Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer seeks to cast doubt on accuser in sex abuse trial

‘Jane’ one of four accusers expected to testify that Maxwell ‘groomed’ them for Epstein

Laura Menninger, attorney for Ghislane Maxwell, departs from federal court in New York on Monday.  Photograph: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg

Laura Menninger, attorney for Ghislane Maxwell, departs from federal court in New York on Monday. Photograph: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg

 

A lawyer for Ghislaine Maxwell on Wednesday sought to cast doubt on the account of a woman who said the British socialite set her up for sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein starting when she was 14 and took part in some encounters.

The woman, known by the pseudonym ‘Jane’, first took the stand for the government on Tuesday at Ms Maxwell’s sex abuse trial in Manhattan federal court. She is the first of four women expected to testify that Ms Maxwell “groomed” them for abuse by Epstein when they were teenagers.

Ms Maxwell attorney Bobbi Sternheim indicated in her opening statement that the defence would attempt to show the women’s accounts were not credible. Emphasising that Jane was a successful actress and a “pro at playing roles”, Ms Sternheim told jurors to examine Jane’s testimony for “internal consistencies.”

Jane said on Tuesday that she had sexual encounters with Epstein at his Palm Beach home multiple times per month when she was 14, 15 and 16. Other people occasionally participated, including Ms Maxwell, who touched her breasts, Jane testified.

During cross-examination on Wednesday, another Maxwell attorney, Laura Menninger, asked Jane about apparent discrepancies between her descriptions of Ms Maxwell’s role on Tuesday and earlier conversations with prosecutors before Ms Maxwell’s July 2020 arrest.

“When you spoke with the government in December 2019, with your lawyers there, you told the government at that time you were not sure whether Maxwell ever touched you during these encounters, correct?” Menninger asked.

“I don’t recall,” Jane replied.

Not guilty plea

Ms Maxwell (59) is charged with eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two perjury charges that will be tried separately. The daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.

Upon entering the courtroom on Wednesday morning wearing a grey turtleneck sweater and black dress pants, Ms Maxwell greeted her sister Isabel and brother Kevin, who were seated in the front row.

Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and her lawyers have said prosecutors are scapegoating her for Epstein’s alleged crimes. The well-connected investment advisor died by suicide at age 66 in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex-abuse charges.

Jane confirmed, when asked by Ms Menninger, that Epstein introduced her to Donald Trump at the former US president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida while she was 14 in the mid-1990s. She also said she recalled being on a flight with Britain’s prince Andrew.

Neither Mr Trump nor prince Andrew have been accused of wrongdoing in the criminal case.

Ms Maxwell’s lawyers say the four accusers’ memories have been manipulated over time. They say the women never mentioned Ms Maxwell’s role in their abuse until after Epstein died and a compensation fund was set up for his victims, giving them a financial incentive to cooperate with prosecutors.

Jane, now in her early 40s, said she recalled certain events that she did not recall in the past.

She testified on Tuesday that Ms Maxwell sometimes called her house while she was a teenager to invite her to visit Epstein. Ms Menninger noted that in a 2019 interview with the government, Jane said she could not remember whether Maxwell ever called her, referring to a sealed record of the conversation.

“So two years later, now you remember that Ghislaine would call your home?” Menninger asked on Wednesday.

“Memory is not linear,” Jane replied. – Reuters