The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former romantic partner and employee, kicked off Monday in federal court in Manhattan with opening statements and testimony from one of the pilots who flew Mr. Epstein’s private plane.
In the coming weeks, jurors are expected to hear testimonies from four women who, according to prosecutors, were abused as teenagers by Mr. Epstein.
Ms. Maxwell, the daughter of a British media mogul, faces six charges over what prosecutors say was her role in the sexual exploitation of the women. The charges include enticing a minor to travel for criminal sexual activity and transporting a minor for the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Here are some takeaways from the first day of the trial:
The jury hears the story of Jane, who was 14 when she met Mr. Epstein.
In describing how evidence would show that Ms. Maxwell helped Mr. Epstein traffic and sexually abuse teenage girls, a prosecutor outlined the story of an accuser who was only referred to by a first name, Jane.
Jane met Mr. Epstein and Mrs. Maxwell in 1994, prosecutor Lara Pomerantz told the jurors: A seemingly harmless encounter that began at a picnic table with the realization that the two adults and the teenage girl all lived in Palm Beach, Florida. It ended when Jane gave her phone number.
That was the “beginning of a nightmare that would last for years,” said Ms. Pomerantz. She said Ms. Maxwell helped gain Jane’s trust with shopping trips and through Mr. Epstein “helped normalize abusive sexual behavior”.
The jury would hear directly from Jane and three other women who had similar experiences as teenage girls, the prosecutor said.
The defense will try to show that the memory of the four accusers is unreliable.
However, minutes later, a defense attorney, Bobbi C. Sternheim, told jurors that memories of witnesses like Jane, who are expected to testify under oath about Mr. Epstein, couldn’t be trusted.
She suggested the prosecutors had “unreliable and suspicious” memories that could have been “corrupted” or “contaminated” over the years by “constant media reports.” She also suggested that the plaintiffs were motivated by a desire to win “a big jackpot of money” from a possible civil suit against Mr Epstein’s estate.
“Every accuser’s story is thin,” she told the jurors. “They’ve been influenced by lawyers, by the media, by things they’ve read and heard and by money, a lot of money.”
Understand the Ghislaine Maxwell Trial
A confidant of Epstein. Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of a British media mogul and once a fixture on the New York social scene, was a longtime companion of Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide after his arrest on sex trafficking charges in 2019.
Another defensive strategy will be to shift the blame onto Mr. Epstein.
Ms. Sternheim portrayed Ms. Maxwell as a “scapegoat” on trial alone because Mr. Epstein committed suicide in a federal prison. That suicide, she told the jurors, left “a gaping hole in the pursuit of justice” for many people. Ms. Maxwell “fills that gap,” Ms Sternheim added. “Fill that empty seat.”
“Since Eve was accused of seducing Adam with the apple,” she said, “women have been accused of the evil behavior of men.”
The prosecution used one of Mr. Epstein to frame the judges.
The first witness for the prosecution was not one of the accusers, but a private pilot: Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr., who had worked for Mr. Epstein from 1991 to 2019.
Mr. Visoski broadly described Ms. Maxwell’s role in managing Mr. Epstein’s households and property, describing their relationship as a “married couple.” Guided by photos presented as evidence, Mr. Visoski also described taking Mr. Epstein and his guests to various luxury residences in New York City; Paris; the US Virgin Islands; Palm Beach, Florida; and Santa Fe, NM
“Almost every four days we were on our way to fly somewhere,” he said. Mr Visoski said he didn’t always know exactly who flew with him on Mr Epstein’s planes.