Jury in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial signals they are focused on accusers’ testimony

Jury in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial signals they are focused on accusers’ testimony
Southern District of New York

Jurors in Ghislaine Maxwell‘s sex trafficking trial asked the judge two questions Tuesday related to testimony from the women who form the core of the case against her.

Around 10:10 a.m., Judge Alison Nathan read a note from jurors asking for the transcripts of testimonies from Annie Farmer, Carolyn and “Jane” — three of the four women who testified they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein and that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in the abuse.

Farmer, the only accuser to testify by her full name, testified that she was 16 years old when Maxwell massaged her naked chest at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in 1996.

Carolyn testified that when she was 14 years old Maxwell touched her breasts, hips and butt and told her she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends.”

“Jane,” testifying under a pseudonym, said that Maxwell organized sexual massages with Epstein and sometimes joined in the abuse.

The fourth accuser, “Kate,” testified Maxwell invited her over and directed her how to give Epstein a sexual massage. She said Maxwell spoke often of sexual topics with her and asked Kate to invite other young girls for Epstein’s sexual desires.

Just before 3 p.m., jurors asked the court for the FBI notes from a 2007 interview with Carolyn. The document is not in evidence, so the judge wrote a response to the jurors explaining that they have everything that’s available in evidence. Still, some excerpts from the FBI notes were read into the record during Carolyn’s cross-examination.

In that cross-examination, the defense pointed to statements in those FBI notes that they said were inconsistent with Carolyn’s testimony. In particular, they noted that Carolyn did not mention Maxwell in that 2007 interview.

“Miss Maxwell was not the topic of discussion at that time,” Carolyn testified in court. “The only thing Miss Maxwell was involved in was fondling and touching my breasts and my buttocks and for that my soul is broken and so is my heart.”

Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend and longtime associate, has pleaded not guilty to six federal counts, including sex trafficking of a minor, 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 related counts of conspiracy.

If convicted on all six counts, the 59-year-old faces up to 70 years in prison.

The jury deliberations cap a three-week trial highlighted by testimony from the four women. The sexual abuse allegedly occurred when they were younger than 18, and their accusations stretched from 1994 to 2004.

Epstein, an elusive financier 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 in 2020 and has been held behind bars under close watch since.

The three conspiracy charges relate to allegations from all four accusers, though testimony from Kate and Farmer cannot be used on their own. The enticing and transporting counts relate to testimony from Jane, while the child sex trafficking charge — the most serious of the charges — relates to Carolyn’s testimony.

What happened at the trial

In its closing argument, the prosecution said Maxwell’s close relationship with Epstein and manipulative actions were key to the international abuse scheme at his properties in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands.

“A single middle-aged man who invites a teenage girl to visit his ranch, to come to his house, to fly to New York, is creepy,” prosecutor Allison Moe told jurors. “But when that man is accompanied by a posh, smiling, respectable, age-appropriate woman, that’s when everything starts to seem legitimate.

“And when that woman encourages those girls to massage that man, when she acts like it’s totally normal for the man to touch those girls. It lures them into a trap. It allows the man to silence the alarm bells.”

The defense focused its case on lengthy cross-examinations of the four accusers and attacked their motivations and memories of the alleged incidents. Maxwell declined to testify in her own defense.

In the defense’s closing argument, attorney Laura Menninger sought to distance Maxwell from Epstein and suggested he had manipulated her as well. She said the prosecution’s case is based on speculation and distracting photos of Maxwell with Epstein, including several that show her giving him a foot massage.

“She’s being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein, and maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life — but it was not a crime,” Menninger told the jury.

Menninger also went through the testimony of each accuser and highlighted inconsistencies in their timelines and their previous interviews with law enforcement in which two of the victims, Carolyn and “Jane,” did not mention Maxwell.

The attorney suggested they misremembered what happened and said they may have changed their stories for money.

“Why would you go decades without mentioning Ghislaine Maxwell and suddenly, when you have your personal injury lawyer, you add her to the mix?” Menninger said.

Prosecutor Maurene Comey rejected those arguments in a rebuttal that alluded to broader societal and economic forces at play in this case.

“The defendant never thought that those teenage girls would have the strength to report what happened. In her eyes, they were just trash beneath her,” she said. “Those girls would never stand up to a power couple like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. And if they did, who would believe them?”

The-CNN-Wire
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