Ghislaine Maxwell’s first accuser testifies in sex abuse trial
Maxwell, an associate of financier Jeffrey Epstein, is charged with eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes.
One of Ghislaine Maxwell‘s accusers has taken the stand for a second day in the US trial of the British socialite, who is accused of setting up – and taking part – in the sexual abuse of minors with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
A lawyer for Maxwell resumed questioning the woman, known by the pseudonym Jane, on Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.
She was the first of four women expected to testify that Maxwell “groomed” them for abuse by Epstein when they were teenagers.
Jane testified that Epstein offered to help her advance her career as a performing artist, then regularly sexually abused her for years in the 1990s, starting when she was 14.
Maxwell, 59, is charged with eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two perjury charges that will be tried separately. She faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.
Maxwell, the daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell, has pleaded not guilty and her lawyers have said prosecutors are scapegoating her for Epstein’s alleged crimes.
The investment adviser died by suicide at age 66 in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex-abuse charges.
In emotional testimony on Tuesday, Jane said she had sexual encounters with Epstein at his Palm Beach, Florida, home multiple times per month while she was aged 14, 15 and 16. She said other people occasionally participated, including Maxwell, whom Jane said touched her breasts.
In the first half-hour of cross-examination on Tuesday, Maxwell’s lawyer Laura Menninger asked Jane about why she did not report the encounters with Epstein and Maxwell to law enforcement officials until 2019, decades after they allegedly took place.
Jane, now in her early 40s, said she had told a former romantic partner, known by the pseudonym Matt, about Epstein’s abuse before meeting with the FBI in 2019. Matt is expected to testify once Jane finishes, prosecutors said.
She testified in a quiet but steady voice, although she got choked up twice and also dabbed at her nose with a tissue as she described the sexual encounters. She said Maxwell instructed her on how to give Epstein sexual massages and sometimes physically participated.
Jane said she first met Epstein and Maxwell in 1994 when she was attending a music camp in pursuit of a singing career. She said she was eating ice cream with friends when Maxwell approached with a Yorkshire Terrier, drawing their attention. After her friends left, she spoke with Epstein, who had then arrived and introduced himself as a donor. They discovered that they both lived in Palm Beach, she said.
The woman and her mother soon received an invitation to Epstein’s home and although her mother was not included in subsequent invites, she remained “very impressed and enamoured with the wealth, the affluence”, and believed Maxwell and Epstein must really think her daughter was special, the woman testified.
Soon, Epstein and Maxwell were taking her shopping for clothes, including underwear from Victoria’s Secret, and asking about her life after her father’s sudden death in a way that did not happen at home, where soul-searching conversations never occurred, she said.
Menninger also asked if it was true she had previously spoken to her siblings and others close to her about Epstein’s behaviour, but left Maxwell out of the earlier accounts.
“You never mentioned Ghislaine Maxwell?” the lawyer asked. “I don’t know,” the witness responded, adding she only remembered being uncomfortable with going into all the details.
Earlier on Tuesday, a former pilot for Epstein testified that he never saw evidence of sexual activity on planes as he flew his boss and others – including a prince and ex-presidents – for nearly three decades.
Asked by Assistant US Attorney Maurene Comey where Maxwell stood in the hierarchy of Epstein’s world, the pilot, Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr, said Maxwell “was the Number 2”.