NEW YORK — The prosecution in the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, said in its opening statement Monday that she was a “dangerous predator” who was well aware of what she was doing when she groomed minor girls for Epstein to sexually abuse.
The jury heard opening statements Monday afternoon in Manhattan federal court, first from the prosecution and then from Maxwell’s defense team. Each side offered a starkly different version of Maxwell and her role in Epstein’s twisted world.
Maxwell is charged with eight counts related to the sex trafficking of minors over a decade-long period between 1994 and 2004, including sex trafficking of a minor, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. A separate, later trial will consider two perjury charges against her.
The prosecution painted a picture of a pair of fully-grown adults, Maxwell and Epstein, who were “partners in crime” and had a “playbook” for targeting minors and sexually abusing them.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Lara Pomerantz emphasized that one of Maxwell’s accusers was just 14 years old when she met Epstein and Maxwell, marking the “beginning of a nightmare that would last for years.” Both were more than double the minor girl’s age, Pomerantz noted.
Maxwell helped “normalize” Epstein’s “abusive sexual conduct,” the prosecution said. In the case of the 14-year-old, that meant “making it feel normal that a man in his 40s was naked and touching her body.” She “preyed on vulnerable young girls” and “served them up” for sexual abuse, Pomerantz said.
In addition, although Maxwell procured the minor girls for the well-connected wealthy financier, Maxwell herself participated personally in some of the sexual abuse, the prosecution said.
Meanwhile, Maxwell fostered a “culture of silence” working as his “lady of the house” and taking care of his multiple residences, making hiring and firing decisions regarding his staff, and laying down “strict” rules for them, prosecutors said.
According to the state, Maxwell lured the minors by befriending them, taking them on shopping trips and to the movies, and “made young girls believe that their dreams could come true” with offers of Epstein’s financial assistance, including for their education and travel. She targeted vulnerable young girls who had single mothers or were in financial need and portrayed herself to the girls as a respectable adult woman they could trust, while in reality she was grooming them for the “heinous crimes” she and Epstein perpetrated on them, the prosecution said. Epstein and Maxwell paid the minor girls hundreds of dollars in cash, and Maxwell even mailed lingerie to a 15 year old victim at one point, prosecutors claim.
This grooming resulted in “some of the most painful and private experiences of their childhood,” Pomerantz told the jury.
Over and over again, she used the “ruse” of convincing the young girls to give Epstein massages that turned into sexual contact with him, prosecutors claimed.
“She knew exactly what was going to happen,” Pomerantz said.
The prosecution also accused Maxwell of serving up the girls to Epstein in order to sustain the lavish lifestyle that Epstein provided for her.
Towards the end of her opening statement, Pomerantz urged the jury to use their “common sense” in reaching a verdict.
Maxwell appeared relaxed in the courtroom on Monday, wearing a cream-colored sweater with long sleeves and black pants. She let her face mask dangle as she whispered to her attorneys and drank coffee and water. At one point she clasped her hands together cheerfully as she discussed something with one of her attorneys. During the prosecution’s opening statement, Maxwell stopped taking notes and sat very still, turning slightly toward the jury. When she was left sitting by herself while her attorneys spoke with the judge at one point, she sank down in her chair.
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