In late November 2021, social media posts claimed that audio of the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial in New York could be listened to by dialing 844-721-7237 and entering access code 9991787. We called and received this message: "Your access code was not recognized."
Maxwell is accused of being Jeffrey Epstein’s chief enabler, "recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse," the Associated Press reported.
We saw a number of examples of this messaging on Facebook:
Twitter also had no shortage of tweets that featured the phone number and access code. However, many users reported issues in getting the number and code to work:
A search on the platform for the access code showed a seemingly endless number of inquiries about the rumor.
There is no audio or video of the Maxwell trial for listening or viewing. We confirmed that this rumor was false by calling and asking a spokesperson for the Southern District of New York.
Here's how this rumor started.
In October 2021, the phone number and access code were both mentioned on the Southern District of New York website about a previous matter. The page included the message: "The Court will hold a telephone conference to discuss jury selection matters on October 21, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. Members of the press and the public in the United States may access the live audio feed of the proceeding by calling 844-721-7237 and using access code 9991787. Those outside of the United States may access the live audio feed by calling 409-207-6951 and using the same access code."
However, this telephone access ended as of Nov. 1. Public access to criminal proceedings had previously been provided "due to substantial restrictions on in-person attendance during much of the COVID-19 pandemic." SDNY published a news release about the matter.
On Nov. 22, Town & Country Magazine again published the phone number and access code, which likely added to the confusion. "The curious, and members of the press, may access the live audio feed of the proceeding by calling 844-721-7237 and using access code 9991787."
Again, there were no plans to make the trial available by audio over the phone for listening.
On the day the phone number rumor spread like wildfire, the Associated Press published background details on why Maxwell was on trial:
Two years after Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide behind bars, a jury was selected Monday in New York City to determine a central question in the long-running sex trafficking case: Was his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s puppet or accomplice?
Maxwell — who once dated the financier — is accused of acting as Epstein’s chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse. The charges against her stem from the allegations of four women who say she and Epstein victimized them as teens from 1994 to 2004.
Prosecutors say there’s evidence Maxwell knew that the victims, including a 14-year-old, were below the age of consent and that she arranged travel for some between Epstein’s homes, including his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his posh Manhattan townhouse and at other residences in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and London.
While there will be no audio or video of the Maxwell trial, there's no shortage of live tweeting happening to bring the world the latest updates. For example, Law & Crime managing editor Adam Klasfeld was inside the courtroom and tweeting throughout the day on Nov. 29.