Ghislaine Maxwell “served” girls for sex at Epstein: prosecutors
Two years after Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide in prison before being tried on similar charges, Ghislaine Maxwell sat in the Manhattan courtroom facing six counts of incitement and transportation of minors for sexual purposes.
FILE: Ghislaine Maxwell. Photo: Laura Cavanaugh / AFP
NEW YORK – Ghislaine Maxwell forced young girls to be abused by “predator” Jeffrey Epstein, prosecutors said Monday, as the sex trafficking trial of the heiress and socialite of the British jet set begins in New York .
While the defense urged jurors not to “scapegoat” Maxwell for Epstein’s crimes, government lawyers have described her as the “lady of the house” of the late financial, who has maintained “a culture of silence “during a multi-year deal to sexually exploit girls under the age of 18. -years.
Maxwell “made these girls feel seen. They made them feel special. But it was a cover,” federal lawyer Lara Pomerantz told the jury.
In fact, she “served them to be sexually abused,” the prosecutor said.
Two years after Epstein committed suicide in prison before being tried on similar charges, Maxwell sat in the Manhattan courtroom facing six counts of incitement and transporting minors for sexual purposes.
Four women who allegedly suffered at the hands of the duo are key witnesses to the trial, which is taking place under intense media attention.
Masked and dressed in a beige sweater and black pants, the 59-year-old daughter of the late press baron Robert Maxwell got agitated during the final stages of jury selection, frequently passing notes with his legal team , before stoically watching the government pronounce its opening. arguments.
She could spend the rest of her life in prison if found guilty.
THE “RIGHT” PARTNER OF EPSTEIN
Maxwell, whose sister Isabel was sitting in the courtroom gallery, pleaded not guilty to all six counts.
Its legal team aims to portray the accusers’ stories as “thin” and their recollections as “unreliable.”
In opening statements, lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said their memories have faded or been “corrupted” by forces such as media attention and the prospect of a “big jackpot” in connection with possible civil lawsuits against Epstein’s estate.
Meanwhile, Sternheim made Maxwell a blamed “target” for the crimes of the late Epstein.
The lawyer called Maxwell a “bullseye” for “the anger of women who have been or who believe they have been victimized by Epstein”, whose death has left “a gaping hole in the pursuit of justice,” he said. she declared.
Maxwell “fills that hole,” Sternheim said.
But Pomerantz said that during the period of his cover charges, 1994-2004, Maxwell was Epstein’s “right-hand” partner, gaining the trust of girls as young as 14, then conditioning them to give nude massages. , then sex with the deceased. magnate.
Maxwell “knew exactly what Epstein was going to do to these children when she sent them to these massage rooms” at Epstein’s luxurious homes in New Mexico, Manhattan, Paris and Palm Beach, Florida, said the prosecutor.
Epstein was a multi-million dollar fund manager who befriended countless celebrities, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, and was accused of providing them with women, including minors.
Prosecutors said Maxwell facilitated and participated in the abuse of the four unidentified women, befriending them with shopping and movie trips before persuading them to engage in sex acts with Epstein, their later giving money.
After opening statements, the prosecution called its first witness, Lawrence Visoski, who worked as a pilot for Epstein from 1991 to 2019.
In the initial questioning, which is scheduled to continue on Tuesday, Visoski described Maxwell’s general relationship with Epstein, whom he called a “couple” when describing their jet-set lifestyle and the luxury properties of the business man.
RISK OF A SENTENCE OF 80 YEARS
Epstein, who for years sidestepped charges using flawed laws, powerful relationships and sympathetic law enforcement, was arrested in July 2019.
But a month later, he committed suicide in prison.
Prosecutors have vowed to prosecute anyone who allegedly helped him abuse the girls and arrested Maxwell in July 2020.
The trial is expected to last six weeks and Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Due to the continuing threat of COVID-19, plexiglass boxes with air filters have been put in place for witnesses and lawyers interviewing.
In the days leading up to the trial, false allegations spread on social media – and were echoed by some prominent political conservatives – that the judge in the case banned media coverage, apparently to protect powerful friends and Epstein associates.
Still, hundreds of professional journalists gathered at the courthouse on Monday, with some reporters licensed in the courtroom, in limited numbers due to the pandemic.
The proceedings are not televised – as is customary under federal law – but dozens of other journalists watched the trial from separate overflowing viewing rooms inside the courthouse.