NEW YORK: A defiant Ghislaine Maxwell said Friday that prosecutors had failed to prove her guilty of sex crimes, as her defense wound up in a trial that heard lurid claims she groomed minors for abuse by the late financier Jeffrey Epstein. Speaking for the first time since her sensational trial opened late last month, the 59-year-old British socialite addressed the New York court only to say she would not be testifying.
“Your honor, the government has not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt so there is no need for me to testify,” Maxwell, wearing a black turtle neck and matching face mask, told judge Alison Nathan. The defense rested its case at 4:00 pm (2100 GMT) after less than two days of testimony after it struggled to put witnesses on the stand.
The daughter of former newspaper baron Robert Maxwell faces an effective life sentence if convicted by the jury of six counts of enticing and transporting minors for sex with her long-time companion Epstein. Closing arguments and rebuttal are scheduled for Monday. The judge will then instruct the jury how to consider the charges before it retires to consider its verdict.
The trial, which began on November 29, had been scheduled to last six weeks but Maxwell may well learn her fate before Christmas Day, her 60th birthday. The prosecution wound up on Friday last week, after taking just 10 days to question its witnesses. They sought to portray Maxwell as Epstein’s partner-in-crime, recruiting young girls to be sexually exploited by the American money-manager, who killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting his own trial.
Two women said they were as young as 14 when Maxwell allegedly began grooming them and arranging for them to give massages to Epstein that ended in sexual activity. One, identified only as “Jane,” detailed how Maxwell recruited her at summer camp and made her feel “special.” She said sexual encounters with Epstein became routine, with Maxwell sometimes present. Another, going by “Carolyn,” said she was usually paid $300 after sexual encounters with Epstein, often by Maxwell herself. The alleged crimes occurred between 1994 and 2004.
Maxwell’s defense, which began its case on Thursday, questioned the women’s ability to remember quarter-century-old events. They also brought up past drug use by two of them. But after indicating they planned to call 35 witnesses, the defense called just nine to the stand, taking a day and a half to do so-with others dropped, delayed, unavailable and even their whereabouts unknown.
An increasingly exasperated judge instructed them earlier Friday to produce the promised witnesses or rest their case. “We’re not delaying the trial,” said Nathan. After the lunch break, prosecutor Maurene Comey said the parties had reached a consensus to rest the case after the defense withdrew requests to enforce the subpoena of a witness identified as “Kelly,” and put a London pub landlord on the stand.
Among the defense witnesses brought forward was the psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, an expert on “false memories,” whose testimony was intended to challenge the recollections of the case’s four accusers. Another witness heard Friday was a former Miss Sweden who dated Epstein between 1983 and 1991. Eva Andersson-Dubin said she never saw any inappropriate conduct between Epstein and teenage women.
But she also admitted under cross-examination that she has memory problems. “It’s very hard for me to remember anything far back and sometimes I can’t even remember things from last month. My family notices it. I notice it. It’s been an issue,” the 60-year-old told prosecutor Allison Moe. Nathan had earlier rejected a request that three other witnesses be allowed to testify anonymously. She also dismissed the defense’s attempts to call two lawyers as accusers of Epstein.
Comey said the government’s summation would last two to three hours, with 45 minutes for rebuttal. Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim said their closing arguments would “hopefully” be shorter. —AFP