It took a jury five days to reach a verdict in the criminal case against British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who was charged for her role in grooming and luring minor girls to serve the sexual exploits of financier Jeffrey Epstein. On December 29, 2021, Maxwell was convicted on 5 of 6 counts. The Miami Herald reported on January 15, 2022 that sentencing will take place at a hearing in June, at which the US District Court judge will decide how long she spends behind bars. Each count ranges from five to 40 years in federal prison.
The conviction against Maxwell means closure for many of Epstein’s victims, but it also prompts questions about civil remedies linked to criminal cases. Many people will also wonder whether it is possible to hold Maxwell accountable when she did not directly cause harm. A Miami sexual assault victims attorney can describe the details, but some answers to FAQs are informative.
How does a conviction impact a civil lawsuit?
Unless you take appropriate legal action, a conviction is meaningless in terms of recovering compensation. Victims must file a separate lawsuit in civil court to pursue an assailant for damages, and the case will involve an intentional “tort,” i.e., wrongdoing. You must prove that the person intended to commit the act that resulted in your injuries, and you suffered losses as a result.
What if the defendant was acquitted?
An acquittal does NOT absolve someone of civil liability, and the various proceedings involving OJ Simpson serve as examples. After a jury found him not guilty, victims’ family members sued in civil court and won. This may be due, in part, to the lower standard of proof in a civil case. You only need to prove that it is more likely than not that certain facts are true. This preponderance of the evidence standard is lower than a criminal case, where the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Who is a potential party in a lawsuit?
As mentioned, the victim could sue the assailant for an intentional tort. However, there may be additional individuals or entities who were careless in allowing the criminal conduct to happen. Claims against these individuals proceed on the theory of negligence. An example is the role of the Catholic Church in failing to protect against the sexual abuse of children by its own priests.
What damages can I recover as a victim of sexual assault?
Compensation is based upon your losses, so you may qualify for:
- Medical costs;
- Emotional distress;
- Pain and suffering;
- Many other damages, depending on your case.
Our Miami Crime Victims Lawyers Can Provide Additional Answers
You do have rights if you were the victim of sexual assault or other criminal attack, and your legal remedies may extend to potential parties you did not expect. Our team at Gerson & Schwartz, PA is prepared to overcome challenges, so please contact our firm to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients in a wide range of personal injury matters from our offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, FL.