TW: Sexual assault and sex-trafficking of minors

On November 29, 2021, a jury was selected in a Manhattan Federal courtroom for the trial of United States v. Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell, 59, is accused of grooming minors for sexual abuse for her known boyfriend of the time: late Jeffrey Epstein. Since her arrest last year, Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the eight counts of sex trafficking plus other charges, all of which occurred between 1994 to 2004. If found guilty, Maxwell faces up to 80 years behind bars.

The United States Department of Justice has stated that: “Beyond the live feeds within the courthouse, the trial will not be further broadcast.” As this case is high-profile, much of the goings-on from within the Court itself is being kept to those present in the room. The following information has been sourced from the BBC coverage of the trial, in what the BBC News New York reporter Pratiksha Ghidial has labelled a “gruelling testimony”.

In their coverage of the trial’s first week, the BBC has said that Ms Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim argued that: “The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for the things that Jeffrey Epstein did but, she is not Jeffrey Epstein.” Epstein died while in a New York prison cell in 2019 as he was awaiting trial for the sex-trafficking charges laid against him. His death has been ruled a suicide.

A large majority of the world first learnt about the Epstein case after the Netflix show: ‘Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich’ aired in May 2020. The documentary follows what they have labelled a ‘molestation’ pyramid scheme that Epstein ran from his Palm Beach mansion and carried on in multiple luxury locations – including his private island. The show sees the survivors recounting the abuse they started receiving during their teenage years and which often also continued on well into adulthood.

The documentary outlined the sex trafficking and grooming that was orchestrated by Epstein and also allegedly Maxwell. Alongside the survivors recounting their time in Epstein’s presence, the series shows the associated police detectives and lawyers stating that Maxwell, Epstein’s ‘partner in crime’, was behind the recruitment and grooming of the underage girls.

The current trial has brought forth much of the evidence and testimonies seen in the documentary. During the opening week, the massage table which was seized in the 2005 police raid and is alleged to have been used by the duo to lure the girls into Epstein’s mansion, was brought into the court to show jurors. This “ruse”, survivors say in the documentary, was constructed so that the minors would be offered the job of massaging a rich man, then during this massage: were pressured into having sex with Epstein.

In her testimony, a woman, going by Jane in the courtroom, cried as she recounted being sexually abused by Epstein when she was only 14. She is the first of four accusers set to give evidence before the court.

Epstein’s long-time personal pilot Larry Visoski was the court’s first witness. His statement included that he had flown multiple VIPs, including Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. He described Maxwell as “the number two” as “Epstein was the big number one.”

The trial will continue with the two remaining alleged victims testifying to the Court.

If you believe you were a victim of Ghislaine Maxwell or have information about the allegations in the Indictment, call 1-800-Call-FBI.

Image by mazime caron via Unsplash

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