Ghislaine Maxwell wants to call up to 35 witnesses in her defense in sex trafficking trial

NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell still has some friends left — she’s found nearly three dozen people who could testify in her defense.

The British socialite’s lawyers shared a list of 35 defense witnesses Friday with the government, a filing in Manhattan Federal Court late Sunday revealed. Maxwell attorney Bobbi Sternheim asked that three of the 35 witnesses be allowed to take the stand without revealing their real names — an unusual request that the government opposed.

“The court’s ruling on this issue may impact the willingness of these witnesses to testify, thereby compromising Ms. Maxwell’s right to present her defense,” Sternheim wrote Judge Alison Nathan on Monday.

The filings did not reveal who is on Maxwell’s witness list.

Prosecutors called 24 witnesses against Maxwell. Typically, the government calls more witnesses than the defense, since the government has the burden of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dmitriy Shakhnevich, a criminal defense attorney and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said it’s unlikely Maxwell will actually call all the people on her list.

“I don’t know if they’ll present 35 witnesses because you may put a jury to sleep if you do that,” Shakhnevich said.

The feds rested their case Friday against the 59-year-old accused of grooming underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein between 1994 and 2004.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors in opening arguments Nov. 29 they would hear from four “minor victims” of Maxwell’s. But Nathan ruled during the trial that only two of Maxwell’s accusers could actually be considered “victims.” Those two accusers, who testified using the names Jane and Carolyn, said they were 14 when Epstein and Maxwell abused them.

The judge told the jury that two other accusers, Kate and Annie Farmer, are only witnesses because of age of consent laws in London and New Mexico, where Epstein and Maxwell’s alleged abuse took place. Both women testified that Epstein and Maxwell forced them into sexualized massages with Epstein as teens.

Maxwell’s defense team has suggested during cross-examination that the accusers are not credible. Their questions have focused on the women’s past drug and alcohol use or mental illness. The defense has suggested in some instances that the accusers are simply looking for a big payday from Epstein and Maxwell.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and argues she’s being unfairly blamed for Epstein’s sick lifestyle. Epstein, Maxwell’s former boyfriend and employer, killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial for underage sex trafficking.