Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Begins With Prosecutors Saying She and Jeffrey Epstein Were Partners in Sex Crimes

Demonstrators outside downtown Manhattan courtroom.
Demonstrator outside downtown Manhattan courthouse where Ghislaine Maxwell's sex-trafficking trial got underway Monday.Getty

The former British socialite is accused of grooming young girls in ways that “helped normalize abusive sexual conduct,” a prosecutor said Monday.

The much-awaited trial of former British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell began Monday with prosecutors saying the 59-year-old was "involved in every aspect" of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's life. 

“She was in on it from the start. The defendant and Epstein lured their victims with a promise of a bright future, only to sexually exploit them,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz at the start of Maxwell's New York trial in downtown Manhattan.

She is charged with procuring girls as young as 14 to perform "so-called massages" that evolved into sexual abuse, prosecutors said. By deluging the girls with gifts, money and personal praise, Maxwell and Epstein were able to portray the abuse as something “casual and normal," Pomerantz said.

Epstein, a financier and socialite who hobnobbed with Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, killed himself in 2019 while in custody awaiting trial for sex trafficking. In 2008, he was convicted in Florida on charges of procuring a child for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute.

Maxwell's lawyer argued she also was a victim. Bobbi Sternheim said her client was really the "scapegoat for a man who behaved badly," comparing her to the biblical couple of Adam and Eve.

“She’s not Jeffrey Epstein. She’s not like Jeffrey Epstein” Sternheim said. “He’s the proverbial elephant in the room. He is not visible, but he is consuming this entire courtroom and overflow courtrooms where other members of the public are viewing,” she said.

The four women scheduled to testify against Maxwell were being guided by decades-old memories and attorneys who led them to get money from a fund established by his estate after his suicide, the defense lawyer said.

Maxwell was once romantically involved with Epstein, but remained his good friend and trusted advisor, the prosecution said. She is accused of recruiting and providing young girls for his abuse. The charges are based on the allegations of the women, who said Epstein and Maxwell abused as them as teens from 1994 to 2004.

Maxwell has denied the accusations, calling them "absolute rubbish," and has pleaded not guilty.

She is the daughter of British media magnate Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after falling from his yacht.

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