Jeffrey Epstein faces a proxy trial: Jeslyn Maxwell
New York After disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide behind bars, a judge called defendants to court to express their anger at a man they described as a coward for committing suicide to escape accountability for their sexual assault.
The coming weeks will still see, in a way, Epstein’s trial by proxy: his ex-girlfriend, Jessalyn Maxwell, will be brought to trial in federal court in Manhattan. Some of his accusers, identified in court by pseudonyms or first names, will get a chance to play a key role as government witnesses.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she prepared minor victims to have unwanted sex with Epstein. She strongly denied any wrongdoing.
“I committed no crime,” said prisoner Maxwell at a pre-trial conference. She was forced to wear handcuffs to and from the courtroom, adding to the severity of the allegations – even though the restrictions had been removed at a hearing last week.
Jury cross-examination by Judge Alison J. Nathan on Tuesday as a group of more than 600 potential jurors was trimmed to 12 — and six substitutes — before opening statements began on November 29 at Maxwell’s highly anticipated trial.
Epstein, who died at 66, was arrested on multiple counts of sex trafficking in New York in 2019. His attorneys claimed the charges violated a 2008 no-prosecution deal with Miami federal prosecutors that secretly ended a federal sexual assault investigation of 40 people on the least. teenage girls. After pleading guilty to formal charges in Florida instead, he spent 13 months in prison and paid settlements to victims.
The New York case took a shocking turn when Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial two years ago.
After his death, prosecutors set their sights on Maxwell. The Oxford-educated wealthy British socialite was the daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after falling from his yacht – named Lady Ghislaine – near the Canary Islands while facing allegations that he illegally looted his company’s pension funds. .
Behind the scenes of the lavish lifestyle, prosecutors say, Maxwell took on the role of satisfying Epstein’s tendency to lure young victims with “sexual massage.” They plan to show jurors a picture of Maxwell and Epstein swimming naked together to illustrate their close relationship.
The trial drama will revolve around the testimony of four women who said they and others were victimized as teens from 1994 to 2004 at Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, his stately home in Manhattan and other accommodations in Santa Fe, New Mexico and London.
Prosecutors say there is evidence that Maxwell knew the victims, including a 14-year-old, were under the age of majority and arranged for some to travel between Epstein’s homes. Defense attorneys are still trying to reduce or nullify the testimony of one of the four because she was 17 years old in a jurisdiction that was not underage.
Last weekend, prosecutors asked a judge to allow them to release Epstein’s statements he made to an employee about Maxwell’s involvement in the recruitment of underage girls.
The indictment said Maxwell would “attempt to normalize sexual abuse of a minor victim by, among other things, discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when the minor victim undressed, and/or being present in sexual acts involving the minor victim and Epstein.” .
The Epstein and Maxwell cases fueled the shack industry with podcasts and documentaries, such as “Jeffrey Epstein: Dirty Rich” on Netflix, as well as conspiracy theories and conjecture.
Reports that investigators seized Maxwell’s address books have fueled speculation that the trial could explore Epstein’s connections to Prince Andrew, former President Bill Clinton and OJ Simpson’s former lawyer Alan Dershowitz. But the judge made it clear that there would be no name drop at trial, saying that only certain pages of the address book – showing a section naming alleged victims under “massage” – would appear in the evidence.
The prosecutors’ attempt to provide emails they said would show Maxwell tried to select women for other men blocked the filing, saying she was using her access to women “as a form of social currency with other influential men she sought to court.”
However, Epstein’s name is expected to appear frequently, and Maxwell’s lawyers have complained that Maxwell has already suffered from the negative publicity surrounding him. One questionnaire used to screen potential jurors asked if they had posted anything or an opinion about Maxwell or Epstein on social media.
The defense indicated that it wanted to portray Maxwell as a victim of some sort.
“Jeffrey Epstein was a brilliant and flawed man with personality traits familiar to psychiatrists,” her lawyers said in a recent lawsuit. Like many people who achieve great power and wealth, Jeffrey Epstein has used the ‘halo effect’ to surround himself with people who serve his needs.
Nathan has four times denied Maxwell’s bail requests, citing the ease with which holders of American, French and British nationalities can use wealth and global connections to escape.
The judge also questioned Maxwell’s impartiality, saying that after her arrest in July 2020, she told authorities that she had about $3.5 million in assets, when she later admitted controlling $22.5 million with her husband.
In a letter to Nathan last week, defense attorney Bobby Sternheim said her client was “excited about her day in court.”
The lawyer, who repeatedly complained about Maxwell’s prison conditions, wrote that Maxwell “looks forward to her trial and to walk out of the courtroom unfettered and unfettered after her acquittal,” arguing that Maxwell’s guards had been punished for Epstein’s suicide by guards who shined a light in her cell every 15 minutes and treated her severely.
At a hearing last year where Maxwell was denied bail, some of Epstein’s accusers made it clear that they believed she was equally guilty.
One described Maxwell as “a sexual predator who took care of me and abused countless children and young women”. In a statement read aloud by the plaintiff, another said: “If not for Ghislaine, Jeffrey would not have done what he did.”
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