Maxwell warned Epstein’s house manager not to ‘look at his eyes’, court hears

Employee says he was told to only speak when spoken to, as sex-trafficking trial continues

People arrive at the United States Courthouse in Lower Manhattan where the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial continues on Thursday. Photograph: Dave Sanders/The New York Times

People arrive at the United States Courthouse in Lower Manhattan where the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial continues on Thursday. Photograph: Dave Sanders/The New York Times

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This article contains depictions of sexual abuse

The former house manager of Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach home said Thursday that Ghislaine Maxwell warned that he should “never look” his boss in the eyes.

Juan Alessi, who worked at Epstein’s Florida residence from about 1990 to 2002, made the statement during his testimony at Maxwell’s child sex-trafficking trial in Manhattan federal court.

Epstein, a mega-rich financier who counted British prince Andrew and Bill Clinton among his associates, killed himself at a New York City jail in August 2019, pending trial.

Ms Maxwell (59) and the daughter of the deceased British publishing titan Robert Maxwell, was arrested in July 2020 at a sizable New Hampshire estate.

The former British socialite is now on trial on charges related to her alleged participation in Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls, some as young as 14. Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Maurene Comey’s questioning of Mr Alessi sought to bolster the government’s position that Ms Maxwell was deeply involved in all aspects of Epstein’s life. Prosecutors have alleged that Ms Maxwell was Epstein’s “best friend and right hand” – and that they were “partners in crime”.

“Other than Mr Epstein, who else, if anyone, gave you instructions about your job responsibilities during your employment?” Ms Comey asked.

“Ms Maxwell,” said Mr Alessi (71).

Mr Alessi said that when he first met Ms Maxwell, she was a “pretty girl, a tall brunette”.

“Ms Maxwell was the girlfriend of Mr Epstein, I understand she was the lady of the house,” Mr Alessi recounted. “From the day she came to the house, she right away took over, and she mentioned to me she was going to be the lady of the house. Also, she was in charge of other homes, other properties.”

Epstein – who had hired Mr Alessi full-time after convincing him to leave his other clients – started acting differently toward him. “It changed gradually from being cordial to more just, uh, professional,” he recalled. “Our conversations with him were less and less.”

“What, if anything, did Ms Maxwell tell you about whether you could speak directly with Mr Epstein?” Ms Comey asked.

“Only I was supposed to speak with Mr Epstein when he asked me questions. “At the end of my stay, there was a time when she says: ‘Jeffrey doesn’t like to be looked at [in] his eyes.’”

Ms Maxwell allegedly told him: “‘You should never look at his eyes. Just look at another part of the room and answer to him,’” Mr Alessi said.

Day four

Mr Alessi’s testimony was given on the fourth day of the trial of Ms Maxwell, which began on Thursday with testimony from an official at a school that a an accuser said Epstein paid for her to attend.

The woman, known by the pseudonym Jane, accused Ms Maxwell of setting her up for abuse by Epstein when she was 14, and sometimes participating in the encounters.

She was the first of four accusers expected to testify against the British socialite in federal court in Manhattan during the projected six-week trial.

The government’s first witness on Thursday was Paul Kane, the director of finance at the Professional Children’s School in New York. Jane testified this week that she attended the school in the 1990s, and that Epstein paid for her tuition.

Ms Maxwell was arrested in July 2020. She has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other charges. Her attorneys say prosecutors are scapegoating her because Epstein is no longer alive.

Jane, an actress, testified that Epstein presented himself as a patron of the arts who could use his contacts to help her career. She said she met Britain’s Prince Andrew and former US president Donald Trump through Epstein while still a teenager.

Neither Prince Andrew nor Mr Trump has been accused of criminal wrongdoing. – Guardian/Additional reporting:Reuters

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