The first day of the Ghislaine Maxwell trial began on Monday where the former girlfriend of convicted child-sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was described as a “dangerous predator” by the prosecution.
The prosecution told the jury that Maxwell was well aware of what she was doing when she groomed minors for Epstein to sexually traffic and abuse. The jury also heard opening statements from the defence on Monday afternoon in the Manhattan federal court, and these two accounts conflicted with one another.
Ghislaine Maxwell is charged with eight counts related to the sex trafficking of minors over a 10-year period between 1994 and 2004. The charges include sex trafficking of a minor, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Ghislaine also faces a separate trial to consider two perjury charges against her. She is only being charged with the sex trafficking of minors in this trial, which is expected to take place over several weeks as a federal jury hears arguments from both the defence and the prosecution.
Describing Maxwell and her partner Epstein to the jury, the prosecution painted them as “partners in crime” who had a “playbook” for targeting minors and victimizing them.
Prosecutor Lara Pomerantz told the jury how one of Maxwell’s accusers was only 14-years-old when she met the duo, marking the “beginning of a nightmare that would last for years.” Both Epstein and Maxwell were adults when they initiated their relationship with the victim.
According to the prosecution, Maxwell enabled Epstein’s “abusive sexual conduct” by normalizing it. In the case of the 14-year-old, Maxwell allegedly made it “feel normal that a man in his 40’s was naked and touching her body.” Pomerantz told the jury that Maxwell “preyed on vulnerable young girls,” adding that she “served them up.”
The jury heard how in addition to procuring the girls for Epstein, Maxwell herself participated in the sexual abuse. The prosecutor said that Maxwell created a “culture of silence” working as Epstein’s “lady of the house,” overseeing his multiple residencies, where she made hiring and firing decisions regarding his staff, and setting up “strict” rules for them.
Prosecutors said that Maxwell befriended minors by taking them on shopping trips and to the theatre, and “made young girls believe that their dreams could come true” with offers of financial assistance, including for higher education and travel.
Maxwell allegedly targeted vulnerable young girls with single mothers, or who were in dire financial straits, and portrayed herself as a woman they could trust. The prosecution said that the reality was she was grooming them for the “heinous crimes” that she and Epstein would do to them. The prosecution said that the duo paid the girls hundreds of dollars in cash, and there was even an instance where Maxwell mailed lingerie to a 15-year-old victim.
Pomerantz said the grooming led to “some of the most painful and private experiences of their childhood.” She described how Maxwell used the ruse of tricking the girls to give Epstein massages that would turn into sexual contact with him.
“She knew exactly what was going to happen,” the prosecution said, adding that Maxwell served up girls to Epstein to sustain the lavish lifestyle she was used to.
The prosecution urged the jury to use their “common sense” in reaching a verdict.
As for Maxwell, she was described as “relaxed” in the courtroom, who took notes except while the prosecution was delivering its opening statement.