Maxwell Prosecutors Rest After Casting Her as Epstein’s ‘No. 2’
(Bloomberg) -- Prosecutors in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial rested their case after two weeks of sometimes graphic testimony by four women who allege the British socialite lured them into abuse by Jeffrey Epstein.
The government’s case came to a close sooner than expected in what was originally scheduled to be a six-week trial. Jurors will return to the courtroom on Dec. 16 to start hearing the defense case. Maxwell’s lawyers said they will call witnesses but were having scheduling difficulties due to the approaching holidays.
Defense lawyers have spent the past two weeks aggressively challenging her accusers, suggesting their testimony was tainted by faulty memories, substance abuse or millions of dollars they received from Epstein’s estate. Maxwell’s lawyers have said she’s a scapegoat for Epstein, who died in a Manhattan jail cell before he could face his own sex-trafficking trial.
They’ll need to offer an alternative narrative to that presented by one prosecution witness after another: that Maxwell was Epstein’s “No. 2” and integral to his crimes.
In the first week of the trial, prosecutors mostly set the stage by immersing jurors in the luxurious, lascivious world shared by Epstein and Maxwell, his onetime girlfriend and employee. Just one of Maxwell’s accusers testified, but other witnesses included one of Epstein’s private pilots and the former caretaker of his Palm Beach estate. Both of those ex-employees described their boss’s jet-set lifestyle and the prominent role Maxwell played in it.
The second week saw three more accusers testify against Maxwell, along with witnesses who helped prosecutors suggest a financial motive behind her alleged crimes.
Here are the highlights from week two of U.S. v. Maxwell:
The second of Maxwell’s accusers, testifying under the pseudonym “Kate,” took the stand Monday and described meeting Maxwell in Paris when she was 17. She was subsequently invited to tea at the socialite’s London townhouse. Epstein wasn’t there, but Maxwell described him as her boyfriend and said he was a philanthropist who “liked to help young people.”
Kate said Maxwell called her urgently one day saying she needed a substitute masseuse for Epstein. When she arrived, the socialite ushered Kate into a second-floor massage room and shut her in alone with Epstein after he removed his robe and stood naked in front of her. Kate said she had her first sexual encounter with Epstein that day. “Did you have fun?” Maxwell asked afterward, Kate said.
The initial London encounters with Epstein led to trips to his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and his private Caribbean island, she said. On one of the Palm Beach trips, Maxwell laid out a “schoolgirl costume” on Kate’s bed.
“I thought it would be fun for you to take Jeffrey his tea in this outfit,” Maxwell said, according to Kate.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim brought up Kate’s past substance abuse issues, suggesting they had impaired her memories, and brought up the fact that she had received $3.25 million from a fund set up for Epstein’s victims. Kate said neither drug use nor her payment from the fund had affected her testimony.
Testifying using only her first name, Carolyn took the stand Tuesday and described a difficult, disadvantaged childhood spent in the shadow of Palm Beach’s wealth. With an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother, she said she began earning money to support herself by going to “Mr. Epstein’s house.”
Carolyn said she was introduced to Epstein by Virginia Giuffre, who told her there was a way she could make hundreds of dollars giving him a massage. Giuffre has since publicly accused Maxwell and Epstein of sexually abusing her but did not testify at the trial. Maxwell told Giuffre to “show her what do do” just before her first sexual encounter with Epstein, Carolyn testified. She said she was 13 at the time.
After that, Carolyn said she regularly went to Epstein’s home for a number of years to give him massages. She said her boyfriend or her mother would get calls from either Maxwell or Epstein’s assistant Sarah Kellen to schedule appointments. During this time, she said she began to use drugs to “block out” the appointments.
She said she took “a break” from Epstein to run away with her boyfriend, returning when she was 18 because she needed money to support her son. Carolyn said Epstein asked her if she had “younger friends” she could send his way.
“That’s when I realized I was too old,” she said.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca questioned Carolyn about her drug use and also highlighted a number of inconsistencies between her trial testimony and a 2008 lawsuit she filed against Epstein and Kellen but not Maxwell.
The final accuser called by prosecutors was Annie Farmer, the only one to testify using her full name. On the stand Friday, she said she first met Epstein in New York when she was 16 and visiting her older sister, who worked for the financier. He invited them both to the movies and began touching Farmer in the theater.
“I felt sick to my stomach,” she said. “It was not something I was at all expecting.”
Not long after, Epstein called Farmer’s mother, Janice Swain, to invite the teenager to a weekend retreat for about 25 students at his New Mexico ranch. He assured Swain his “wife Ghislaine” would chaperone and said he could help her daughter make connections. Farmer said she was reluctant to be around him after what happened in New York but decided to accept his invitation after she found out Maxwell would also be there.
“I didn’t think anything would happen” with her there, Farmer said. But there were no other students there that weekend, she testified, and both Maxwell and Epstein sexually abused her. Maxwell told her to strip and massaged her breasts while Epstein climbed into her bed the next morning, “pressing” his body against her.
On cross-examination, Menninger suggested that Farmer told her mother that she hadn’t been sexually abused in New Mexico.
“I said I was not raped,” Farmer shot back. “Those are two different things.”
The Banker and the Pilot
Two witnesses offered testimony showing Maxwell had a lucrative financial relationship with Epstein, which prosecutors said could be a motive for her to traffic underage girls for him.
JPMorgan Chase Executive Director Patrick McHugh testified that Epstein wired nearly $31 million to Maxwell between 1999 and 2007. Meanwhile, David Rodgers, another former private pilot for Epstein, said Maxwell “downsized” to a studio apartment following the 1991 death of her tycoon father left her family in financial distress. But she moved less than a decade later into her own townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
During this time, she became Epstein’s “No. 2,” according to Rodgers.
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