The long-awaited trial of convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s confidant Ghislaine Maxwell, set to begin Monday, could be compared to an iceberg — many of the unanswered questions about their alleged venture will remain hidden for now.
Maxwell, a British socialite who insists she’s innocent, isn’t likely to face questions about allegedly helping Epstein arrange “dates” with women over 18 for a constellation of rich and powerful men. She also probably won’t be questioned about the allegations of an alleged victim who said in a civil lawsuit that Maxwell smuggled her to Britain’s Prince Andrew when she was 17. He has denied the allegations.
Nor is the prosecution likely to delve too deeply into the social and business relationships of Epstein, a multimillionaire financier, with other risqué names such as former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, and Ohio billionaire Leslie Wexner.
Instead, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York has limited the scope of federal prosecutors by targeting the case against the suspected British socialite specifically on allegations that she helped Epstein recruit and abuse four minors. girls in the nineties.
“This will be a small piece of what happened,” said civil attorney Dan Kaiser, who represents several alleged Epstein victims, though none are involved in this particular trial. “This is a ring that has ensnared dozens and dozens and dozens of girls. And Maxwell was an integral player. You could say she was Epstein’s chief operating officer.”
Opening statements in a process expected to take six weeks are set to begin Monday. And those four, now grown, women will take the stand and testify against Maxwell, prosecutors have said.
Epstein was found dead in a Manhattan prison in August 2019 awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. His death was ruled a suicide.
“Maxwell was the center of that sex trafficking ring,” alleged Epstein victim Jennifer Araoz told NBC News after Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 at her luxurious hideout in Bedford, New Hampshire.
NBC News generally does not identify rape victims, but Araoz went public in a July 2019 interview where she said she was 15 when Epstein raped her. She has sued Maxwell, alleging that she and other staffers “conspired to facilitate and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape of Plaintiff.” Maxwell has repeatedly denied the charges against her.
Araoz is not one of the women expected to testify against Maxwell, who will be identified only by their initials during the trial. She is represented by Kaiser.
Maxwell’s older brother, Ian, has said his sister is a “patsy” and that federal investigators only found her after Epstein hanged himself.
“They lost him and so there has to be someone who pays the price. The patsy has to be there. Ghislaine pays that price and she pays him every day,” he said in an interview with CBS News in November.
Not true, the prosecutors said.
“Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein identify, befriend, and care for underage victims of abuse,” then-U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss told reporters after Maxwell was arrested. “In some cases, Maxwell himself took part in the abuse.”
Maxwell faces eight criminal charges related to alleged attempts to entice minors to travel and engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and conspiracy to sex trafficking.
If convicted on all counts, Maxwell, 59, who is being held without bail in a Brooklyn jail, could face years in prison.
In a 24-page second indictment, prosecutors alleged that from 1994 to 2004, Maxwell “assisted, facilitated and contributed” to Epstein’s abuse of underage girls by recruiting them, grooming them, and eventually sexually abusing the victims themselves.
The victims were just 14 years old when she and Epstein sexually assaulted them, prosecutors say.
Both Epstein and Maxwell knew some of the victims were minors, prosecutors say. And as part of her alleged scheme, prosecutors say, Maxwell teamed up with Epstein to entice the underage victims to travel to his luxury residences around the world.
The abuse allegedly took place at Epstein’s luxurious residences in Palm Beach, Florida; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, prosecutors have said.
Maxwell, the youngest daughter of British press baron Robert Maxwell, who drowned in 1991, is also facing two counts of perjury in connection with a statement in a civil case in 2016. The charges allege that when Maxwell was questioned about her involvement in the alleged abuse and trafficking, she lied under oath.
But Nathan cut those perjury counts from this trial.
Maxwell was arrested a year after Epstein was caught at a New Jersey airport after returning from Paris on a private jet.
According to a government motion against Maxwell’s request to be released on bail, her arrest had a bit of drama.
After FBI agents broke through the gate of her New Hampshire home and ordered her private guards to open the front door, the agents are said to have seen Maxwell attempting to flee.
“The officers saw that the defendant ignored the direction to open the door and instead tried to flee to another room in the house, quickly closing a door behind her,” the court papers say.
The officers forced the door open and eventually found Maxwell inside the house, according to the court.
Her lawyers argued in court papers that she lived in seclusion to protect herself and her family members from “unwavering and intrusive media attention.”
In statements in a civil case, Epstein’s former masseuses, staffers and associates painted a portrait of Maxwell as the main driver of a serial sexual predator.
Alleged Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre stated in a September 2019 “Dateline” interview that Maxwell lured her to the financier’s web.
At the time, Giuffre said she was working as a locker room attendant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and happened to be reading a book on massage therapy when she “was approached by this beautiful, articulate, well-mannered woman with an English accent, prim and proper.” .”
“And she says it’s so funny you read a book about that because I know an elderly gentleman who is looking for a traveling masseuse,” Giuffre recalled. “He’s super rich. He flies everywhere.”
But by the end of her first visit to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion, Giuffre said, Maxwell had manipulated her into having sex with her boss.
And soon, Giuffre said, she found herself being traded by Maxwell and Epstein to rich and powerful men like Andrew.
Whatever the outcome of the trial, the fact that Epstein is gone and Maxwell has been tried is already a comfort to some of their accusers.
“Now that the ring has been removed, I know I can’t get hurt anymore,” Araoz said.