As Ghislaine Maxwell’s federal trial opened, prosecutors argued that Jeffrey Epstein’s associate helped him devise a “pyramid scheme” of sex abuse, while her defense argued Maxwell is being scapegoated for Epstein’s crimes.
After the 18-member jury was seated on Monday, Assistant US attorney Lara Elizabeth Pomerantz laid out the government’s opening arguments with a story of Jane – a reference to three minor victims named in the complaint only as “Jane Doe” – who met “dangerous predators” Epstein and Maxwell at the age of 14 and was lured into a “nightmare” by an offer of a scholarship.
AUSA Pomerantz: The man and woman were predators. Jane was not their only victim. There were other young girls. Who was that woman? It was the defendant, Ghislaine Maxwell. The defendant took these girls on shopping trips and won their trust. She talked sex
— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) November 29, 2021
Maxwell created a “culture of silence” in which Epstein’s employees were to “see nothing, say nothing” as the “pyramid scheme of abuse” urged girls to bring in other girls, Pomerantz argued.
Epstein and Maxwell had a “playbook” to gain the girls’ trust, targeting the struggling daughters of single mothers, and using the “cover” of massage to lure them into sex, Pomerantz said, adding that they lured the girls in with the promise of a brighter future, then destroyed their lives.
Maxwell “knew exactly what she was doing,” Pomerantz said.
Jury selected in Ghislaine Maxwell trialREAD MORE: Jury selected in Ghislaine Maxwell trial
Lead defense counsel Bobbi Sternheim urged jurors not to put Maxwell on trial for Epstein’s crimes. The financier and convicted sex offender reportedly committed suicide in a Manhattan jail in August 2019.
“Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam for the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men and women are often villainized and punished more than the men ever are,” Sternheim said.
Epstein is the “elephant in the room” consuming the entire trial, but the jury is here to judge not him but Maxwell, Sternheim said. She described Epstein as “like a 21st-century James Bond,” whose mystery stirred interest and attracted the rich and famous – and those who have “shaken the money tree.”
Arguing that prosecutors have no evidence but the “memory” of the alleged victims, Sternheim told jurors that “false memory” can be manipulated and created over time. The government’s case is stitched together from “paper cut-outs” of four different stories, with the only common denominator among the alleged victims being that they “got big payouts” from the Epstein fund.
“What you will hear are stories that are based on words and words alone,” Sternheim said. “There will not be substantive evidence to support the charges.”
Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 and charged with six counts related to sex trafficking under the Mann Act. US District Judge Alison Nathan, presiding over the trial, has limited public and media access to the proceedings, and ruled to redact certain evidence and transcripts on the grounds they would serve only to cater to a “craving for that which is sensational and impure.”