The defence team for Ghislaine Maxwell – accused of committing sex abuse against minors – has called its first witness, a former assistant to the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Cimberly Espinosa, 55, testified in a federal court in New York City on Thursday that she was hired as a legal assistant to Epstein’s company in 1996. She said she then changed roles to work as Maxwell’s executive assistant from November of 1996 until 2002.
“We were together just about every day,” she said.
Under questioning by Maxwell’s lawyer Christian Everdell, Espinosa testified that she worked with several other women who were receptionists or executive assistants to Epstein and Maxwell.
Espinosa said Maxwell was a demanding boss but that she learned a lot from her.
“I highly respected Ghislaine,” Espinosa said. “I looked up to her very much.”
Maxwell was once Epstein’s girlfriend before becoming a trusted employee.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes. Her lawyers argue that she is being scapegoated for the late financier’s alleged conduct because he is dead.
Epstein died by suicide in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges.
Maxwell’s lawyers have sought to show that the accusers exaggerated her involvement at the behest of lawyers seeking payouts for the women from civil claims against the Epstein estate.
The defence is seeking testimony from lawyers who helped the women submit claims to a victims’ compensation fund managed by Epstein’s estate. Maxwell’s lawyers said the women cooperated with prosecutors because they thought it would benefit their civil claims.
The defence team is also likely to continue attempting to undermine her accusers’ credibility by asserting that the women’s memories have faded over the years.
They plan to call psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who studies how people’s memories can become corrupted over time, as an expert witness.
The government’s case lasted only two weeks and the defence case could last just two days. Both sides streamlined their witness lists without revealing why, making the trial end well short of an original six-week estimate. The prosecution rested its case on Friday.