Prosecution rests case in Ghislaine Maxwell sex crimes trial

Published: 09:55 AM, 11 Dec, 2021
Prosecution rests case in Ghislaine Maxwell sex crimes trial
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US prosecutors on Friday rested their case in the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, with the defense now preparing to argue the British socialite did not recruit and sexually abuse girls with the late Jeffrey Epstein.

The high-profile trial has moved more swiftly than anticipated, with the government resting just ten days after it began questioning witnesses.

The prosecution have sought to portray the Maxwell as Epstein's partner-in-crime, grooming young girls to be sexually exploited by the American financier, who killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting his own trial.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to six counts of enticing and transporting minors for sex. 

The government wrapped with testimony from her fourth and final accuser, Annie Farmer, a now 42-year-old who says Maxwell fondled her breasts when she was a teenager at the New Mexico ranch owned by Epstein.

The trial is expected to resume next week on Thursday. 

- 'Confusing my boundaries' -

Farmer, the only accuser in the trial to testify using her full true name, told jurors her first encounter with Epstein went from convivial to nervewracking when the well-connected money-manager began caressing her hand, foot and leg in a New York movie theater.

She said despite feeling "sick to my stomach" she didn't tell her sister Maria -- then Epstein's employee, who Farmer was visiting at the time -- because she feared for her sibling's job.

Months later Farmer, who was 16, was invited to travel from Arizona to New Mexico, she said.

Farmer was invited ostensibly as part of a "retreat" that Epstein said would bring together some two dozen "academically gifted" students," her mother, Janice Swain, said.

Epstein told Swain that Maxwell would "chaperone" the girls.

But when she arrived Farmer found herself alone with Maxwell and Epstein.

A weekend that included shopping and movies also saw Maxwell direct Farmer to undress for a massage, according to testimony.

Maxwell then exposed Farmer's breasts before "rubbing on my chest," she said.

"I think this was all a pattern of them confusing my boundaries," Farmer told jurors. "With the ultimate goal of sexually abusing me.

- 'Distressing' -

During impatient cross-examination Maxwell's defense lawyer Laura Menninger questioned why Farmer hadn't written up the ranch experience in her journal.

Farmer had recorded her teenage memories of her initial encounter with Epstein in Manhattan.

The witness replied she didn't need a written account of her trip to Santa Fe to remember it, as it was "a very distressing event."

Her testimony followed harrowing accounts from three other women who accused Epstein of sexual abuse and pinpointed Maxwell as his partner.

Previous accusers said they were as young as 14 when Maxwell allegedly began grooming them and arranging for them to give massages to Epstein that ended in sexual activity.

One woman, "Carolyn," said she visited Epstein's Palm Beach home more than 100 times when she was between 14 and 18 years old.

Another key witness, who spoke under the pseudonym "Jane," detailed how Maxwell recruited her at summer camp and made her feel "special" -- before orchestrating or participating in sexualized massages and sex acts with the teenager and Epstein.

Defense lawyers aimed to poke holes in the alleged victims' testimonies, questioning their ability to remember events that happened some 25 years ago.

Sometimes turning aggressive, they emphasized inconsistencies in testimony and brought up past drug use by two of the women.

The government's case also included testimony from friends and family of the women, a psychologist focused on sexual abuse and trauma, and Epstein's ex-employees.

The first witness was Epstein's longtime pilot Lawrence Visoski, who recalled flying Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Kevin Spacey on Epstein's private planes.

- Onto the defense -

Maxwell, the daughter of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell, has appeared in court sporting tortoiseshell spectacles along with a collection of turtlenecks and black slacks, as her siblings Isabel and Kevin look on.

Her team has yet to indicate who they intend to call in her defense, but told the judge Friday they expected their case to last upwards of four days.

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus -- who testified in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial and studies how memory can weaken over time -- is one expected expert defense witness.

It is unlikely but not impossible that Maxwell herself will testify. The move would be risky as it would open her to intense cross-examination from prosecutors.

Maxwell faces an effective life sentence if convicted.


Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.