The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, charged with being an accomplice of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, began Monday.
Maxwell was indicted in July 2020 on charges related to the sex trafficking of minors, including enticement and conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, along with several other charges involving grooming and luring minors into sex acts. The charges she faces alleged that Maxwell helped Epstein run an underage sex trafficking ring, with victims as young as 14 years old.
Prosecutors further alledge that Maxwell engaged in “group sexual encounters” with Epstein and a minor and that Maxwell encouraged underage girls to give Epstein massages before engaging in sex acts.
Epstein died in August 2019 from an apparent suicide after he was arrested and charged with one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in July 2019. Maxwell, who was a longtime associate and former girlfriend of Epstein, was named in his indictment for allegedly hiring then-15-year-old Virginia Roberts Giuffre to perform sexual acts on Epstein.
Maxwell’s trial could carry a sentence of up to 70 years in prison if she is found guilty on all counts. The trial, which is being held in the courthouse for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, is closed to the press.
Several victims who were then-minors at the time they were allegedly abused by Maxwell and Epstein are set to testify in the trial.
The defense intends to call a University of California at Irvine psychology professor, Elizabeth Loftus, as an expert witness to testify that the victims may have been manipulated into having “false memories.” Prosecutors are set to call psychologist Lisa Rocchio to testify about the effects of sexual trauma on victims.
“Juries are often sympathetic to women defendants generally, and if they can paint her as a type of victim of Epstein as well, that might work in their favor in this regard,” Columbia Law School lecturer Jennifer Rogers said. “The very fact that she was a woman likely made the victims trust her more, possibly leading to more and more serious abuse than would otherwise have occurred, so this sort of betrayal of her sex might offend at least some of the jurors.”
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2011, is presiding over the case.