trafficking each year is about 300,000 or higher, while 24 per cent think it’s much higher. It’s a perfect example of bandwagon hysteria; kidnappings do occur but, according to the FBI, the number hovers around 100.
There is sex trafficking in the US, of course. In 2019, the US National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded direct contacts with 14,597 likely victims of sex trafficking of all ages. The average age of victims when first trafficked (age of entry) was 17.
“In 1996,” The Atlantic recounted, “the non-profit National Child Safety Council printed photographs of missing children on three billion milk cartons.” The article went on to point out that “a person would have had to be paying close attention to notice that all the photographs were of the same 106 faces”.
These panics have a huge effect on US politicians hungry for votes who are pushed by the tide of public opinion, no matter how crazy. The elected judiciary is in much the same position. This is what has led to the charges against Ghislaine.
The white slavery panic of the early 1900s led to the passage of the Mann Act, a law that criminalised transporting across state lines “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery”. It was wielded against black men who travelled with white women and later against sex workers who were accused of trafficking themselves!
The 1980s hysteria about child sex abuse preceded the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act, which made sharing child sex abuse material over a computer illegal but also broadened the list of crimes for which the government could obtain wiretaps.
Today, the difficult problem of child sex abuse material on the Internet is being offered as a rationale for law enforcement to obtain backdoor access to encrypted communication or for Congress to obligate social media companies to surveil their users constantly, on posts and private messages. In other words, institutionalised state spying.
I feel great sympathy for any girls or women who have genuinely been abused but their abuse doesn’t give them the right automatically to be believed when they make unsubstantiated allegations, especially when those allegations are immensely well rewarded financially. That is what has happened to my sister.
Accusers have made vast sums of money. Lawyers in the Epstein case have been riding a gold-plated gravy train and have made at least $60 million in cahoots with an ethically failed administration that is running scared of #MeToo.
Ghislaine’s key accuser, throughout, has been a woman called Virginia Giuffre. She has paraded herself outside the court as a serial victim and repeated that in many interviews. But here’s the thing, she was never called as a witness for the prosecution in my sister’s trial.
Within a few months, however, Ms Giuffre will be unable to avoid being cross-questioned in court by Alan Dershowitz, arguably the US’s top lawyer. He alleges that she has lied about him and defamed him. Dershowitz has also stated that he believes she has committed perjury and, if that’s right, and it’s judged to be criminal perjury, she herself could go to prison for years.
That’s not going to save my sister from being sentenced next Tuesday but we will be throwing all our efforts behind appealing her sentence.
I know that Ghislaine is innocent and that she would never have been found guilty in any civilised country. We will never stop fighting for justice to secure her release.
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