Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, appeared in a New York court on Monday for alleged crimes that prosecutors have said took place from 1994 to 2004. She is accused of recruiting and grooming four underage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The trial started at around 8.30am local time (1.30pm GMT) on Monday, November 29.
A US prosecutor said in her opening statement Maxwell targeted young girls for a decade, starting in 1994, for sexual abuse by Epstein as a “means to support her lifestyle”.
He died in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-abuse charges. His death was ruled to be a suicide.
Maxwell has been in a Brooklyn jail since her arrest in August last year, awaiting the six-week trial.
Opening the case, US Assistant District Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors that Maxwell and Epstein’s youngest alleged victim, who was 14 when she was “recruited”, did not know that “this man and woman were predators”.
She said: “This meeting was the beginning of that man and woman targeting [the victim] for sexual abuse that would last for years.”
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Pointing to the defendant, Ms Pomerantz continued: “Who was this woman? It was the defendant, Ghislaine Maxwell.
“The defendant directed the girls into a room where she knew (Epstein) would molest them.
“There were times when she was in the room when it happened – making it all feel normal and casual.
“She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused.
“The defendant was trafficking kids for sex. That is what this trial is all about.”
Ms Pomerantz continued: “She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them, and served them up to be sexually abused.”
Prosecutors said Maxwell encouraged the girls to massage Epstein while they were fully or partially nude.
They added that in some cases Epstein or Maxwell would pay them cash or offer to pay for their travel or education, and that Epstein sometimes masturbated or touched the girls’ genitals during the massages.
Ms Pomerantz described how Maxwell helped nurture a “culture of silence” to allow their “heinous crimes”.
She continued: “During the 10 years the defendant and Epstein committed these crimes the defendant was the lady of the house.
“She ran Epstein’s various properties and she imposed rules not to talk directly with Epstein.
“When she took charge of these homes, the rules for staff were strict. Employees were to see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing.
“There was a culture of silence. That was by design. The defendant’s design.
“Because behind closed doors, the defendant and Epstein were committing heinous crimes.”
Maxwell appeared in court for the first time in April this year.
She has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two counts of perjury that will be tried at a later date.
Four accusers are expected to testify as government witnesses in the trial.
Maxwell’s lawyers wrote in court papers: “Any accuser who testifies that Ms Maxwell participated in sex abuse or sex trafficking is not telling the truth.”
Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said at Monday’s trial: “The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did, but she is not Jeffrey Epstein.
“She is not like Jeffrey Epstein and she is not like the powerful white men and media giants who abuse women.
“Epstein is not on trial but his name and conduct will be mentioned throughout this trial.”
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