NEW YORK – A New York City grand jury heard four women allege in detail that they were underage when they fell victim to a sexual abuse scheme devised by Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein. Starting Thursday, the British social media site’s lawyers are expected to bring their case that Maxwell is not to blame.
Maxwell’s trial will continue with the defense calling his own witnesses in federal court in Manhattan. The government case only lasts two weeks, and the case can last as long as two days. Both sides streamlined their witness lists without disclosing the reasons, making the trial shorter than originally planned by six weeks.
The start of the defense case sparked the usual speculation about whether the high-profile defendant would stand as a witness in her own defense – a gamble almost never taken. . Either way, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan will have to receive direct confirmation from Maxwell of her decision before the defense can rest.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to allegations she acted as Epstein’s chief operator, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse during sexual massages.
Maxwell had been Epstein’s girlfriend before becoming a trusted employee. Witnesses mined them between 1994 and 2004 at Epstein’s home, including an estate in Palm Beach, Florida; his posh Manhattan townhouse; and a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The defense has emphasized that Maxwell is being made a scapegoat for a sex crime charge by Epstein, who committed suicide in prison in 2019. Her lawyers have sought to prove that accusers have exaggerated her involvement at the behest of attorneys seeking compensation for women from civilly claiming against Epstein’s estate.