Ghislaine Maxwell: A ‘sophisticated predator’ or Epstein scapegoat? Case closes with rival portraits of socialite

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In closing arguments of the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the prosecution told the court that Ms Maxwell was a “dangerous ... grown woman who preyed on vulnerable kids” as the defence team argued that she was being blamed for Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes.

“She targeted a girl whose father had just died. She targeted a girl whose mother was an alcoholic,” Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe said.

Ms Moe said Ms Maxwell was a “sophisticated” predator who “caused deep and lasting harm to young girls. It is time to hold her accountable”.

“The proof is in. It’s clear. It’s consistent and it points to only one conclusion: Maxwell is guilty,” she added, according to Law & Crime.

Ms Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein “were partners in crime who exploited young girls together”, the assistant US attorney argued.

Ghislaine Maxwell trial - live: Photos of socialite and Epstein naked in a pool shown during closing arguments

Ms Maxwell has been charged with two counts of transporting individuals across state lines for illegal sexual activity, one charge of sex trafficking of a minor and one charge of sex trafficking conspiracy. She also faces two charges of perjury that will be tried at a later date. She has denied all wrongdoing.

Epstein, Ms Maxwell’s former partner, died by suicide in August 2019 in his Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex crimes charges.

“Epstein liked underage girls. He liked to touch underage girls. Maxwell knew it,” Ms Moe said, adding that Ms Maxwell’s role was “crucial”.

The prosecutor said Ms Maxwell made Epstein’s “creepy” behaviour appear “legitimate” to the victims and that she would “silence” any “alarm bells”.

“Maxwell was the key to the whole operation,” Ms Moe added. “They were close. They were partners. They were rarely apart.”

The assistant US attorney showed the jury a range of photographs from over the years.

“They’re getting older. Their haircuts change,” she said. “That’s Maxwell massaging Epstein’s foot with her breasts. She’s smiling.”

This image of Ghislaine Maxwell , which has been shown to the court during the sex trafficking trial of Maxwell in the Southern District of New York . The British socialite is accused of preying on vulnerable young girls and luring them to massage rooms to be molested by Jeffrey Epstein between 1994 and 2004 (US Department of Justice) (PA Media)
This image of Ghislaine Maxwell , which has been shown to the court during the sex trafficking trial of Maxwell in the Southern District of New York . The British socialite is accused of preying on vulnerable young girls and luring them to massage rooms to be molested by Jeffrey Epstein between 1994 and 2004 (US Department of Justice) (PA Media)

Ms Moe argued that Ms Maxwell made Epstein’s abuse seem normal.

“Again and again throughout this trial, you heard how these girls were asked to perform sexualized massages on Jeffrey Epstein,” Ms Moe said, noting that three witnesses said Ms Maxwell touched their breasts. “It’s not an accident. It happened again and again and again. It is powerful evidence of Maxwell’s guilt.”

The prosecutor then spoke of evidence that corroborates testimony given to a witness referred to as “Jane” during the trial. She mentioned flight records from when Ms Maxwell and Jane is said to have first met at the Interlochen academy in Michigan. Ms Moe also noted that Jane said that she saw Ms Maxwell topless by the pool and that the jury now has as well because of photos in evidence.

Ms Moe showed Jane’s real first name being listed on the flight records, with the defence suggesting that this was the same first name as another person in Epstein’s inner circle. But Ms Moe added that a former pilot’s testimony went against the defence’s suggestion. The pilot, David Rodgers, testified that individuals who shared Jane’s real first name weren’t on the flights until much later.

The prosecutor went on to speak about Jane’s testimony regarding orgies, which she said included women called Eva and Michelle, in addition to others. The defence called on Eva Dubin to testify, partly to deny this assertion. Ms Moe noted that Jane never said the women’s last names.

“It’s not like she’s taking ID’s while she’s being sexually assaulted,” the prosecutor said.

Witness Annie Farmer testified that Ms Maxwell told her to massage Epstein’s foot. Ms Moe told the jury that “common sense” says that this is “not normal”.

“They were confusing her boundaries,” she said. “They were moving the line slowly and gradually for what would happen next.”

The prosecutor then recounted Ms Farmer’s testimony that she hid in the bathroom after Epstein tried to get into bed with her. Ms Moe said Ms Maxwell became cold towards Ms Farmer after this episode because she no longer had any use for her.

She added that the jury would know that another witness, Carolyn, was telling the truth because her version of events was similar to Jane’s. Both said that Ms Maxwell touched their breasts.

The prosecutor said that Epstein’s “Little Black Book”, which included the names of the victims, is a “powerfully incriminating document” that reveals how the sexual “pyramid scheme” worked.

“One girl would bring another who would bring another,” Ms Moe said, adding that it shows that Ms Maxwell knew about the operation.

For Ms Maxwell to be convicted of sex trafficking, the prosecution has to prove that a “commercial sex act” has occurred. Ms Moe said this part was proved by Carolyn’s testimony that she was paid hundreds of dollars to give Epstein sexualized massages.

The defence has argued that Ms Maxwell is being prosecuted for crimes committed by Epstein.

Bobbi Sternheim, a lawyer for Ms Maxwell, said during her opening statement that the case was about “memory, manipulation, and money”.

“Defense counsel was exactly right, but not in the way she intended,” Ms Moe said, noting again that Carolyn was allegedly given hundreds of dollars for “sexual abuse”.

The prosecutor told the jury that the witnesses “told you about searing memories of childhood sexual abuse”.

Ms Moe said the witnesses had “haunting” memories of “trauma”.

The defence argued that witnesses were motivated by money because of their multimillion-dollar settlements with the victims’ fund for those abused by Epstein. Ms Moe said those civil cases have ended.

She added that the “common sense” of the jury would tell them that not all of the witnesses have just been lying and that Ms Maxwell is guilty.

Laura Menninger, a defence lawyer for Ms Maxwell, said in her closing statement that she wasn’t there to defend Epstein. “He is not my client.”

She said the prosecution presented their evidence as if they were a sensational tabloid, with mentions of Epstein’s private island and private photos of Ms Maxwell and Epstein.

“These were things that Epstein did ... but Ghislaine Maxwell is not Epstein,” Ms Menninger said. The defence lawyer mentioned that there were 37,000 other photos not shown to the court by the prosecution.

“Who was in them? You don’t know. They didn’t bring you those photos. There were folders and binders. But they brought you the most innocuous photos of a couple that was once together,” she added.

She said the prosecution’s case was “straight-up sensationalism” and that there was a “lack of evidence”.

Ms Menninger added that the government had “certainly proved” that Epstein was a “master manipulator”. She then spoke of Ms Maxwell’s lifestyle before metting Epstein, suggesting that it might have been Epstein who needed her connections and and not the other way around.

The defence tried to portray the four accusers’ testimony as untrustworthy, with Ms Menninger saying they were motivated by the possibility of a payout from the victims’ fund operated by Epstein’s estate.

“The money brought the accusers to the FBI,” she said, adding that the accusers went to speak with law enforcement accompanied by personal injury lawyers decades after the alleged abuse. “Memories have been manipulated in aid of the money,” she said.

Ms Menninger argued that the prosecution cherry-picked evidence and pushed “erroneous memories” to make their case. Ms Maxwell is “an innocent woman, wrongfully accused of crimes she did not commit,” the defence attorney said.

She claimed that the women accusing Ms Maxwell suddenly “recovered memories, years later — they recovered memories that Ghislaine was there”, when the prosecution began looking into Ms Maxwell.

“You need to keep your eye on the thing that the government hasn’t — how these stories have changed dramatically over time,” Ms Menninger told the jury.

She claimed that the interviews with federal investigators had changed from focusing on Epstein to focus more on Ms Maxwell after the government had urged investigators to do so.

Ms Menninger said the meetings weren’t recorded “by design, so that none of us had a transcript of what took place in these interviews with the FBI”.

“The tough questions weren’t asked by the government, so they had to be asked by us,” she added.

Ms Menninger told the jury that the prosecution hadn’t presented family members of the witnesses who said they were abused by Epstein with the help of Ms Maxwell, adding that the prosecution also didn’t call several former Epstein employees who could have testified to a “culture of silence” around his crimes.

Mr Alessi testified that he thought he was expected to stay silent about what occurred at the Palm Beach mansion, but Ms Menninger claimed that he was an angry ex-employee with a grudge.

“There was no culture of silence,” she said. “You just got the sound of silence.”

The lawyer suggested that the government was holding back important information, referring to a small number of photos that the prosecution entered into evidence to show a long relationship between Epstein and Ms Maxwell.

She questioned what could have been revealed if the rest of the thousands of photos found at Epstein’s home had been shown.

“Ghislaine is being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein. Maybe it was the biggest mistake of her life, but it’s not a crime. Acquit her,” Ms Menninger said.

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