Prosecutors in Ghislaine Maxwell's sexual abuse trial rested their case on Friday after a fourth woman testified that the British socialite set her up for a sexual encounter with the late financier Jeffrey Epstein when she was a teenager.
She will now have an opportunity to mount a defence in the trial, which is moving faster than initially expected.
Maxwell (59), the daughter of late British media baron Robert Maxwell, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other charges. Her lawyers have argued that she is being scapegoated for Epstein's alleged crimes.
The investor killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell at the age of 66 in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex crimes charges.
On Friday, a woman named Annie Farmer testified that Ms Maxwell touched her breasts while giving her a massage during a visit to Epstein's New Mexico ranch in 1996, when Ms Farmer was 16. She said Epstein crawled into bed and pressed his body against hers during the trip.
Ms Farmer, now 42, said she felt uncomfortable going to Epstein’s ranch because he had held her hand and caressed her in a movie theatre during an earlier meeting in New York. But she testified that she did not believe Epstein would touch her at the ranch with Ms Maxwell present.
She believed Epstein would help pay for her college education, Ms Farmer said.
While at the ranch, Ms Farmer agreed to receive a massage from Ms Maxwell, who touched her breasts during the massage, Farmer said.
The door was open, and while she did not see Epstein during the encounter, she said she thought he was nearby.
“I just had this sense that he could see me,” Ms Farmer said. “I just wanted so badly to get off the table and have this massage be done.”
Under cross-examination by Ms Maxwell's attorney Laura Menninger, Ms Farmer confirmed several times that Ms Maxwell had not been present during the teenager's initial meeting with Epstein in New York.
Ms Menninger also asked Ms Farmer if her account of the New Mexico trip was a “reconstructed memory”. Ms Farmer acknowledged that she had conducted internet searches and spoken with friends about other events that happened around the time of her trip to refresh her memory on exactly when the trip took place.
Ms Maxwell’s attorneys have argued that the accusers’ memories have been corrupted in the decades since the alleged abuse occurs. They have also said the women have an incentive to co-operate with the US government and implicate Ms Maxwell because they received money from a compensation fund for Epstein’s victims.
Ms Farmer received $1.5 million from the fund, she said under questioning from prosecutors.
Before Ms Farmer’s testimony, jurors had heard from three women who said they were teenagers when Ms Maxwell set them up for sexual abuse by Epstein. Those witnesses said Maxwell encouraged them to give Epstein massages that would escalate into sexual encounters.
Ms Farmer, the only one of the four to testify under her full name, said she had no further contact with Epstein or Ms Maxwell after the New Mexico trip.
US district judge Alison Nathan instructed jurors that any physical contact Ms Farmer had with Epstein was not “illegal sexual activity” under New Mexico’s laws. Judge Nathan had given a similar instruction before the testimony of one of the other alleged victims, Kate.
She gave no such instruction before the testimonies of the two other women, Jane and Carolyn, who said they were 14 when Epstein began abusing them in Florida. – Reuters