Maxwell portrayed as both a predator and a scapegoat in opening arguments at trial

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GhislaineMaxwell’s criminal trial began on Monday, a prosecutor claiming the British socialite lured underage girls to be sexually abused by late financier Jeffrey Epstein, while a defense attorney urged jurors not to make Maxwell a scapegoat.

“She attacked vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them to be sexually assaulted,” Deputy District Attorney Lara Pomerantz said in her opening statement.

Maxwell, 59, is on trial for recruiting and preparing four underage girls to abuse Epstein between 1994 and 2004. Epstein died in prison in 2019 pending trial on charges of sexual abuse.

She has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two counts of perjury which will be tried at a later date.

Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.

“The charges against GhislaineMaxwell are for things Jeffrey Epstein did, but she’s not Jeffrey Epstein,” Maxwell’s attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, said in federal court in Manhattan.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has encouraged victims of sexual abuse to speak out against powerful men such as film producer Harvey Weinstein and R&B singer R. Kelly accused of misconduct. Maxwell’s case stands out in part because she is a woman.

Prosecutors say Maxwell, a former employee and romantic partner of Epstein, sent gifts such as lingerie and discussed sexual matters with the girls to gain their trust before encouraging them to give Epstein erotic massages. She was sometimes present and sometimes participated, it is said.

Pomerantz began by describing how Maxwelland Epstein met a 14-year-old girl named Jane – a pseudonym – at an arts summer camp in 1994. Epstein introduced himself as a donor interested in giving scholarships to young people. talented and asked for Jane’s phone number, Pomerantz said.

“In that first year, when Jane was only 14, Epstein started sexually assaulting Jane. He didn’t assault her alone,” she said. “Jane was not their only victim. There were other young girls.”

Maxwellsat in the courtroom well, a white mask covering his face amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She was wearing a cream colored sweater and black pants.

The first government witness, Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr, an Epstein pilot, said Maxwell sometimes informed him of Epstein’s upcoming travel plans. Visoski described Maxwell as “one of Mr. Epstein’s office assistants”.

Four accusers are expected to testify against Maxwell in the trial, which is expected to last at least until early January. Prosecutors said other witnesses would include family members of the accusers and former Epstein employees.

Sternheim said prosecutors, unable to convict Epstein, were using the daughter of late British media mogul RobertMaxwell as a scapegoat. She said the government was asking jurors to attribute “sinister” motive to legal activities such as taking teenagers shopping.

She told jurors that the memories of Maxwell’s accusers had been “manipulated” by lawyers who encouraged them to sue Maxwell and Epstein for damages.

A compensation fund set up after Epstein’s death paid off the accusers’ claims of the financier’s estate. Sternheim said Maxwell’s accusers have received payments and their claims have been “bolstered” by cooperating with the government.

“This case is about memory, manipulation and money,” Sternheim said. “Memories fade over time, and in this case, you will learn that not only have memories faded, but they have been contaminated with outside information.”

After the testimony was over for the day, Maxwell hugged his defense attorneys.

(REUTERS)

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