The case against Ghislaine Maxwell primarily relies on the testimony of four women who say they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein when they were under 18 — and that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in that abuse, too.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to six federal charges: sex trafficking of minors, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three counts of conspiracy.
Prosecutors said in opening statements Maxwell and Epstein created a system of sexual abuse in which they lured underage girls into sexual relationships with Epstein using the ruse of a massage and cash payments. Her defense, though, has argued she is being scapegoated for Epstein’s actions and has attacked the memories and motivations of the women who say they were abused.
Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019 but died by suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell was arrested a year afterward.
CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan says Epstein’s death and the passage of so much time pose a huge challenge for prosecutors in this case. The government alleges the abuse occurred between 1994 and 2004.
“Proving sex abuse and rape cases from decades ago is generally an extraordinarily difficult task,” Callan says. “Proof in cases where children are involved are even more difficult. Memories of children are often unreliable and malleable.”
Maxwell said he expects the defense to call an expert witness to convince the jury that such testimony is inherently unreliable. The defense is expected to start its case on Thursday.
The government on Friday rested its case after prosecutors called 24 witnesses across 10 days of testimony.
“Despite substantial obstacles, prosecutors finished strongly” with Annie Farmer, the fourth and final accuser to take the stand, providing “vivid testimony,” Callan says.
“In the end a prosecution case which started weakly built to a strong conclusion,” Callan says.
Testimony from the victims began on November 30 with “Jane,” who said that Maxwell sometimes joined in on the sexualized massages. “Kate” testified December 6 that Maxwell set up those sexual meetings. Carolyn testified the next day that Maxwell once touched her breasts, hips and butt and told her she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends.” She was 14 at the time, she said.
Finally, Farmer testified Friday that she was 16 years old when Maxwell massaged her naked chest at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in 1996.
Here’s a closer look at what these women said under oath.
What Jane said
A woman identified in court by the pseudonym “Jane” testified last week she met Maxwell and Epstein in 1994 when she was 14 at a camp where he was a benefactor.
She and her mother met Epstein for tea in Florida and he said he could mentor her. She then started going to Epstein’s home by herself. At first, Maxwell and Epstein made her feel special — spending time with her, asking about her family and interests and taking her to do fun things, she said. For the first few months, Maxwell felt like an older sister, she said.
“It changed when the abuse started happening,” she said.
Jane described in graphic detail incidents of sexual abuse with Epstein that Maxwell would at times join in on, both in Palm Beach, Florida, and Manhattan when she was 14, 15 and 16 years old.
At times, Epstein would masturbate on her and molest her, she said. Maxwell would sometimes be involved, touching her and Epstein, she testified. At least once, Maxwell “instructed” her how Epstein liked to be massaged while the three were in Epstein’s massage room, she testified.
“It seemed very casual, like it was very normal, like it was not big deal,” she said. “It made me feel confused because that did not feel normal to me.”
She said it took her years before she was able to tell anyone about what happened, saying she felt “shame and disgust and confusion.”
On cross-examination, defense attorneys combed through her statements to law enforcement since 2019 to try to show inconsistencies with her testimony in court.
In the statements, Jane told law enforcement agents that she wasn’t sure if Maxwell ever touched her and she didn’t remember Maxwell ever being present for any sexual activity between her and Epstein. Jane repeatedly testified she didn’t recall if she’d said that to investigators.
At other times Jane testified that the law enforcement notes from those interviews were inaccurate, inconsistent with her timeline and not an accurate transcript of her statements, which were not recorded.
What Kate said
“Kate” testified on Monday she first met Maxwell through an older boyfriend when she was 17.
Maxwell invited her for tea at her London townhome and told Kate about Epstein and later invited her again to meet him, she testified.
There, Maxwell told her to give Epstein’s foot a little “squeeze” to show him how strong she was despite her small frame, Kate testified. Epstein approved of the foot massage and also had her massage his shoulders.
A couple of weeks later, Maxwell called Kate to ask whether she would do her “a favor” and come give Epstein a massage, even though she had no massage therapy experience. Maxwell led Kate upstairs in her townhome to a bedroom where Epstein stood in a robe, gave Kate massage oil, and closed the door behind her. Epstein disrobed and initiated a sex act with her, she said.
Maxwell called her back a second for another meeting with Epstein. “She said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here. You did such a good job last time (that) he wanted you to come back,'” Kate said.
This time, Epstein was standing naked when Maxwell brought Kate to the same room and closed the door behind her. “Have a good time,” Maxwell said as she left the room, according to the testimony.
In her testimony, Kate testified she traveled at Epstein’s expense several times to New York; Palm Beach, Florida; and Little St. James in the US Virgin Islands, where Epstein had property. Maxwell invited her to Epstein’s private island to give him massages and would inform Kate of the travel arrangements, she said.
During a visit to the Palm Beach residence when she was about 18, a “school girl” outfit — a pleated skirt, white panties, white socks and a shirt — was left on her bed, according to her testimony. When she asked Maxwell what it was for, Maxwell said, “I thought it would be fun for you to take Jeffrey his tea in this outfit,” Kate testified.
Maxwell spoke of sexual topics often with Kate, asking her if she knew any other girls that could give Epstein oral sex. “She said that he needed to have sex about three times a day,” Kate said.
“You know what he likes — cute, young (and) pretty like you,” Maxwell said, according to the testimony.
Kate said she kept in contact with Epstein until around 2012. She was about 24 when she last traveled with Maxwell and Epstein, but she continued contact with Epstein through her early 30s, she testified.
She described staying in contact with him as a mix of denial and fear.
“I did not want to admit what had happened to me and I felt that by ceasing communication I would have to acknowledge the events that had taken place and I would have to say something,” she said. “I was also fearful of disengaging because I had witnessed how connected they both were and I was fearful.”
Kate is not considered a minor victim in the charges because she was over the age of consent at the time of the alleged abuse, but jurors were still allowed to consider her testimony, Judge Alison Nathan ruled.
What Carolyn said
Carolyn, who testified Tuesday using only her first name, said she was 14 years old when she began to go to Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, two or three times per week in the early 2000s.
On one visit, Carolyn was setting up a massage room for him when Maxwell came into the room. Maxwell touched Carolyn’s breasts, hips and butt, and commented that she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends,” according to her testimony.
Carolyn said she went to Epstein’s over a hundred times in all. Each time she visited, $300 in cash was left for her on the bathroom sink, she said.
“Something sexual happened every single time,” Carolyn said.
She said that she remembered bringing three different friends around her age with her over the years. On those occasions she’d receive $600 in cash as an incentive for bringing them, and her friends would receive $300.
Carolyn described a number of sexual encounters with Epstein. She also said Maxwell saw her naked in the massage room “probably three times” over the years.
Maxwell and Epstein separately invited her to go to an island, but she told them she was too young and her mom wouldn’t let her travel out of the country, she testified. She also didn’t have a passport.
Sometimes, Maxwell or another Epstein associate would call her to set up an “appointment” time, Carolyn testified. Other times she would call to ask if she could come over because she wanted the money, she said. She testified that Maxwell and the associate would call her on her mom or her boyfriend’s phone numbers if they couldn’t reach her.
She said she used the money to buy drugs.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca cross-examined Carolyn for more than two hours Tuesday and spent considerable time suggesting Carolyn made inconsistent statements about her timeline, including a 2007 FBI meeting and in a 2009 deposition for lawsuits she pursued against Epstein.
Carolyn sobbed when prosecutor Maurene Comey asked if she was trying to get money for her testimony.
“No, money will not ever fix what that woman has done to me,” Carolyn said. “Because what she did was wrong and she takes vulnerable young girls and traffics them and I’m so petrified that my daughters are going to be trafficked.”
What Annie Farmer said
Annie Farmer, who testified under her full name, has spoken out publicly about Epstein and Maxwell for years. She spoke in open court during both Epstein’s 2019 bail hearing and Maxwell’s bail hearing a year later.
She testified for three hours Friday, the fourth and final accuser to do so. Her older sister worked for Epstein, and Farmer met him during the 1995 holiday season. Epstein paid for her commercial flight to New York and at a movie held hands with her and caressed her foot, she said in court.
She described going to the billionaire’s ranch in New Mexico in 1996 at age 16, where she thought she would be joining other peers but she was the only teen there.
There, Maxwell told her to get undressed and gave her a rubdown, telling her she wanted Farmer to experience a professional massage, Farmer testified.
At some point as she lay on her back, Maxwell pulled the sheet down, exposing her naked breasts, and rubbed her chest and upper breast, Farmer testified.
“Once she pulled down the sheet I felt like kind of frozen,” she testified. “It didn’t make sense to me that that would happen. I just wanted so badly to get off the table and have this massage be done.”
On her last day at the ranch Epstein bounded into her guestroom where she still lay in bed telling her he wanted to “cuddle.”
“He climbed into bed with me and kind of laid behind me and reached his arms around me and like pressed his body into me,” she said.
Feeling uncomfortable, she made an excuse to get out of bed and went to the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
Farmer said that while in New Mexico they went to see the movie “Primal Fear,” where Epstein again caressed her in a more “blatant” way, seemingly making no effort to hide it from Maxwell, she recalled. Later that day, Maxwell insisted she teach Farmer how to massage Epstein’s bare feet, Farmer testified.
Under cross-examination, Farmer acknowledged Maxwell was not in the room when Epstein got into her bed. In addition, defense attorney Laura Menninger repeatedly pointed out that Maxwell was not present on Farmer’s trip to New York.
Menninger suggested that Farmer overstated what she alleges happened to her in her public statements and on her Epstein Victim Compensation Program application for personal gain.
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