British heiress Ghislaine Maxwell’s New York criminal trial on sex trafficking charges had its moments of drama both inside and outside the courtroom during the first week.
The case revolves around a portrait of wealth, status, and perversion although Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, asserted in her opening remarks that the case is about “memory, manipulation, and money.”
In the earlier part of the week, long lines formed on the sidewalk entering the courthouse. Maxwell’s older sister, Isabel, was literally walking in circles around a car to avoid the paparazzi swarming her like bees, as she twirled to avoid the cameras flashing on all sides. One cameraman even remarked as she jerked right, and then left, and then right again as she tried to extract herself from the crowd, “She’s insane.”
Near the end of the week, Maxwell’s older brother, Kevin, arrived from the UK calmly thanking the press and reminding them that Maxwell’s family supports her, reminding the press of their brother Ian’s public proclamations that the family believes in their sister’s innocence.
It was British posh drama at its best - reminding the public of the British stiff upper lip in the face of adversity while their 59 year old younger sister is on trial for her life facing eight counts of sex trafficking of children, sex trafficking conspiracy, and perjury charges.
Maxwell’s two counts of perjury were bifurcated for a second trial.
If found guilty, Ghislaine Maxwell may spend the rest of her life in prison.
Inside the courtroom, the curtain rose on “Downton Abbey’s Eccentricities” meets “Perversion in Houses of Horror” behind the doors and walls of Epstein's residences.
Maxwell’s defense team is aggressive while the prosecution team is young, but again, this is the warm up and not the close for the six-weeks trial.
Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr, one of Epstein’s pilots, who worked for Epstein from 1991 - 2019, took the stand for the prosecution describing the various homes Epstein owned that Maxwell managed for years in lavish detail even to the point how Epstein appreciated the best sound system whether it be in his homes or the gym on his Caribbean island.
He testified that Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, the late astronaut and Senator John Glenn and Britain’s Prince Andrew flew on Epstein’s planes. Visoski said he never witnessed any sexual trysts. He described Maxwell and Epstein’s relationship as more “personal” than business, and that Maxwell would call him to schedule flights.
Epstein was always number one, while Maxwell was definitely two in the hierarchy of Epstein world.
One of the more insightful moments was how Maxwell viewed those employed by Epstein, who reported to her directly.
“Remember that you see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, except to answer a question directed at you. Respect their privacy," read Ghislaine Maxwell's written staff instructions that Juan Alessi, Jeffrey Epstein's Palm Beach house manager and chauffeur, identified.
Alessi said that Maxwell instructed him to never look at Epstein directly in the eyes, and to only speak with Maxwell and Epstein when asked, and answer only by looking away.
Alessi testified that he worked for Jeffrey Epstein from 1990 - 2002 from 5am to 10pm. He said that the never-ending lists that Maxwell gave him were “humiliating.” He had to make certain her eye shades were on her night stand and that a gun was in Epstein’s drawer when they visited the Palm Beach residence.
Ghislaine Maxwell made a point to Alessi that she was the “Lady of the House,” even inscribing her stationery with “Lady Ghislaine,” although Maxwell's father was no duke, marquess, or earl although Maxwell’s father named his yacht, “Lady Ghislaine.”
Perhaps, the instructions to Alessi were necessary for part of his job.
He attested that he had to clean used double-headed dildos and sex toys in the private wing of Epstein’s Palm Beach home where Epstein received his massages, and place them in Maxwell’s basket.
It was also the wing of the Palm Beach residence where young girls were escorted to a room where a massage table stood, and many of the sexual violations allegedly occurred. At first, Epstein wanted one massage a day and eventually, it increased to three a day.
Alessi frequently witnessed Maxwell and other females topless around Epstein’s pool.
Prosecutors allege Maxwell sexually groomed four teenage girls for Epstein spanning the 1990s and early 2000s, in Florida, New York, New Mexico and England, and encouraged girls to recruit others.
Dr. Lisa Rocchio, a clinical and forensic psychologist testified on the grooming process consciously orchestrated by a predator. She explained the difference between grooming and mentoring. The later being for the benefit of a child while grooming was for the benefit of a predator.
The first of the four victims testified under the pseudonym of “Jane.” In 1994, she was approached by Maxwell and Epstein at a summer camp for artists. Epstein referred to himself as a donor. “Jane” works in the entertainment industry.
The victim testified she was abused from 1994 - 1997 starting when she was 14 years of age. She recounted the abuse on the stand and was heard sobbing even after her testimony. Her ex-boyfriend corroborated that she identified both Epstein and Maxwell as her abusers.
In the late 1960s, Epstein attended the Interlochen’s “National Music Camp.” His course of study was Basson/Orchestra/Radio. Epstein was an accomplished pianist and was known to appreciate classical music. Over the years, Epstein made several donations to Interlochen and one employee confirmed that when “Jane” was at the camp, Epstein and Maxwell were also there.
Alessi testified that he saw “Jane” at Epstein’s Palm Beach home with her mother and even picked her up from her home and brought her to Epstein’s home alone when Epstein and Maxwell were present. He also witnessed Epstein, Maxwell and “Jane” getting on one of Epstein’s planes.
On cross-examination, Maxwell’s attorney questioned Jane’s discrepancies in documents that only Epstein abused her, questioning why she earlier did not mention Maxwell. She raised the notion of humiliation and embarrassment.
Maxwell’s attorney noted that “Jane” received $5 million from Epstein’s estate.
When asked why she waited so long to go public, she replied because of victim shaming of those sexually abused.
Nevertheless, “Jane” is one of 125 survivors, who collectively received $135 million from Epstein’s estate for the pain and suffering inflicted upon them.
By the end of the week, Palm Beach police sergeant Michael Dawson testified that when Epstein’s Palm Beach residence was served with a search warrant in 2005 the police were specifically looking for massage equipment and sex toys.
A massage table and an image of brown cardboard box with sex toys seized from Epstein’s Palm Beach residence in 2005 was shown to the jury just feet away from Maxwell at the defense table.
Christine Dolan has covered human trafficking for nearly 22 years in 140 countries - on the street and over the internet and all faces of human trafficking, including, but not limited to labor, sex, sex tourism, ritual abuse torture, child soldiers, internet trafficking. institutional trafficking, corporate trafficking, medicinal trafficking, the NGOs involved in anti-trafficking efforts, as well as those falsely accused of human trafficking.
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