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Ghislaine Maxwell's Federal Sex Trafficking Trial Set To Begin

Prosecutors have accused Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite, of helping Jeffrey Epstein “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse" underage girls. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Ghislaine Maxwell G

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell’s federal sex trafficking trial is expected to begin Monday.

Maxwell, 59, is accused of being Jeffrey Epstein’s madam, helping the wealthy financier “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” four teenage girls between 1994 and 2004, according to an indictment in the case.

The daughter of former publishing magnate Robert Maxwell is facing six federal charges in connection with her alleged relationship with Epstein, including sex trafficking.

Opening statements in the highly anticipated trial are expected to begin Monday after a jury is empaneled, NPR reports.

Prosecutors are expected to paint Maxwell as the coordinator and key recruiter of a sexual trafficking enterprise, which allegedly allowed Epstein to abuse underage girls at his Manhattan home, his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Maxwell’s London home and a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her and then delivered them into the trap that she and Jeffrey Epstein had set,” Audrey Strauss, the acting Manhattan U.S. attorney, said while announcing the charges against Maxwell in July of 2020, according to The New York Times.

Prosecutors say Maxwell—who authorities say at one point had been in a romantic relationship with Epstein—tried to “normalize sexual abuse” by undressing in front of the alleged victims.

In some cases, prosecutors say she was even in the room as Epstein sexually abused the girls to “put the victims at ease” or even participated in the abuse herself, according to the indictment.

During her trial, prosecutors are expected to call four unnamed victims. The first, known as “Minor victim 1” is expected to talk about how Maxwell tried to befriend her when she was “approximately 14 years old,” taking her out on shopping trips or to the movies to gain her trust, Fox News reports.

As the relationship continued, prosecutors allege that Maxwell “involved” the young girl in “sexualized massages,” according to the indictment obtained by CNN.

The second minor victim is expected to testify about how Maxwell and Epstein took her to his ranch in 1996, where she says Maxwell groomed her by giving her an unsolicited massage while she was topless and then encouraged her to massage Epstein herself.

The third alleged victim is expected to testify about how Maxwell allegedly befriended and groomed her before introducing her to Epstein in London.

Judge Alison Nathan has already ruled that jurors will not be able to convict Maxwell based on victim 3’s testimony because she was 17 years old at the time of the alleged abuse, but prosecutors are expected to use her account to demonstrate an ongoing pattern of behavior, according to the news outlet.

The final victim met Maxwell at the age of 14 years old and is expected to testify about how Maxwell allegedly recruited her to perform sexualized massages at Epstein’s Palm Beach home beginning in 2001. The victim was allegedly paid hundreds in cash for her sexual interactions and also encouraged to recruit other young females to perform the massages at the request of both Maxwell and Epstein, according to the indictment.

One notable absence in the trial will be outspoken Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre, who is not expected to take the stand in the prosecution’s case, NPR reports. In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, Giuffre has alleged that she was sexually abused by Prince Andrew after being introduced to the British royal by both Maxwell and Epstein as a teen. The royal has vehemently denied the allegation.

Prosecutors are also expected to call one of Epstein’s former employees to talk about a little black book that had the names of Maxwell’s family as well as the victims in the case, which had allegedly belonged to Maxwell. Prosecutors have said copies of the book had been placed around Epstein’s houses.

Epstein—who took his own life in a federal jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on his own sex trafficking charges—is expected to be a large focus of the trial, but prosecutors will also have to demonstrate Maxwell’s own role in the alleged enterprise.

“The prosecutors are certainly going to want to paint a picture of Epstein as an evil man, because that’s necessary for the jurors to understand and be outraged by her role in the scheme,” Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former top federal corruption prosecutor in Manhattan, told The New York Times.

According to Devlin-Brown, prosecutors will have to “walk a fine line” between setting the stage and focusing too much attention on Epstein and his alleged conduct.

Maxwell—who is facing up to 70 years behind bars if convicted—has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her and has continued to profess her innocence in court.

“I have not committed any crimes,” she told the judge at a recent hearing.

It’s unclear what strategy Maxwell’s defense team will take in the case, but there has been some speculation that her attorneys could try to shift blame to Epstein.

“You couldn’t have a bigger empty chair than in this case,” Moira Penza, a former federal prosecutor, told The New York Times. “Everyone in the room is going to be navigating the fact that Epstein is not on trial and Maxwell is.”

For more on the case, watch Peacock’s “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell.”