Maxwell Says Expert Will Testify ‘Grooming’ Girls Not About Sex
(Bloomberg) -- Ghislaine Maxwell proposes calling as a defense witness a forensic psychiatrist she says can explain that her “grooming” of underage girls may have been unrelated to their sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein.
Dr. Park Dietz can testify that “grooming” can be applied to “common and desirable behaviors as being kind or attentive or helpful or caring,” Maxwell’s lawyers said in a court filing Monday in federal court in Manhattan.
Dietz’s testimony could rebut a proposed prosecution expert, Dr. Lisa Rocchio, who is expected to testify that grooming is aimed at rendering victims “vulnerable to abuse,” Maxwell’s lawyers said. Rocchio’s testimony “carries the risk of implying that innocuous and even desirable behaviors are associated with nefarious or criminal conduct.”
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan will hold a hearing Wednesday on which expert witnesses will be allowed to testify when Maxwell goes on trial Nov. 29 on sex-trafficking charges. Prosecutors say Maxwell lured and groomed four teenage girls for Epstein. She’s also charged with engaging in some of the abuse.
Maxwell’s lawyers have listed eight experts they may call. Along with Dietz, they include Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a well-known psychologist who frequently testifies about “false memories” of traumatic events. She was a defense witness at Harvey Weinstein’s trial, where she tried to cast doubt on one accuser’s rape account.
Dietz has been a witness in many high-profile trials. He testified for the prosecution in the cases against Jeffrey Dahmer, “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski and would-be Ronald Reagan assassin John Hinckley Jr.
Maxwell’s lawyers said Dietz could challenge the very idea that she would groom girls for someone else. “The claim appears to be that Ms. Maxwell recruited and groomed minors to provide sexualized massages for Mr. Epstein, which would amount to grooming-by-proxy,” they said. “Dr. Dietz is aware of no authority -- no journal articles, no studies, no tests, nothing -- to support a theory of grooming-by-proxy.”
The defense said Dietz could also testify that Maxwell fell under Epstein’s sway due to the “halo effect” that certain personalities exude.
“Jeffrey Epstein was a brilliant man who was flawed by enduring personality traits familiar to psychiatrists,” they said. “Like many people who achieve great power and wealth, Jeffery Epstein exploited the Halo effect to surround himself with people who would serve his needs. At the most primitive level, his wealth attracted those seeking for themselves some of what he had.”
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