Maxwell defence rests case without calling socialite to stand

Ghislaine Maxwell’s defence portrayed the socialite and her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein as good, law-abiding people. Image: Bloomberg

Ghislaine Maxwell’s defence rested after presenting two days of witnesses in her sex-trafficking trial to chip away at her accusers’ credibility and portray the socialite and her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein as good, law-abiding people.

It was a defence that sought to weaken the perception of Epstein as a sexual predator and try to distance Maxwell from the disgraced financier. Witnesses told of his donations to charity and innocent relationships with the young daughters of family friends. They testified about the couple’s interest in “professional” massages, rather than the sexualised ones accusers said they were told to perform.

Maxwell is charged with luring underage girls to be abused by Epstein, who died in 2019, and participating in some assaults herself. The case, which was scheduled to last six weeks but is poised to end much sooner, began with dramatic and sometimes graphic testimony from four women about Maxwell and Epstein abusing them as teenagers.

Maxwell’s lawyers challenged the accusers’ memories of the alleged incidents, which in some cases took place more than 20 years ago, and suggested financial motives for testifying.

Maxwell chose not to testify in her defence, unlike recent high-profile defendants Elizabeth Holmes and Kyle Rittenhouse. Her lawyers, who initially said they would call 35 witnesses, called only nine, including three who said they never saw the couple engage in unusual or illegal behaviour with underage girls. The prosecution called 23 witnesses over two weeks.

“Your honour, the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt so there is no reason for me to testify,” Maxwell told the judge presiding over the trial on Friday. It was the first time the socialite had spoken since the trial started last month.

Closing arguments are slated for Monday.

Former employees

Maxwell, who helped manage Epstein’s properties, called two women who worked for them to testify as character witnesses. Cimberly Espinosa, who served as Maxwell’s assistant for six years, said she never saw her boss or Epstein engage in inappropriate conduct with underage girls. She said Epstein was “a giver” who donated to charities, paid for her personal trainer and gave her a watch.

Espinosa, 55, said Epstein had a “loving relationship” with Jane, a witness who testified he sexually abused her as a child. Espinosa said she had thought Jane, who testified she was 14 when Epstein began sexually abusing her, was his goddaughter, and characterised their relationship as simply affectionate.

Jane, the first accuser to testify, had said Maxwell instructed her on how to give Epstein sexualised massages.

‘Jeffrey wants to see you’

Espinosa told jurors she didn’t see any improper behaviour by the financier at his Manhattan, New York office shared by Maxwell and that she had booked massage appointments for the duo at well-known Manhattan spas. She said Maxwell began dating other men, and that she and Epstein would come and go from the office at different times.

Michelle Healy, who worked as an assistant at Epstein’s office, described Maxwell as a “fantastic” supervisor.

“She taught me a lot,” Healy said.

“I respected her. She’s tough, but she’s great,” she said while Maxwell nodded and smiled.

Healy was asked about her interactions with Jane, prompting her to say the teenager “looked like a grown-up to me,” and “had a lot of makeup on.”

The defence attempted to discredit Jane, who testified she had seen other women engage in sexualised massages with Epstein, including a woman named “Michelle,” and one named “Eva.”

Healy denied ever engaging in a group sexual encounter with Jane or Epstein.

‘Uncle F’

The defence on Friday questioned Eva Andersson-Dubin, Epstein’s on-and-off girlfriend for about eight years before he dated Maxwell. She testified they remained friends after her marriage to former hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin, and said she was comfortable with his relationship with her children. They had a term of endearment for Epstein — Uncle F, short for Jeff, she said.

Defence lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca showed Andersson-Dubin photos Palm Beach police recovered from Epstein’s Florida estate after a 2008 search. She identified one photo of Epstein with her youngest daughter and a second with her eldest daughter. She said she had never seen the photos before.

Asked if she ever saw inappropriate conduct between Epstein and teenagers, Andersson-Dubin, a physician, was adamant, saying, “I did not.” She said she and her family often travelled with Epstein on his private planes.

Andersson-Dubin also denied participating in a sexual encounter with Jane.

Accusers’ memories

Dr Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist who has testified for the defence in hundreds of trials including Harvey Weinstein’s, was called in an effort to undermine the reliability of the memories of the four accusers. Loftus testified on Thursday that accounts of sexual abuse can be tainted after questioning by law enforcement and media.

“We don’t record events and play it back later like a recording device would work, like a video machine,” Loftus said.

“Rather, we are constructing our memories when we retrieve memories. We often take bits and pieces of experience that occurred at different times and places, bring it together, and construct what feels like a recollection.”

Maxwell witness casts doubt on accusers’ memories

Two FBI agents testified on Friday about what the defence suggested were apparent inconsistencies between memos they had taken of accusers’ accounts and their testimony at trial.

Agent Amanda Young said during initial interviews with investigators, Jane wasn’t sure if Maxwell called her to make appointments for massages, and did not “have a specific memory of the first time” she was allegedly assaulted by Epstein.

Another alleged victim, Carolyn, had testified she met Epstein through his accuser Virginia Giuffre and that Maxwell would call her to book sexualised massages.

Agent Jason Richards was asked about inconsistencies, including his notes that said Carolyn got Epstein’s phone number from a phone book.

 

 

 bloomberg.com

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