Opening statements are underway in the hotly anticipated trial of Ghislaine Maxwell — the longtime alleged madam of powerful pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while charged with sexually abusing underage girls.
Manhattan federal court prosecutor’s Monday started laying the case against the British socialite, 59, who has been held since July 2020.
Maxwell — the youngest child of late publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell — stands accused of helping Epstein to “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” girls as young as 14, according to the indictment against her.
Maxwell was dressed in a cream sweater with black pants and brought by US Marshals to the courtroom. Maxwell arrived at 8:30 am.
The six counts she faces — including sex-trafficking of minors — stem from the allegations of four women who say they were abused by Epstein and Maxwell between 1994 and 2004 when they were teenagers.
Prosecutors allege that Maxwell groomed the teens knowing they would be preyed on by her ex-boyfriend and best buddy — and even took part in the abuse.
A mass media presence attended the start of her trial. They arrived early in the morning to try and get a place in the courtroom, or one of the other rooms that had live audio/video feeds.
They were joined by members of the general public. This included alleged victims like Sarah Ransome who filed a lawsuit against them in 2017 alleging that they forced her to perform sex acts between 2006 and 2007. A year later, the federal case against Ransome was settled.
“I never thought this day would come,” Ransome told reporters Monday morning outside of the courthouse
One of Maxwell’s three sisters, Isabel, and Lisa Bloom, the attorney representing some of Epstein’s alleged victims, were also spotted arriving at the Lower Manhattan courthouse.
“We encourage everyone to allow the evidence to unfold in court and to exercise restraint and respect for the administration of criminal justice,” Maxwell’s siblings tweeted from their joint account, @RealGhislaineThis will be Monday morning.
Inside the courtroom, the first order of business was to finalize jury selection: Picking the 12 jurors and six alternates who will hear Maxwell’s case from a pool of 40 to 60 people who made it through initial questioning.
Maxwell sat at the defence table and seemed relaxed. She exchanged glances and smiled with her sister who was in front row.
Maxwell kept a lot of notes and sometimes gave them to her lawyers.
About two dozen spectators were in the courtroom, including, for a time, US Attorney Damian Williams, who at one point sat up straight to get a good look at Maxwell.
The Oxford-educated blue blood has been held in a Brooklyn jail since she was arrested at a $1 million New Hampshire estate, where she escaped to following Epstein’s suicide in August 2019. She has denied the charges, and her attorneys have repeatedly claimed she’s being scapegoated for the government’s failure to bring Epstein to trial.
The July 2019 arrest of the sick financier was the result of an inexplicable 2008 deal between the Justice Department and the Justice Department, which allowed him to plead guilty instead to Florida state charges. He served just 13 months prison time.
Maxwell holds American, French, British and British citizenships. However, bail has not been granted to her indefinitely while she awaits trial. Maxwell’s lawyers claim that she was subject to sexual abuse during daily pat down searches by Metropolitan Detention Center guards.