Amidst emotional, direct and clear testimonies from this week’s witnesses, the defense attempted to dismantle their ability to recall traumatic events with accuracy.
The first witnesses in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell took the stand this week in a Manhattan courtroom.
Maxwell, stands accused of recruiting and even participating in sexual abuse perpetrated on young girls by financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died under mysterious circumstances in 2019. She’s charged with several felony counts, including the trafficking of minors for the purpose of sexual abuse.
The case has caught the world’s attention, in part because of the powerful and famous men who have been linked to the ever-expanding narrative of debauchery and depravity.
The trial has been swarming with media and curious onlookers, attracting attention-seeking opportunists inside and outside the courtroom.
Both the prosecution and defense have been secretive about the witness list. Four accusers, all former minors and who are now adults, are expected to testify.
The first woman, who went by the pseudonym “Jane,” took to the stand on Tuesday in Manhattan.
Jane was emotional as she testified that the abuse by Epstein and Maxwell began when she was 14 years old. She told the court that Epstein and Maxwell first approached her at a summer camp for the arts in Michigan, for which Epstein was a donor. The abuse went on until she was 16, and Maxwell was often in the room when it happened. She described feeling terrified and ashamed, and said she has carried that shame throughout her life.
A former romantic interest of Jane’s testified Wednesday using the pseudonym “Matt.” He recounted that when they were dating, Jane told him about a “godfather” who was a benefactor of their family financially. He recalled her saying on occassion, “Matt, the money wasn’t f****** free.” He also shared a story about a fight between Jane and her mother, in which Jane yelled, “How do you think I got the money, mom?”
Epstein’s long-time pilot, Larry Visoski, testified Tuesday that Jane was among the passengers on the financier’s private plane. Visoski also said that other guests included former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as Britain’s Prince Andrew and the late Sen. John Glenn.
During opening statements, Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, said that the entire case is about “memory, manipulation and money.” The defense grilled witnesses during cross-examination about their ability to accurately remember events that happened two decades ago.
Maxwell’s team has also questioned why the accusers waited to come forward. During Jane’s cross-examination, the defense confronted Jane about staying silent for so many years, then coming out publicly only when other charges were made public.
Jane said the delay comes from victim-shaming that is still very much a part of the nation and world’s culture, adding that it’s also why she has chosen to remain anonymous.
One of the prosecution’s expert witnesses, a psychologist named Lisa Rocchio, testified that survivors open up about their experiences when they find the feeling of safety in doing so.
This week, the defense appeared to be strategically calling into question the witness’s ability to recall details with accuracy. This strategy is in line with other high profile defense cases, in order to establish some form of deficiency in the justice system’s “beyond reasonable doubt” requirement.
As we enter the coming week, more will be seen from the strategy and tactics of both the defense and the prosecution.