Ghislaine Maxwell targeted young girls for abuse, prosecutor says

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NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell has attacked young girls for sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein, a US prosecutor said on Monday in her opening statement in the New York trial of the British socialite.

Between 1994 and 2004, Maxwell – a former employee and love partner of Epstein – reportedly sent gifts such as lingerie and discussed sexual matters with the girls to gain their trust before encouraging them to give Epstein erotic massages, according to the 2021 indictment against her.

“She attacked vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them to be sexually assaulted,” Deputy District Attorney Lara Pomerantz said in the prosecution’s opening statement.

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Epstein died in prison in 2019 pending trial on sexual abuse charges.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two counts of perjury which will be tried at a later date. Maxwell, who appeared in court with a white face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic, faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Maxwell’s trial comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has encouraged victims of sexual abuse to speak out against powerful men such as film producer Harvey Weinstein and R&B singer R. Kelly accused of misconduct. The case against Maxwell stands out in part because she is a woman.

Four accusers are expected to testify as government witnesses at the trial.

Maxwell wrote frequently during the morning hearings, sometimes giving notes to his lawyers.

Prosecutors said Maxwell encouraged the girls to massage Epstein while they were fully or partially naked. In some cases, Epstein or Maxwell would pay them in cash or offer to pay for their travel or education, and Epstein would sometimes masturbate or touch girls’ genitals during massages, prosecutors said.

Pomerantz described Maxwell as “essential” to Epstein’s mistreatment of girls, seeking to undermine the expected defense argument that she was unaware of Epstein’s alleged crimes.

“Sometimes she was even in the room for the massages herself, and sometimes she would touch the girls’ bodies,” Pomerantz said. “And even when she wasn’t in the room, make no mistake: she knew exactly what Epstein was going to do with these kids when she sent them to him in the massage rooms.”

Maxwell’s lawyers said prosecutors, unable to convict Epstein, were using the daughter of late British media mogul Robert Maxwell as a scapegoat.

“Left without fish to try to fry, the government belatedly turned to Ms Maxwell,” her lawyers wrote in a Feb. 4 filing.

Maxwell’s lawyers have said they will question the credibility of the four alleged victims by asking them why they waited to come forward and arguing that they have financial incentives to lie or exaggerate.

“Any accuser who testifies that Ms Maxwell participated in sexual abuse or sex trafficking is not telling the truth,” Maxwell’s lawyers wrote in court documents.

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Reporting by Luc Cohen and Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Alistair Bell, Will Dunham and Mark Porter

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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