Companions or Companions in Crime? Maxwell-Epstein Bond Is Key to Her Trial

2021-12-06 13:30:06

Larry Visoski, the silver-haired pilot who flew Jeffrey Epstein and his outstanding associates everywhere in the world, believed Ghislaine Maxwell and Mr. Epstein had been a pair in some unspecified time in the future, he informed jurors final week at Ms. Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial.

And Ms. Maxwell had distinctive authority, Mr. Visoski stated: In Mr. Epstein’s households, she was second in command solely to Mr. Epstein himself. She was his “No. 2,” he stated.

Later, when certainly one of Ms. Maxwell’s legal professionals cross-examined Mr. Visoski, the questioning zeroed in on the specifics of the connection between Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell. It “wasn’t completely clear” in the event that they have been ever in a romantic relationship, Mr. Visoski acknowledged. He had by no means seen them kiss or maintain palms, he stated. At one level he described Ms. Maxwell as merely “one of many assistants” in Mr. Epstein’s workplace.

It was the primary of a number of moments of testimony through the first week of Ms. Maxwell’s federal trial in Manhattan that underlined how the trial could hinge a minimum of partially on the exact nature of her partnership with Mr. Epstein, whose shadow looms over the case even in demise.

Starting with opening statements and the questioning of witnesses, the crux of the case has develop into clear: Have been Ms. Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein companions, or companions in crime?

The primary week of testimony confirmed prosecutors are attempting to persuade the jury that Ms. Maxwell was not solely Mr. Epstein’s family supervisor and key worker but additionally his shut affiliate who had distinctive entry to his non-public life. And the protection has sought to divorce Ms. Maxwell from Mr. Epstein’s infamy, arguing that her presence in his life doesn’t make her complicit.

Ms. Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not responsible to expenses that she recruited, groomed and in the end helped Mr. Epstein abuse younger women. He was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking expenses when he died in a Manhattan jail cell.

Prosecutors have repeatedly tried to position Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein collectively, describing her as his “proper hand,” and saying she was concerned in “each element of Epstein’s life.” They stated she imposed strict guidelines for the employees and enforced a “tradition of silence,” which allowed their abuse of minors to stay hidden.

The federal government has steered that their lengthy, shut relationship makes her culpable, even the place she won’t have been current for abuse that they are saying he carried out.

Ms. Maxwell “walked the women right into a room the place she knew that man would molest them,” a prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, stated within the authorities’s opening assertion. “She knew what was going to occur to these women.”

However Ms. Maxwell’s legal professionals, wherever attainable, have sought to disassociate their consumer from Mr. Epstein, saying the 2 have been typically aside — holding their very own houses and touring individually — and that Mr. Epstein hung out with different girls.

Mr. Epstein “compartmentalized his life,” Bobbi C. Sternheim, certainly one of Ms. Maxwell’s legal professionals, informed the jury in a gap assertion on Monday, “exhibiting solely what he wished to point out to the folks round him, together with Ghislaine.”

Ms. Sternheim steered Ms. Maxwell was solely on trial due to her affiliation with Mr. Epstein. “She is a scapegoat for a person who behaved badly,” she stated.

The opposing visions of the connection on the middle of the case grew to become clear shortly final Monday, the trial’s first day, when the prosecution known as certainly one of Ms. Maxwell’s accusers, a girl recognized solely as Jane, to the witness stand.

She provided vivid testimony about how, on the age of 14 in 1994, she was consuming ice cream with associates at a summer time arts camp in Michigan when a “tall, skinny lady” approached her with a “cute little Yorkie.”

Jane stated the lady — Ms. Maxwell — was joined “a minute later” by a person who launched himself as Mr. Epstein and talked together with her about her pursuits. That transient encounter, Jane stated, led to an invite to Mr. Epstein’s Palm Seaside house for tea. That, in flip, led to common visits with him and Ms. Maxwell, which quickly gave technique to her being sexually abused by each.

However throughout cross-examination, Laura Menninger, one other protection lawyer, centered on what she steered was proof that Jane’s account of Ms. Maxwell’s involvement within the abuse had shifted and expanded lately.

Citing Jane’s first assembly with the federal government in September 2019, Ms. Menninger stated an F.B.I. agent’s notes confirmed she had given a distinct model of the summer time camp encounter, through which Mr. Epstein, not Ms. Maxwell, had first approached the desk.

“What you informed the federal government,” Ms. Menninger stated, “is that Ghislaine walked by together with her canine, and Jeffrey Epstein got here as much as meet you, right?”

“I wouldn’t have stated that,” Jane stated.

Had the F.B.I. had made a mistake within the observe taking? Ms. Menninger requested.

“Perhaps they typed it up incorrect,” Jane stated.

After Ms. Menninger confronted Jane with different inconsistencies between what she earlier informed investigators and her trial testimony, Jane replied, “Reminiscence will not be linear.”

In one other instance of every aspect’s contrasting strategy within the trial, prosecutors launched testimony and proof of a set of strict guidelines governing Mr. Epstein’s households: nondisclosure agreements for workers, even a 58-page “Family Guide” for workers, instructing them to not make eye contact with Mr. Epstein and mandating they “NEVER disclose Mr. Epstein or Ms. Maxwell’s actions or whereabouts to anybody” except in any other case instructed.

The prosecution has made it clear that Ms. Maxwell was a driving pressure behind these guidelines.

“That was by design, the defendant’s design,” Ms. Pomerantz informed the jury, “as a result of behind closed doorways, the defendant and Epstein have been committing heinous crimes. They have been sexually abusing teenage women.”

Within the palms of Ms. Maxwell’s legal professionals, although, these measures have been the smart precautions of a rich man who entertained highly effective folks, and who saved points of his life extraordinarily non-public — together with from Ms. Maxwell.

“He saved elements of his life locked from others,” Ms. Sternheim informed the jury.

The protection, in cross-examination of the pilot, Mr. Visoski, elicited testimony that nondisclosure agreements have been widespread in his line of labor, particularly when coping with “high-profile folks.”

“It’s a reasonably regular request,” Mr. Visoski stated, including that he had by no means seen criminality onboard Mr. Epstein’s airplane.

And as Mr. Epstein’s property supervisor, the protection steered, Ms. Maxwell naturally had a task in implementing the family guidelines, in addition to supervising development on Mr. Epstein’s non-public island, managing cleansing and repairs and caring for the horses and different animals on his Santa Fe ranch.

Both sides’s differing strategy has additionally surfaced in debates held outdoors the jury’s presence.

In a single such episode on Friday morning, the events skirmished over whether or not prosecutors may present the jury a suggestive {photograph} that appeared briefly in a video of a 2005 legislation enforcement search of Mr. Epstein’s Palm Seaside home, which the federal government wished to play for the jury.

The picture depicts “a sexualized {photograph} of a clearly underage feminine” mendacity in Mr. Epstein’s lap, a prosecutor, Maurene Comey, informed the decide. She stated the {photograph} hung by the doorway to Mr. Epstein’s bed room — a bed room Ms. Maxwell nearly all the time shared with him after they have been at that residence, one other former worker testified final week.

Mr. Everdell argued that the picture needs to be redacted on grounds it was prejudicial, notably given there have been no allegations Mr. Epstein or Ms. Maxwell have been concerned with prepubescent women.

However Ms. Comey stated the picture countered the protection’s depiction of Mr. Epstein as an “upstanding citizen who was surrounded by presidents and all types of essential outstanding folks.”

Ms. Comey stated she believed Ms. Maxwell’s legal professionals have been “organising an argument” that Ms. Maxwell couldn’t have probably identified Mr. Epstein was drawn to younger women as a result of somebody who spent a lot time with such luminaries “couldn’t probably have such a vile attraction.”

“This {photograph} is straight contradicting that argument,” Ms. Comey stated, suggesting that the {photograph} and its location stated as a lot about Ms. Maxwell because it did about Mr. Epstein.

The decide, Alison J. Nathan, agreed to let the jury see the picture of the {photograph} within the video, saying, “I feel the context is totally different than the picture in isolation.”

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