Maxwell Jury Shown Video of Epstein’s ‘Domicile of Debauchery’
(Bloomberg) -- Jurors in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial were shown video of the interior of Jeffrey Epstein’s Florida mansion as well as what prosecutors described as sexually suggestive photographs of very young girls the financier used as decorations.
Manhattan federal prosecutors on Friday entered into evidence a 2005 videotape made by the Palm Beach police as part of an investigation into Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse of underage girls. Maxwell is charged with trafficking girls for abuse by Epstein and participating in some of the assaults herself.
The monitors showing the video were turned so that the jurors could see them but not press or public spectators in the courtroom. Defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim later argued that keeping most of the footage secret gave the impression that it depicted “a domicile of debauchery.” U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan agreed, and ordered it released, with images of very young children redacted.
The images of children were from photographs in Epstein’s house that were also shown to jurors. Prosecutors said the photos were prominently displayed -- including one right outside the bedroom the couple shared when Maxwell was his girlfriend.
“In order to get into that room, you had to get by a sexually suggestive photograph of a very young girl,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey said at a hearing earlier on Friday. She said another photo in the house showed a toddler walking toward a naked adult while another depicted Epstein pulling down a very young girl’s underwear and trying to bite her exposed backside.
Nathan had previously ruled that the video and photos could be shown to the jury, but the defense had renewed its objections Friday morning. Comey said the pictures’ prominent display showed Maxwell was well-aware of her ex-boyfriend’s sexual proclivities and not, as her lawyers have suggested, blinded by his wealth and connections.
“The fact that there is a sexualized photograph, of a clearly underaged female, is highly probative,” and “directly contradicts” the defense’s argument that “Mr. Epstein was some upstanding citizen surrounded by presidents and all kinds of other prominent people.”
The judge rejected the renewed argument from defense lawyer Christian Everdell, who called the photos “playful” and similar to those parents take of their children. Everdell said at least one of the photos showed the daughter of a close family friend.
“This invites the jury to make assumptions,” the defense lawyer said.
Nathan said she’d instruct jurors that the photos showed “very young minors” and that neither Maxwell nor Epstein have been accused of any illicit activity involving children of that age. “Jane,” a witness who testified on Tuesday and Wednesday, said she was 14 when Epstein and Maxwell began abusing her.
The video shown on Friday came from an investigation launched after the mother of one 14-year-old complained that Epstein had paid his daughter for a massage. Epstein eventually negotiated a non-prosecution agreement with Miami federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta that required him to plead guilty to state charges for soliciting a minor for prostitution. Epstein spent 13 months in jail in a work-release program.
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