Ghislaine Maxwell was a ‘dangerous predator’ who ‘served up’ girls for sexual abuse, a court was told yesterday.
The British socialite was billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘second in command’ and lured vulnerable teenagers for him to assault, a jury in New York heard.
The courtroom was packed as Maxwell’s trial on sex trafficking charges got under way, with observers queuing in the freezing cold from 5am to guarantee a seat. They were silent throughout as lurid claims against Epstein’s alleged madam were aired.
She listened intently, occasionally scribbling in a notebook and turning to look at her sister, as Assistant US Attorney Lara Pomerantz accused her of ‘heinous crimes’.
The prosecutor warned the jury that some of the evidence they will hear over the course of the six-week trial may make them uncomfortable.
But, after hearing it, she added, they would ‘reach the only verdict possible – that Ghislaine Maxwell is guilty’. Miss Pomerantz accused Maxwell of being one half of a powerful couple with Epstein, devising a sick ‘pyramid scheme of abuse’ in which they bribed schoolgirls to recruit their friends.
The 59-year-old former girlfriend of Wall Street financier Epstein was his ‘partner in crime’, the jury was told – putting young girls at ease so they could be ‘molested by a middle-aged man’.
The jury of seven women and five men, plus several substitutes, heard how the daughter of the late media tycoon Robert Maxwell went after young girls with ‘difficult home lives’, often daughters of single mothers, and would ‘promise them the world’.
‘They lured their victims with a promise of a brighter future then destroyed their lives,’ the prosecutor said in a blistering 25-minute opening statement in the grand Thurgood Marshall Courthouse.
Miss Pomerantz said: ‘They were wealthy, powerful and well connected. They often targeted the daughters of single mothers, struggling to make ends meet.
‘They made young girls believe that their dreams could become true. They made them feel seen. They made them feel special.’
But instead the girls were recruited into a ‘nightmare’ of abuse. ‘Between 1994 and 2004 the defendant preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up for sexual abuse.
‘She was trafficking them for sex. That’s what this trial is about,’ Miss Pomerantz said.
Maxwell has been described as gaunt and degraded by 17 months in a New York detention centre awaiting her trial.
But yesterday, wearing a cashmere turtleneck, black trousers and black low-heeled shoes, she looked relaxed, confident and healthy as she conferred with her high-powered legal team and smiled behind her white mask.
Miss Pomerantz began her presentation with the line: ‘I want to tell you about a young girl named Jane,’ adding that ‘Jane’ – a pseudonym for a victim – was just 14 when she was introduced to a man and a woman at a summer arts camp. They said they sponsored youngsters of talent.
‘What Jane didn’t know then is that man and woman were predators. Who was that woman targeting young girls for sexual abuse? It was the defendant: Ghislaine Maxwell,’ she said, pointing.
‘She was Epstein’s second in command. During ten years, the defendant was the lady of the house. She imposed rules. Employees were to hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing. There was a culture of silence. That was by design – the defendant’s design.
‘Behind closed doors, the defendant and Epstein were committing heinous crimes, sexually abusing teenage girls. They were partners in crime.’
The trial was watched by several women who were victims of Epstein. Maxwell – said to have been Epstein’s lover and then, when they broke up, his ‘best friend’ – is accused of acting as the financier’s chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse.
She denies all six charges, but faces up to 80 years behind bars if found guilty. He killed himself in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell before he could be tried.
Going into disturbing details, Miss Pomerantz said Epstein ‘directed girls to massage him while he masturbated’ and would receive ‘oral sex and sometimes penetrate the girls’.
The prosecutor said of Maxwell: ‘She knew exactly what Epstein was going to do to these children when she sent them to this massage room.
‘She was in on it from the start. The defendant was getting in private planes and living in extraordinary luxury.
‘These girls were just a means to support the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed.’
Miss Pomerantz told the jury they would hear from ‘Jane’, and other victims too. They included a 16-year-old taken to Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico where Maxwell ‘got the girl on a massage table and started touching the girl’s breasts’.
Another was a 17-year-old whom Maxwell allegedly spotted while driving in her car, ordering her driver to pull over ‘to recruit her’.
The abuse ‘evolved’ over the decade, said the prosecutor.
At first, Epstein and Maxwell found the victims themselves, but then in the 2000s they found a ‘more convenient way’, said Miss Pomerantz.
‘They devised a pyramid scheme of abuse,’ she said. ‘They encouraged girls to bring other girls.’
The youngsters were handed wads of cash, but Miss Pomerantz said: ‘These girls were not professional masseuses, they were kids being sexually abused.’
The young women, she said, had been scarred for life: ‘They were exploiting kids. They were trafficking kids for sex. They were dangerous predators who exploited and sexually abused young girls for a decade.’
One of those accused of being a recruiter was Virginia Roberts – the woman who has accused Prince Andrew of raping her, which he denies. Maxwell’s defence lawyer Bobbi Sternheim told jurors one of the alleged victims in the case was introduced to Epstein ‘not by Ghislaine Maxwell’ but by Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, who was being paid by Epstein ‘to recruit women for massages’. Mrs Giuffre is not taking part in this trial.
Miss Pomerantz said the abuse occurred at Epstein’s homes, including his estate in Palm Beach, Florida; his Manhattan townhouse; a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico; a Paris apartment; and a luxury estate in the Virgin Islands.
Authorities charged Maxwell in July 2020, a year after Epstein’s suicide, after tracking her to a New Hampshire estate.
She has been jailed in Brooklyn since, calling the claims against her ‘absolute rubbish’. Her family say she was Epstein’s pawn, and was paying ‘a blood price’ to satisfy public desire to see someone held accountable.
As Maxwell left court, her lawyer Jeff Pagliuca gave her a hug and said: ‘Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite’.
Outside the courthouse, Lisa Bloom, a lawyer who represents eight alleged victims of Epstein and one in the Maxwell case, said Epstein could not have abused the women without Maxwell’s help.
‘My clients are hoping she is convicted of all charges, and that she spends the rest of her life in prison.’
The rest and pics and videos are here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10256457/Ghislaine-Maxwell-trial-begins-prosecution-say-British-socialite-Epsteins-partner-crime.html