NEW YORK – Ghislaine Maxwell spent the first half of her life with her father, a rags-to-riches billionaire who looted his companies' pension funds before dying a mysterious death. She spent the second with another tycoon, Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while charged with sexually abusing teenage girls.
Now, after a life of both scandal and luxury, Maxwell's next act will be decided by a U.S. trial.
Starting today, prosecutors in New York will argue that even as she was sipping cocktails with the likes of Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Maxwell, 59, was secretly abetting Epstein's crimes with girls as young as 14.
A key question for jurors: Was Maxwell an unwitting pawn of Epstein's manipulations or an opportunist who knew all about his sex crimes?
Ghislaine Maxwell grew up at Headington Hill Hall, a 51-room English country mansion where politicians, business leaders and newspaper editors attended lavish parties punctuated by trumpeters and fireworks.
Her father, born Jan Ludvik Hoch, was one of nine children of Yiddish-speaking parents in a village in what is now southwestern Ukraine. Escaping the Holocaust, he joined the British Army, rising to the rank of captain and transforming himself into Robert Maxwell.
After the war, Maxwell built a publishing empire that ultimately included the Daily Mirror, one of Britain's biggest tabloid newspapers, as well as the New York Daily News and the book publisher Macmillan.
Along the way he married, fathered nine children and was twice elected to Parliament. He earned a reputation for boorish behavior and bullying subordinates.
While studying history at the University of Oxford in the early 1980s, Ghislaine Maxwell began building contacts of her own, including Prince Andrew, who would later invite her and Epstein to Windsor Castle and Sandringham, Queen Elizabeth II's country estate.
In sworn testimony for an earlier civil case, Ghislaine Maxwell acknowledged that she had a romantic relationship with Epstein but said she later became his employee, tasked with things like hiring staff for his six homes.
In 2005, Epstein was arrested in Palm Beach, Florida, and accused of hiring multiple underage girls to perform sex acts. He pleaded guilty to a charge of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and served 13 months in jail.
Years of civil litigation followed, in which women accused Epstein and Maxwell of sexual abuse. Prosecutors in New York revived the case and charged Epstein with sex trafficking in 2019, but he killed himself in jail before he could face trial.
The indictment against Maxwell is based on accusations from four women who say she recruited them to give Epstein massages that progressed into sexual abuse. One was just 14 at the time. Maxwell sometimes participated in the sexual encounters and was involved in paying at least one accuser, prosecutors allege.
With Epstein gone and no apparent recordings of alleged incidents that occurred two decades ago, the trial will likely hinge on the women's allegations and Maxwell's denial.