Lawyers will open arguments in the eagerly awaited trial of Ghislaine Maxill, the 59 year-old ex-girlfriend and alleged procurer of Jeffrey Epstein, a disgraced billionaire who was arrested on multiple charges related to sex trafficking. Maxwell died in prison after she was sentenced. Six charges have been filed against Maxwell in connection to sextrafficking. He is accused of grooming young girls to abuse Epstein between 1994 and 2004.
After Epstein’s arrest in 2019, much media scrutiny fell on Maxwell, who was implicated in many of his alleged victims’ statements against him. Maxwell was taken into custody in 2020 and is currently being held in Brooklyn federal prison. (She pleaded not guilty for all charges. In the months that followed, there was a Flurry of motions and filingsThe defense and the prosecution offer insight into the arguments they intend to present in court.
The state’s case centers on four women who claim they were groomed by Maxwell — to meet Epstein’s sexual desires — between 1994 and 2004, when they were minors. “The question at trial,”The following was written by prosecutors: “will be whether the defendant took steps to provide Jeffrey Epstein with access to girls under the age of 18, knowing that Epstein intended to have sexual contact with those girls.”Prosecutors claim Maxwell was a friend to the girls, and would take them shopping and to the movies before introducing them sexual topics. He then introduced them to Epstein and later, he would become involved in sex acts between Epstein, the victim, and Maxwell. Maxwell has denied all allegations.
Pre-trial motions have shown the state will make its case relying heavily on the victims’ testimony. That could provide an opening for the defense to question the women’s memory of what happened, according to Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who is now a managing partner at the law firm Tucker Levin, PLLC. “In a case like this, the general defense will be to question the memory, reliability and credibility of the witnesses who are testifying,” Levin says. “And I think given the age of some of the allegations, it’s something that they’ll be particularly keen to do.”
Prosecutors also stated that Maxwell had two other co-conspirators, but they have not yet been identified publicly. Defense has opposed the introduction of co-conspirators in evidence. They claim that the state shared their names with them weeks before the trial began. The judge has not yet ruled on this issue.
Maxwell’s defense team and the prosecution have also sparred over Epstein’s address book — his so-called “little black book.”The defense moved to stop the book being admitted into evidence. They claimed that it was already in evidence. “clearly altered” by a former employee of Epstein’s who stole it and tried to sell it. The book, versions of which have been published years ago by Gawker and Insider, is in the FBI’s possession contains hundreds of the late sex criminal’ most powerful contacts.
The defense has also sought — unsuccessfully — to keep accusers from being referred to as victims or minors and to block a psychologist from testifying about grooming as an expert witness. However, the defense won a minor victory because the judge allowed the witness to discuss the possibility that grooming could be used to facilitate abuse by another party. This defense has called “The defense’s win.” “grooming by proxy.”
The defense has further railed against the conditions in the Metropolitan Detention Center where Maxwell has been held for nearly 17 months, and has claimed the U.S. Attorney only pursued charges against Maxwell after Epstein’s death, looking to shift responsibility for his crimes onto her. “The government has sought to substitute our client for Jeffrey Epstein,”The defense wrote. (This is, unsurprisingly, also what some of Maxwell’s former friends believe, as well.)
The biggest question in the trial is whether Maxwell will be testifying on her behalf. This could allow Maxwell to present her view of events to the jury and open her up for cross-examination. Levin believes Maxwell might follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth Holmes and Kyle Rittenhouse who took the stand in their defense to present her case to the jury. “Particularly in a case like Maxwell’s, jurors will want to hear from her and will want to see more than just an attack on the victim’s credibility and memory,”He said. “Jurors will likely see through that. They’ll want to hear her side of the story. She has no obligation to do it. But, you know, it’s just as risky to stay quiet as it is to talk.”
Additional reporting by EJ. Dickson.