‘Money is not an object’: Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial sheds light on class divisions
On day eight of the government sex-trafficking case against Ghislaine Maxwell, a prosecutor asked a witness, known as Shawn, what was the difference between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, two Florida towns separated by a drawbridge.
Shawn, a West Palm Beach native, says: “Money isn’t there, it sounds like the nearby island is another planet. Growing up, he told the jury he “rarely” even ventured to Palm Beach because “I didn’t have enough money to buy anything at the gas station.”
That changed, he said, when he started driving his 14-year-old girlfriend to the island to provide Jeffrey Epstein sex massages. Soon, they struggled to find a cash exchange in West Palm Beach, where “they don’t accept hundreds of dollars,” explains Shawn.
Classroom throughout the Epstein story. Maxwell, an Oxford-educated product of British public schools, used hers to smooth the social path of Coney Island-born Epstein when they joined Manhattan in the early 1920s. 1990.
Now the whole class was present at Maxwell’s criminal trial as well. It loomed as eyewitnesses recounted over the past two weeks how a tall British woman with a “standard English” accent lured them when they were young and poor into a world beyond their imagination.
It sounded realistically Dickensian as one Maxwell accuser described how Epstein sent a chauffeur-driven car to take her and her mother across the bridge for tea at his Palm Beach mansion. At the time, the girl was only 14 years old and her father had died a few months earlier, tearing the family apart, she said. After offering to be her patron, Epstein would continue to abuse the girl for years, she testified. Maxwell helped, she said, by winning over her confidence and gradually pushing her boundaries.
Maxwell denies this and other false suggestions. Her lawyers insist she was made a scapegoat for the sins of Epstein, who died by suicide in a New York cell a month after his arrest in 2019.
They also tried to use class to their advantage during the experiment. In his opening statement, attorney Bobbi Sternheim claimed the accusers were money-hungry who had distorted the facts in the hope of a financial “jackpot”. It is reminiscent of political strategist James Carville rebutting former President Bill Clinton’s sexual assault accusations in 1994 by remarking: “Pulling a hundred-dollar bill across a parking lot, you never know what you will find.”
It is unclear whether issues of class will sway the mostly working-class New York jury who will decide the fate of a British society. During the trial, prosecutors showed them photos of Epstein private jet and luxury properties in New York, New Mexico, the Caribbean and Palm Beach, where bathrooms have sofas.
As a Palm Beach gossip columnist, Jose Lambiet has developed a puzzling view of the divide between Palm Beach, a manicured old coin vault, and West Palm Beach, a place originally built built to house help and has long had a reputation for drugs and violence.
“The story here, in my book, is how the rich once again found a way to fool the poor,” Lambiet, now a private detective, said of the Epstein case. “These girls are five or six miles away, like flying crows, where there are $50,000 or $60,000 homes.”
West Palm Beach, directly across the Inland Waterway from Palm Beach, has changed as the area prospered. It has had some spillover effects as billionaires have pushed millionaires out of Palm Beach. It now becomes a hub for hedge funds fled New York to take advantage of Florida’s low taxes. Goldman Sachs just rented out the space.
Still, pockets of optimism remain, as in other towns in the vicinity such as Royal Palms Beach and Loxahatchee, which many of Epstein’s victims have raved about. “I have never seen a division like it does in Palm Beach County,” said Jonathan Beaton, who has worked as a television reporter in the area. “You can go from heaven to hell in 15 miles.”
You may also find resentment. When he testified last week, Juan Alessi was still bitter from his decades as Epstein’s estate manager in Palm Beach. “It was slavery,” he said.
Maxwell called him “John” and established rules in the house that he saw as “degrading”. One example: Maxwell forbids employees from making eye contact with Epstein. She then reprimanded Alessi in an email to another employee for “doing a really bad job” after he allegedly failed to stock up on pens and bottled water “in the Black Merc”. That is, the Mercedes.
Alessi took revenge after he quit his job, returned to the house in 2003 and swiped $6,300 in cash from Epstein, he admitted after cross-examination. He did so even though his boss offered him a $50,000 severance package. Alessi testified that a friend needed immigration documents, and he was getting divorced at the time so his assets were frozen.
“Throughout my life, I’ve worked really hard and saved a lot of money, including the time I spent working for Mr. Epstein,” he said, trying to defend his honor.
At times, the social distance between Maxwell, the daughter of the late British newspaper magnate and embezzler, Robert Maxwell, and her accusers seems to be unthinkable.
While Maxwell was flying a Concorde, befriending Britain’s Prince Andrew and attending Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, one of her accusers, Carolyn, dropped out of secondary school in West Palm Beach at the age of 13, and arrested first dated Shawn, then 17 years old, living across the street. Carolyn was sexually abused by her own grandfather, she told the jury, and her mother was an alcoholic and drug addict.
“Because I’m an idiot,” she quipped with a sort of lower-class fatalism when asked by the prosecutor to explain why she was arrested in 2011 for cocaine possession. (“Driving around and smoking the pot,” is how Shawn describes their relationship).
Carolyn was brought to Epstein by another local teenager, Virginia Roberts, whose father worked as maintenance at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on Palm Beach. “I’m young and $300 is a lot of money to me,” Carolyn said of Roberts’ offer to make some cash by helping her give a rich man a massage in Palm Beach for a day. hour.
The first time she arrived at Epstein’s home, Carolyn testified that she was greeted by a woman with an English accent who would arrange some of the more than 100 aphrodisiac massages she would give Epstein over the next two years. Carolyn said she called her “Maxwell”. “Why?” asked the prosecutor. “Because I can’t pronounce her name correctly.”
Carolyn went on to become a drug addict, a prostitute and a single mother. In court last week, she was confronted by Maxwell, who was sitting directly across the room. At one point, she berated her: “You broke my soul!”