Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein were “criminal partners” in sexually abusing teenage girls, a prosecutor said Monday, while Maxwell’s lawyers said she was made the scapegoat for a man’s bad behavior when the lawsuit against the British socialites’ sex trade began in New York. York.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz said at the start of Maxwell’s lawsuit about sex trafficking that British socialite and Epstein lured girls as young as 14 to participate in “so-called massages” in which sex abuse was perceived as “relaxed and normal” after vulnerable victims were inundated with money and gifts.
The prosecutor tried to make it clear to a jury of 12 that there was no confusion as to whether Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime companion, was his puppet or accomplice.
She described Maxwell, 59, as central to Epstein’s sex abuse plan, which prosecutors say lasted more than a decade.
“She was there from the start. The defendant and Epstein lured their victims with a promise of a bright future, only to sexually exploit them,” Pomerantz said as U.S. Attorney Damian Williams watched from a spectator bench.
Maxwell “was involved in every detail of Epstein’s life,” the prosecutor said. “The defendant was the lady of the house.”
Even after Maxwell and Epstein stopped being romantically involved, “the couple remained best friends,” Pomerantz said.
She said Maxwell “helped normalize abusive sexual behavior” by making teens feel safe and by taking them on shopping trips and asking them about their lives, their schools, and their families.
The prosecutor spoke from a closed transparent plastic box that allowed her to take the mask off as Maxwell in a cream-colored sweater and black pants sometimes wrote and sent notes to his lawyers.
When she was done, attorney Bobbi Sternheim said her client was a “scapegoat for a man who behaved badly,” like so many women all the way back to Adam and Eve.
“She’s not Jeffrey Epstein. She’s not like Jeffrey Epstein” or any of the powerful men, moguls and media giants who abuse women, “Sternheim said.
She called Epstein “the familiar elephant in space.”
“He’s not visible, but he eats this whole courtroom and floats over courtrooms where other members of the public are watching,” she said.
Sternheim said the four women who would testify that Maxwell recruited them to be sexually abused suffered from quarter-century-old memories and the influence of lawyers who guided them to get money from a fund set up by Epstein’s property after his suicide in August 2019 in a federal prison in Manhattan as he awaited his own lawsuit on sex trafficking.
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