NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex abuse trial in Manhattan federal court began this week. Prosecutors have accused the British socialite of grooming teenage girls for abuse by now-deceased investor Jeffrey Epstein. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.
Here are five key moments from the first week of trial:
– In her opening statement, prosecutor Lara Pomerantz called Maxwell a predator who “preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them, and served them up to be sexually abused.”
– Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim countered that Maxwell was being scapegoated since Epstein is no longer alive. “The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did, but she is not Jeffrey Epstein,” Sternheim said.
– Lawrence Visoski, Epstein’s longtime personal pilot, testified that Britain’s Prince Andrew and former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump flew on Epstein’s plane multiple times. Prince Andrew, Clinton and Trump are not accused of criminal wrongdoing.
– Jane, the first of four Maxwell accusers called to testify for the prosecution, teared up as she recounted her repeated abuse by Epstein when she was 14 years old in the mid-1990s. She said Maxwell showed her how Epstein liked to be massage, and sometimes participated in their sexual encounters.
“I was terrified and felt gross and I felt ashamed,” Jane said. “When you’re 14 you have no idea what’s going on.”
– Juan Alessi, the longtime house manager at Epstein’s Palm Beach estate, recalled cleaning up sex toys from the massage room and storing them in Maxwell’s bathroom. He said he was given a booklet of detailed instructions, warning him to keep Epstein’s and Maxwell’s activities or whereabouts secret.
“I was supposed to be blind, deaf and dumb,” Alessi said.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Alistair Bell)