Ghislaine Maxwell news – latest: Epstein likened to Bond by defence as prosecutor slams abuse ‘pyramid scheme’

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·33-min read
Ghislaine Maxwell news – latest: Epstein likened to Bond by defence as prosecutor slams abuse ‘pyramid scheme’
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The six-week trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has begun in New York City. Opening arguments were heard on Monday afternoon the much-awaited case afternoon, following a delay due to issues with two members of the jury.

After being sworn in, US District Judge Alison Nathan reminded the jury that they must decide the case solely on the evidence provided in the courtroom.

The trial is being held at the Manhattan federal court where Ms Maxwell, 59, will face charges related to her alleged involvement in financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex crimes.

Sarah Ransome — one of several women to have accused Epstein and Ms Maxwell of abuse — was seen arriving at the courthouse on Monday morning. She told reporters: “I never thought this day would come.”

Ms Maxwell, who spent decades rubbing shoulders with British royals and US presidents, is accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls for the late disgraced financier to sexually abuse between 1994 and 2004.

In July 2020, she was tracked down by the FBI and arrested after she was charged with enticing a minor to travel to engage in criminal sexual activity and several other related counts.

While Epstein died by suicide in federal custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, awaiting his own trial, Ms Maxwell’s hearings are expected to reveal new details about the case.

The daughter of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, Ms Maxwell faces the prospect of up to 35 years of jail if she is found guilty.

Read More

Ghislaine Maxwell trial: Everything we know about Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend and associate

Ghislaine Maxwell trial 2021: When does it start and what is she accused of?

Ghislaine Maxwell: Brother says alleged abuser’s ‘over-hyped’ trial is ‘designed to break her’

Key Points

  • Everything you need to know about the Ghislaine Maxwell trial

  • Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

  • How Ghislaine Maxwell got involved with Jeffrey Epstein?

  • What is the truth about Jeffrey Epstein’s island?

Who are the alleged victims testifying at the Maxwell trial?

23:30 , Justin Vallejo

The prosecution will put four alleged victims on the stand, identified only as Minor Victim 1, Minor Victim 2, Minor Victim 3 and Minor Victim 4.

The prosecution began their opening argument with the line, “I want to tell you about a young girl named Jane”, referencing the anonymous Jane Doe pseudonym.

Here’s what we know from court documents about the alleged victims:

Minor Victim 1 was about 14 when she was abused by Epstein at his homes in New York and Florida. Maxwell is alleged to have involved the girl in “sexualized massages” on Epstein.

Minor Victim 2was allegedly abused at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in 1996. Maxwell is alleged to have given an unsolicited topless massage to the girl, and encouraged her to massage Epstein.

Minor Victim 3 was 17, and over the age of consent, when she was allegedly introduced to Epstein in London. Maxwell is alleged to have encouraged her to perform sexualized massages on Epstein in 1994 and 1995.

Minor Victim 4 was 14 when she was allegedly recruited to give Epstein sexualized massages at his Palm Beach mansion between 2001 and 2004. She is also alleged to have recruited younger women for Epstein at Maxwell’s request.

23:05 , Oliver O'Connell

Lead Maxwell defence attorney Bobbi Sternheim gives an opening statement on day one of the trial (AP)
Lead Maxwell defence attorney Bobbi Sternheim gives an opening statement on day one of the trial (AP)

Attorney Lisa Bloom calls defence opening statement ‘appalling, fawning love letter’ to Epstein

22:46 , Oliver O'Connell

Lisa Bloom, the attorney known for advising Harvey Weinstein and the representing attorney to one of the accusers of Ghislaine Maxwell, responded to the defence team’s opening statement on Twitter.

“BREAKING: Just heard defence opening statement here at Ghislaine Maxwell trial,” she wrote. “An appalling, fawning love letter to Jeffrey Epstein, a ‘charming’ ‘21st century James Bond’.”

“Bond fights the bad guys. Epstein WAS the bad guy,” she added.

“Are you as surprised as I am by this strategy?”

22:28 , Oliver O'Connell

US Attorney Lara Pomerantz gives her opening prosecution statement while pointing to defendant Ghislaine Maxwell (AP)
US Attorney Lara Pomerantz gives her opening prosecution statement while pointing to defendant Ghislaine Maxwell (AP)

Jury excused for the day

22:06 , Oliver O'Connell

True to her word, Judge Nathan has brought proceedings today to a close at 5pm sharp and the jury has been excused.

Witness testimony and examination will continue tomorrow morning.

Visoski testimony

21:51 , Oliver O'Connell

Larry Visoski is asked about how often he flew Epstein and to where. He responds that it was roughly every four days, and destinations included all of Epstein’s homes in Palm Beach, Santa Fe, New York, and St Thomas in the Caribbean, near where his private island Little St James was located.

Having identified Ms Maxwell in court, he was asked about their relationship, which he described as more personal than business, estimates went on into the 2000s, and says was not romantic, but “more couple-ish”.

Prosecution calls first witness

21:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Nathan invited Assistant US Attorney Maureen Comey to call the first witness.

Ms Comey is the daughter of James Comey, former director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017 until he was fired by then-President Donald Trump.

While court proceedings are due to end promptly at 5pm, the judge appears keen to keep things moving after this morning’s delay.

The first witness is Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr, formerly Epstein’s pilot.

Epstein was a ‘21st-century James Bond’ targeted for his mystery and money, says Maxwell defence

21:23 , Oliver O'Connell

Ghislaine Maxwell’s defence team compared Jeffrey Epstein to a “21st-century James Bond” whose wealth and mystery stirred the public’s interest while his accusers shook the “money train” for millions of dollars.

Ms Maxwell, meanwhile, was compared to humanity’s first victim of sexism dating back to the Biblical creation of the universe.

Jeffrey Epstein was a ‘21st-century James Bond’, Ghislaine Maxwell defence says

21:07 , Oliver O'Connell

With the conclusion of the defence opening statement, there is now a 10-minute recess before the start of witness testimony.

21:05 , Oliver O'Connell

In wrapping up her opening statement, Ms Sternheim tells the jury that the prosecution will not be able to establish without reasonable doubt that Ms Maxwell is guilty of any of the charges.

She adds that the age of consent will also be important in the case and they should keep that in mind.

Ms Sternheim says that the four accusers have thin stories that lack support and that they have been impacted by lawyers, media, things they have read and heard, and money.

“The government is trying to stitch together stories of four different people, four different stories to support a pattern,” she says. “But the only pattern you will see here is the success of those four people getting big money awards from the Epstein fund.”

20:59 , Oliver O'Connell

The fourth accuser, Carolyn, is described by Ms Sternheim as having a “troubled past” and a “dangerous lifestyle” and was introduced to Epstein by Virginia Roberts, another victim, who has spoken publicly about her time with him.

Arguing that Carolyn has never mentioned Ms Maxwell in previous testimony about Epstein, she says that she also groomed and trafficked girls for him and only accused the defendant after his death when there was money to be had.

She too received money from the Epstein fund.

20:55 , Oliver O'Connell

About the third witness, Ms Sternheim says she sent pictures to him in jail in the early 2000s and visited him after his release. She also only pointed the finger at Ms Maxwell after Epstein died and received money from the fund.

20:51 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Sternheim claims that Annie never saw Epstein after seeing him in New Mexico and was only convinced she was a victim afterward by other people. She says that she had also kept boots that he bought her for 25 years, yet says she was scarred by the meeting.

Like Jane, Annie also received money from the Epstein fund.

Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein ‘partners in crime’

20:48 , Oliver O'Connell

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell began with prosecutors arguing the British socialite was a “partner in crime” to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein in a “pyramid scheme” of sexual abuse.

In her opening statement, Assistant US Attorney Lara Elizabeth Pomerantz said Ms Maxwell found and targeted young girls from broken homes for Epstein to sexually abuse under the guise of “massages”.

They figured out what the girls wanted, promised the world, and bought them into their “pyramid scheme of abuse” to bring in more girls with the promise of a cash reward, Ms Pomerantz alleged.

Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein ran pyramid scheme of sexual abuse, court hears

20:38 , Oliver O'Connell

Moving on to the next witness — Annie — who was 16 when she met Epstein and Ms Maxwell in New Mexico, Ms Sternheim says she was above the age of consent in that state at the time.

This leads to another objection from the prosecution and a third sidebar with Judge Nathan.

20:35 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Sternheim says that Jane did not want to be involved in any criminal case against Epstein until after he died when having hired a lawyer she remembers “all this horror” and puts Ms Maxwell in the frame too.

“She is a consummate actress and is a pro at playing roles.”

“Examine critically” her story, Ms Sternheim tells the jury.

20:30 , Oliver O'Connell

The defence strategy shifts to explain what the jury will hear from each witness, starting with Jane whom she says had her schooling and vocal lessons paid for by Epstein, while she lived in a Wall Street apartment co-signed by him.

She paints Epstein as a patron of the arts and says that nothing amiss happened when Jane and her family visited Florida.

20:27 , Oliver O'Connell

After another objection and a sidebar, Ms Sternheim continued her opening statement again referring to witnesses having received money from the Epstein fund and claiming an ability to look back over 25 years with 20/20 vision is unlikely.

Maxwell smiles behind mask and waves to sister as trial opens

20:23 , Oliver O'Connell

Ghislaine Maxwell appeared to be in good spirits at the start of her trial on federal charges of trafficking underage girls for convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The British socialite seemed relaxed, played with her hair, smiled from behind her mask and waved at her sister as jury selection in the case began, according to press pool reports from inside the courtroom.

Ghislaine Maxwell smiles behind mask and waves to sister as trial opens in NYC

20:18 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Sternheim likes Epstein to James Bond.

“I said before Epstein was a manipulator but he was also a mysterious man without attachment. He had no wife. He had no children. And he had no boss. Yet he attracted all these rich and powerful people before and after his fall from grace back around 2008.”

“In many regards, he was like a 21st-century James Bond,” she adds. “His mystery has stirred interest, and his accusers have shaken the money train and millions of dollars have fallen their way.”

20:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Sternheim says testimony will include experts on how memory changes and can be contaminated, adding that there will be no eyewitnesses to the victim accounts and no documentation to corroborate their testimony.

20:09 , Oliver O'Connell

Following a sidebar with Judge Nathan, Ms Sternheim reminds jurors that they must not be biased against those who were wealthy and lived luxurious lifestyles and that her client is being “pegged as the rich girl”.

“Privileged background, comfortable lifestyle status — they may be things that are easily checked as the wrong box, but they are not crimes and nor should they factor negatively into your consideration of the evidence.”

20:07 , Oliver O'Connell

Two objections from the prosecution as Ms Sternheim first calls Ms Maxwell a “scapegoat” and then a “convenient stand-in” for Epstein.

20:05 , Oliver O'Connell

“As we all know, memories fade over time, and in this case, we will learn not only have memories faded but they have been contaminated by outside information, media reports” and other influences, says Ms Sternheim.

20:03 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Sternheim argues that her client is not like Epstein, nor the other powerful men who abused women and that the prosecution will not bac able to prove that Ms Maxwell committed the crimes with which she is charged.

“This case is about memory, manipulation, and money.”

Says Ms Sternheim: “As you will see, the accusations that you will hear from the mouths of four accusers — not like the hundreds that the government suggested you would hear from — you will hear from them and they will recount from their memories, memories of a quarter-century ago. Memories that have been corrupted by things that have happened throughout the years. Manipulated by a narcissistic man and self-interested civil lawyers and a desire for a big jackpot of money.”

Defence opening statement begins

19:57 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi C Sternheim begins with a Biblical reference.

“Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam for the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behaviour of men, and women are often villainised and punished more than the men ever are.”

19:54 , Oliver O'Connell

Explaining how the prosecution will prove the counts against Ms Maxwell true, Ms Pomerantz says that Jane herself will take the stand.

The jury will also hear from family members of the victims and Epstein’s staff, including his pilots, as well as law enforcement officers who searched his homes.

Flights log, courier records, and other hard evidence will also be shown to make the case that the pair were trafficking children for sex, and that this went on for a decade.

19:50 , Oliver O'Connell

The prosecution’s opening statement continues describing how Jane was not the only victim and a “pyramid scheme of abuse” developed in which girls were encouraged to recruit other girls in return for cash.

19:47 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Pomerantz returned to the story of Jane describing how they befriended her despite being more than twice her age, taking her shopping and to movies and giving her hundreds of dollars.

The abusive relationship continued for years at both Epstein’s residences in Palm Beach and in New York, says the prosecutor.

19:44 , Oliver O'Connell

“What was happening inside those massage rooms was not a massage; it was sexual abuse,” says Ms Pomerantz, adding that Ms Maxwell helped find and recruit the girls and groomed them for abuse.

The prosecution described in graphic detail what occurred in the massage rooms including masturbation, oral sex, and penetrative sex with the girls.

“Make no mistake: She knew exactly what Epstein was going to do to those children when she sent them inside those massage rooms,” Ms Pomerantz says adding that the defendant provided a cover of respectability as an adult woman.

19:40 , Oliver O'Connell

“They were wealthy and influential people who used that cover to make the girls and their parents feel comfortable and safe,” Ms Pomerantz says.

“What came next was anything but safe. The next stage involved getting the girls comfortable with sexual contact involving Epstein,” she continues describing that massaging Epstein was used as a way of beginning the abuse by getting them to touch him and allowing him to touch them.

19:37 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Maxwell is described as Epstein’s best friend and right hand, characterising him as a multimillionaire connected to famous and powerful people.

Ms Pomerantz says they promised their victims the world, and targetted girls with “difficult home lives”.

“They made these girls feel seen. They made these girls feel special, but that was a cover.”

19:34 , Oliver O'Connell

The prosecution says that Ms Maxwell put Epstein’s victims at ease so “they could be molested by a middle-aged man”.

Ms Pomerantz says that Ms Maxwell was in the room at times when this molestation happened.

That, she says, is why Ms Maxwell is in court today.

Prosecution begins opening statement

19:31 , Oliver O'Connell

Prosecutor US Attorney Lara Pomerantz began her opening statement with the story of a girl called Jane who was introduced to a man and woman at a camp for talented kids when she was just 14 years old.

The man introduced himself as a donor who gave scholarships to kids and asked Jane for her phone number, Ms Pomerantz says.

What she did not realise was that the man and woman were predators and that this was the beginning of a nightmare that would last for years, the attorney says.

“Who was that woman targeting young girls for sexual abuse? It was the defendant: Ghislaine Maxwell,” says Ms Pomerantz.

“She helped normalise abusive sexual conduct,” she adds.

Ghislaine Maxwell smiles behind mask and waves to sister as trial opens in NYC

18:52 , Justin Vallejo

Ghislaine Maxwell appeared to be in good spirits at the start of her trial on charges of trafficking underage girls for convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The British socialite seemed relaxed, played with her hair, smiled from behind her mask and waved at her sister as jury selection in the case began, according to press pool reports.

Protesters joined onlookers and journalists outside court

18:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Several protesters were noted outside the court amongst the throngs of spectators and journalists attempting to get inside to watch proceedings.

A man holds a sign outside the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse as the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell begins in New York (AFP via Getty Images)
A man holds a sign outside the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse as the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell begins in New York (AFP via Getty Images)

Judge stresses importance of jury’s role

18:14 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Nathan reminds jurors to avoid all social media and not to discuss the case with anyone — not even family and friends.

She also noted the significant media attention surrounding the case.

Calling the jury the “triers of fact” Judge Nathan says that they are to “decide this case solely on the evidence provided in the courtroom”.

Jury sworn in

17:57 , Oliver O'Connell

The jury has been sworn in by the courtroom deputy.

Law & Crime’s Adam Klasfeld notes that it “appears to be a diverse jury in terms of race, age, and gender”.

This is the first time Ms Maxwell has seen the jury that will hear her case since the wider pool of potential jurors was questioned by the court.

‘We have our 18 jurors'

17:47 , Oliver O'Connell

The issues with the two jurors have reportedly been resolved and they will be sworn in before breaking for lunch.

Judge Nathan announced: “We have our 18 jurors.”

She has also dismissed the remaining potential jurors, thanking them for their service, patience, and time.

Sarah Ransome arrives at court ahead of Maxwell trial

17:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Other jurors may still be tapped for jury duty

17:25 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Nathan has returned to the bench as the jurors continue to try and resolve their situations — it is hoped that this can be done within the hour.

She raises the possibility of having seven alternates instead of six and then proceed with the opening statements.

Addressing the remaining potential jurors who are still waiting in two other courtrooms in the building, she tells them that they may still be called upon for jury duty.

A suggestion of an early lunch break is dismissed as lunch for the jurors will not arrive until 1pm.

Courtroom sketches show Maxwell at trial

17:07 , Oliver O'Connell

With no video feeds allowed in federal court cases, the only images we will see from inside the court proceedings are those of sketch artists.

Ghislaine Maxwell enters the courtroom escorted by US Marshalls at the start of her trial (AP)
Ghislaine Maxwell enters the courtroom escorted by US Marshalls at the start of her trial (AP)

Images have already emerged of Ms Maxwell entering the court and sitting with her defence team.

Ghislaine Maxwell sits at the defence table during final stages of jury selection (AP)
Ghislaine Maxwell sits at the defence table during final stages of jury selection (AP)

Everything you need to know about the trial

16:47 , Oliver O'Connell

While we wait on the court to resolve the problems of two of the jurors, here’s a refresher on everything you need to know about the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell.

Graeme Massie reports.

Ghislaine Maxwell trial 2021: When does it start and what is she accused of?

Discussions on jurors continue

16:13 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Nathan has told the juror with the vacation plans to keep pushing to see if there are options to move the trip as she is inclined for the court to sit that week.

She is still gathering information from the other juror regarding their employment situation.

Discussions are underway as to what to do if they have to replace either of the jurors.

Pause in proceedings

15:51 , Oliver O'Connell

There is a pause in proceedings as a juror speaks with the judge about financial hardship, claiming their employer may not pay them to be off work for a six-week trial.

Another juror says a spouse has surprised them with a four-day vacation over the holidays from 24-28 December.

Judge Nathan is contacting the first juror’s employer.

Isabel Maxwell arrives at court

15:35 , Oliver O'Connell

Ghislaine Maxwell’s sister Isabel is in court with her offering support. She was pictured arriving at the courthouse earlier on Monday morning.

Isabel Maxwell, the sister of Ghislaine Maxwell, arrives at the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse  in New York City on 29 November 2021 (Getty Images)
Isabel Maxwell, the sister of Ghislaine Maxwell, arrives at the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in New York City on 29 November 2021 (Getty Images)

Opening statements begin

15:21 , Oliver O'Connell

The prosecution team will present its opening statement first.

This is their opportunity to frame the case as they would like the jury to see it — though nothing they say is evidence.

Opening statements set the tone for the trial and often feature themes that are returned to during closing arguments once the evidence has been presented to the jury.

Prosecutors expect to keep their opening statement to approximately 25 minutes and Ms Maxwell’s lawyers hope to keep their’s under an hour, according to Law & Crime’s Adam Klasfeld.

Jury and alternates selected

15:11 , Oliver O'Connell

The jury and alternates have been picked.

They have been asked to come to the third-floor courtroom so that opening statements can begin.

Maxwell in court

15:08 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Maxwell is in court, with Bloomberg reporting that she is wearing a white turtleneck and dark slacks and is seated next to her lawyers, who she embraced on arrival as she usually does.

Her sister Isabel is seated behind the defence table in the spectator area.

Juror 87 excused

15:02 , Oliver O'Connell

Juror 87 has been excused after saying that he had conversations with work contacts who had expressed strong opinions about the case.

He said that he had been unable to cut them off.

'I never thought this day would come’

14:55 , Oliver O'Connell

Sarah Ransome — one of several women to have accused Ms Maxwell of abuse — was seen arriving at the courthouse on Monday morning.

She told reporters: “I never thought this day would come.”

Ms Ransome will not be testifying.

Jurors questioned ahead of final selection

14:49 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Nathan has asked the jurors if they have read, seen, heard, or researched anything about the case during the holiday recess and if there is any reason that they cannot be a fair and impartial juror.

One juror, number 87, who works for a private equity firm has expressed doubts about being fair and impartial and will be questioned in the main courtroom.

Jurors are currently being held in two separate courtrooms and have been addressed remotely.

Jury selection to take approximately one hour

14:33 , Oliver O'Connell

There is a total pool of 58 prospective jurors. They will be selected from a group of the first 40 interviewed.

Lawyers on both sides can challenge the inclusion of certain people.

There is currently a delay in proceedings as missing members of the jury pool are located.

Jury selection before opening arguments

14:22 , Oliver O'Connell

Before opening arguments begin this morning, 12 jurors and six alternates will be selected.

They will decide whether Ms Maxwell is guilty of the following crimes:

  • Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts

  • Enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts

  • Conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity,

  • Transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity

  • Sex trafficking conspiracy

  • Sex trafficking of a minor

She is also charged with two counts of perjury, but these will be tried separately from the above.

The Brooklyn detention centre

14:05 , Gino Spocchia

For Ghislaine Maxwell, the beginning of the trial marks a reprieve from the the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, and her 6ft by 9ft cell.

She had described her existence at the detention centre as a “living hell”, and claimed that she has been assaulted and abused by prison guards, and forced to sleep under “fluorescent lights”.

Neither has she had a “nutritious meal”, Ms Maxwell told the Daily Mail earlier this month.

Both the detention centre and Federal Bureau of Prisons have denied those claims, and she has meanwhile been refused bail on four attempts, ahead of her trial beginning on Monday.

Ghislaine Maxwell says jail is ‘living hell’

The shadow of Jeffrey Epstein

13:45 , Gino Spocchia

The shadow of Jeffrey Epstein will likely loom over the court in Manhattan as the trial of Ghislaine Trial gets underway. As will the cast of rotating figures formerly involved, and photographed, with the pair during the 90s.

It includes former US president Donald Trump, who has said he fell out with Mr Epstein, and Britain’s Prince Andrew, who has faced accusations himself of sexual abuse by a minor, Virginia Giuffre, which he denies.

Ms Giuffre’s claims will however be absent from Ms Maxwell’s trial, and she is not speak as a witness. Prosecutors will instead focus on four other women who say they were recruited by her as teenagers to be abused by Mr Epstein.

Who Is lead prosecutor Maurene Comey?

13:20 , Gino Spocchia

The daughter of former FBI director James Comey is the head of the Violent and Organised Crime Unit in New York, and has been with the office since 2014.

Having been due to try Jeffrey Epstrein before his death in 2019, she will lead the prosecution against his ex associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, during the upcoming trial in Manhattan.

She has tried major cases including the 2019 trial of 11 men for trafficking minors, gang members and drug traffickers, and her office is one of the most prestigious prosecutor’s offices in the US.

Notable prosecutions handled by the office include the 1993 World Trade Centre bombers, Richard Nixon’s Attorney General during Watergate, John Mitchell, and injury and loss of life claims from the sinking of the Titanic.

Reminder: Her father was famously fired by former US president Donald Trump as FBI director for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails after the 2016 election. The Republican has told reporters in the past that he had met Ms Maxwell “numerous times” but was “not a fan” of Mr Epstein before the pair fell out.

Who are the key courtroom figures in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial?

Outside the court in Manhattan

12:55 , Gino Spocchia

Outside the Manhattan court where the Ghislaine Maxwell trail will begin in a few hours, a crowd of media outlets and members of the public could be seen, as The Independent’s Bevan Hurley writes from Manhattan:

Media began gathering outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan before 5am. The presence of a US Marshall at the court suggested Ms Maxwell may already have been transported here from the Brooklyn Detention Center. By 7am, the line outside court of waiting media and interested members of the public had grown to about 40. A professional line sitter handed out cards offering his services as a place holder. The court is expected to open at 7.30am and proceedings will start are due to start at 9.30am.

Outside the federal court in Manhattan, New York (Bevan Hurley)
Outside the federal court in Manhattan, New York (Bevan Hurley)

A trial in the #MeToo era

12:25 , Gino Spocchia

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell follows the #MeToo movement and the ongoing #MeToo era that first led to charges for sex trafficking against her former associate and partner, Jeffrey Epstein.

The era has seen victims of sexual abuse speak out against powerful men like Mr Epstein, a wealthy financier, as well as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and more recently, R&B singer R Kelly.

As The Independent’s Clémence Michallon wrote earlier this year, the cases of Weinstein, Kelly and Ms Maxwell’s have shown that so-called “rich people justice” in the US is also coming to an end, with all three being refused bail in some form, while awaiting their fate.

What Ghislaine Maxwell’s case teaches us about rich people justice

What has Ghislaine Maxwell’s brother said?

12:05 , Gino Spocchia

Ms Maxwell’s brother Ian Maxwell has said his sister’s trial has been “over hyped” and “designed to break her”, in comments ahead of her trial on Monday.

He told the Associated Press that prosecutors were attempting to find fault with Ms Maxwell for the crimes of her former associate and partner, Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his prison cell two years ago following charges of sex trafficking.

Mr Maxwell said of his sister, “She will not be broken because she believes completely in her innocence and she is going to give the best account she can.” She has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including sex trafficking and conspiracy to transport minors for sexual activities.

Mr Maxwell has said previously that his sister was being held in “effective isolation” at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, where she is being held in a 6ft by 9ft cell with no natural light, a toilet and a concrete bed.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s brother says trial ‘designed to break her’

Who are the alleged victims?

11:41 , Ella Glover

There are four accusers testifying against Ms Maxwell.

They are named in the indictment as Minor Victim-1, Minor Victim-2, Minor Victim-3 and Minor Victim-4, and will be allowed to use a pseudonym for their first name during the trial.

But what are their stories, according to the indictment?

Minor Victim-1: New York City and Florida, approx. 1994-1997

Minor Victim-1 is said to have met Ghislaine Maxwell aged 14. Ms Maxwell subsequently interacted with the alleged victim on multiple occasions knowing they were under the age of 18.

The indictment says Ms Maxwell “groomed Minor Victim-1 to engage in sexual acts with Jeffrey Epstein through multiple means.”

Ms Maxwell allegedly undressed in front of Minor Victim-1 and was present when they undressed in front of Epstein. Ms Maxwell was allegedly later “present” for and “involved in” Epstein’s sexual abuse of Minor Victim-1, which included “group sexualised” massages and occurred both in New York and Florida.

Minor Victim-2: New Mexico, 1996

Ms Maxwell allegedly interacted with Minor Victim-2 on at least one occasion, knowing they were under 18.

The alleged victim travelled to New Mexico at Epstein’s invitation, where the alleged victim was then “groomed.”

Ms Maxwell allegedly performed an “unsolicited massage” on Minor Victim-2, who was topless, and “encouraged Minor Victim-2 to massage Epstein.”

Minor Victim-3: London, approx. 1994-1995

Ms Maxwell allegedly “befriended and groomed” Minor Victim-3 in London, UK, who was under the age of 18.

Ms Maxwell allegedly introduced Minor Victim-3 to Epstein, arranged meetings between the two and encouraged Minor Victim-3 to give Epstein massages during which he sexually assaulted the alleged victim.

The indictment says Ms Maxwell knew about the alleged abuse, including the occasions when the alleged victim was underage.

Minor Victim-4: Florida, approx. 2001-2004

Prosecutors claim the fourth alleged victim met Epstein in Florida, where she lived, aged 14.

Ms Maxwell is accused of grooming the alleged victim and normalising the abuse that occurred during sexualised massages of Epstein.

Ms Maxwell was allegedly among a number of Epstein employees who phoned the alleged victim to schedule sexualised massages, paid them hundreds of dollars in cash and encouraged them to recruit other young females.

She is also accused of inviting the alleged victim to travel with Epstein and offering to pay for their passport. Both offers were declined.

What are Ghislaine Maxwell’s charges?

10:22 , ella glover

Ghislaine Maxwell has pleaded not guilty on six sex trafficking charges over a 10 year period between 1994 and 2004.

Four accusers are listed in the indictment as Minor Victim-1, Minor Victim-2, Minor Victim-3 and Minor Victim-4.

These are the six charges against Ms Maxwell:

  • Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts

  • Enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts

  • Conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity,

  • Transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity

  • Sex trafficking conspiracy

  • Sex trafficking of a minor

She is also charged with two counts of perjury, but these will be tried separately to the above.

Why was Ghislaine Maxwell denied bail?

10:03 , Ella Glover

Judge Alison Nathan, the judge in charge of Ms Maxwell’s trial, has turned down four applications for bail in total.

Ms Maxwell was denied bail on the grounds that she is a flight risk.

Judge Nathan cited Ms Maxwell’s lack of honesty about her wealth, and that as a passport holder of three countries, the US, Britain and France, she could use her extraordinary wealth and connections to flee the court’s jurisdiction.

Who is the judge in charge Maxwell’s trial?

09:45 , Ella Glover

The judge in charge of Maxwell’s trial is the 49-year-old Judge Alison Nathan.

She is a former special assistant to Barack Obama and was appointed a judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2011.

She is also an adjunct professor of clinical law at New York University.

She was this month nominated for a prestigious federal appeals court process, but has said she will stay on to preside over Ms Maxwell’s trial.

Jury whittled down to 12 members and 6 alternates

09:20 , Ella Glover

Maxwell’s trial will go in front of a jury.

The final 12 jurors and six alternates were whittled down from a pool of 600 prospective jurors.

They were asked to fill out questionnaires detailing what they knew about Ms Maxwell and Epstein.

Of those, 231 were questioned by Judge Alison Nathan over whether they had been victims of abuse and what opinions they held about people of wealth who have “luxurious lifestyles”.

Maxwell expected to challenge accusers memory in defence

09:04 , Ella Glover

A letter published last month gave clues as to how Ms Maxwell’s legal team may defend her in court.

It is expected that her defence will say that her accusers have faulty memories.

The letter, written by her lawyer, Jeffrey Pagliuca says leading experts in psychiatry and memory would be brought in to testify in her defence.

One expert, Elizabeth Loftus, is a psychologist specialising in false memory. She has testified at more than 300 trials, including for high-profile defendants such as Ted Bundy and Harvey Weinstein, according to the BBC.

The letter says: “She will describe scientific research showing that false memories can be described with confidence, detail, and emotion, just like true memories.”

Read the letter here.

What is the truth about Jeffrey Epstein’s island?

07:05 , Stuti Mishra

Jeffrey Epstein’s private paradise of Little St James in the US Virgin Islands allegedly became the centre of his international sex trafficking ring.

The island property that Epstein called home was often used to host celebrities and famous personalities. But the island over the years gained a handful of sinister nicknames: “Orgy Island,” “Pedophile Island,” and “Island of Sin.”

It soon became the centre of a web of lawsuits and criminal investigations seeking to untangle the life of Epstein, who died in prison in 2019 at the age of 66 in what authorities said was a suicide.

But what is the truth about the 75-acre island? Io Dodds reports.

Where was Jeffrey Epstein’s island and what exactly was it?

How Ghislaine Maxwell got involved with Jeffrey Epstein?

06:45 , Stuti Mishra

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell said she met Jeffrey Epstein, then a wealthy financier, in 1991 through a mutual friend.\

The couple was routinely photographed with high profile public figures including Donald Trump, and Bill Clinton, as well as Prince Andrew.

However, when allegations of sexual exploitation against Epstein surfaced, Ms Maxwell’s involvement was also claimed.

According to prosecutors, she created a network of underage victims for Epstein to sexually exploit. A victim said that Ms Maxwell and Epstein “worked as a team” in “grooming” girls” to be sexually abused by the disgraced financier.

Here’s the full story of how the two met and ended up getting caught up in sexual exploitation charges.

How did Ghislaine Maxwell meet Jeffrey Epstein?

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

06:20 , Stuti Mishra

Ghislaine Maxwell is on trial from Monday for sex trafficking charges in cases connected to the disgraced billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Andrew.

She has been in prison awaiting the start of the trial for 15 months – since she was tracked down by the FBI and arrested in July 2020.

The daughter of deceased media mogul Robert Maxwell spent decades rubbing shoulders with British royals and US presidents. But now she could be sentenced to up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.

Here’s everything you need to know about the incarcerated British socialite.

Everything we know about Ghislaine Maxwell as trial begins

Everything you need to know about the Ghislaine Maxwell trial

05:56 , Stuti Mishra

As the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell is about to begin, questionnaires have already been sent out to potential jurors in the case and her fate will be decided in the next six weeks at Manhattan courtroom.

Federal prosecutors have charged Ms Maxwell with conspiracy and enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and the transportation of minors to engage in criminal sexual activity for allegedly grooming and recruiting underage girls from 1994 through 1997.

She is also being charged with sex trafficking of a minor from 2001 to 2004, in addition to one count of sex trafficking conspiracy. If convicted, Ms Maxwell, 59, can spend upto 35 years in jail.

Here’s everything you need to know about the trial and charges against the British socialite.

Ghislaine Maxwell trial 2021: When does it start and what is she accused of?

05:47 , Stuti Mishra

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s liveblog covering the start of the six-week trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.

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