After infamous millionaire Jeffrey Epstein committed himself while incarcerated, a judge summoned his accusers to court to vent their rage at a man they labeled a coward for committing suicide to avoid punishment for sexually abusing them.
In some ways, Epstein will still be tried by proxy in the coming weeks: his former lover, Ghislaine Maxwell, will stand trial in federal court in Manhattan. Some of his accusers, who will be identified only by pseudonyms or first names in court, will have the opportunity to testify as government witnesses.
Maxwell, 59, has denied claims that she recruited teenage victims for inappropriate intercourse with Epstein. She has categorically denied any misconduct.
At a recent pretrial meeting, the imprisoned Maxwell said, “I have not done any crime.” Shackles were forced on her as she entered and exited the courtroom, emphasizing the seriousness of the claims — however the restrictions were removed during a hearing last week.
Judge Alison J. Nathan will begin interrogating jurors on Tuesday, as a pool of over 600 possible jurors is narrowed down to 12 — and six alternates — just days before Maxwell’s highly anticipated trial begins on Nov. 29.
Epstein, who died in 2019 at the age of 66, was jailed in New York on various sex-trafficking counts. His attorneys said that the accusations breached a non-prosecution agreement reached with federal prosecutors in Miami in 2008, which surreptitiously halted a federal sex abuse investigation involving at least 40 adolescent females. Instead, he served 13 months in jail and paid victims’ compensation after pleading guilty to state crimes in Florida.
The New York case took a startling turn two years ago when Epstein committed suicide while awaiting trial.
Prosecutors shifted their attention on Maxwell after his death. The affluent, Oxford-educated British socialite was the daughter of British publishing billionaire Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after falling off his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, in the Canary Islands, while allegedly fraudulently looting his companies’ pension funds.
Prosecutors allege Maxwell took up the job of gratifying Epstein’s predilection for enticing teenage victims into “sexualized massages” behind the scenes of a luxury lifestyle. To demonstrate their intimate bond, they aim to show jurors a photo of Maxwell and Epstein swimming naked together.
The drama of the trial will center on testimony from four women who claim they were molested as teenagers at Epstein’s villa in Palm Beach, Florida, his luxurious Manhattan townhouse, and other locations in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and London between 1994 and 2004.
Prosecutors say there’s evidence Maxwell knew the victims were under the age of consent, including a 14-year-old, and organized transportation for some of them between Epstein’s houses. One of the four defendants’ evidence is still being challenged by defense counsel since she was 17 at the time and in a country where that was not considered legally underage.
Prosecutors also requested the judge this weekend to allow them to show the jury remarks Epstein made to an employee regarding Maxwell’s participation in acquiring underage females.
Maxwell “would attempt to normalize sexual abuse for a minor victim by, among other things, discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein,” according to the indictment.
The Epstein and Maxwell cases have spawned a cottage industry of conspiracy theories and supposition, as well as podcasts and movies like Netflix’s “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.”
According to reports that investigators obtained Maxwell’s address books, the trial might focus on Epstein’s ties to Prince Andrew, former President Bill Clinton, and prominent O.J. Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz. However, the court has stated that no names would be spoken during the trial, stating that only specific pages of an address book will be admitted into evidence, including a part mentioning the claimed victims under the category “massage.”
She also blocked prosecutors’ attempt to introduce emails that prosecutors claimed showed Maxwell tried to select women for other men, claiming she was using her access to women “as a form of social currency with other influential men with whom she sought to ingratiate herself,” and that she was using her access to women “as a form of social currency with other influential men with whom she sought to ingratiate herself.”
However, Epstein’s name is certain to come up regularly, and Maxwell’s attorneys have claimed that the negative publicity around him has already harmed him. A question on a form used to screen potential jurors asked if they had ever written anything or expressed an opinion on social media regarding Maxwell or Epstein.
The defense has made it clear that it wants to depict Maxwell as a victim.
In a recent court filing, her attorneys stated, “Jeffrey Epstein was a bright guy who was handicapped by lasting personality flaws recognizable to psychiatrists.” “Jeffery Epstein, like many people who rise to positions of power and riches, used the ‘Halo effect’ to surround himself with people who would suit his interests.”
Nathan has turned down Maxwell’s bail petitions four times, citing the ease with which a citizen of the United States, France, or the United Kingdom may leave using riches and worldwide connections.
Maxwell’s credibility was also called into doubt by the court, who claimed she informed police following her arrest in July 2020 that she had roughly $3.5 million in assets, but she subsequently acknowledged to managing $22.5 million with her spouse.
Last Monday, defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim wrote to Nathan, saying that her client “is looking forward to her day in court.”
Maxwell “looks forward to her trial and to walking out of the courthouse uncuffed and unshackled following her acquittal,” wrote the lawyer who has repeatedly complained about Maxwell’s jail conditions, alleging that guards who shine a light into her cell every 15 minutes and treat her harshly are punishing her for Epstein’s suicide.
Some Epstein accusers made it apparent at a hearing last year where Maxwell was granted bail that they felt she is equally guilty.
“A sexual predator who groomed and assaulted me and numerous other youngsters and young women,” one person said of Maxwell. “Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did,” another claimed in a statement read aloud by a prosecution.