Ghislaine Maxwell was present when Jeffrey Epstein abused me, accuser testifies

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  • Ghislaine Maxwell
    Ghislaine Maxwell
    Socialite
  • Jeffrey Epstein
    American financier
<span>Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

The first accuser in Ghislaine Maxwell’s child sex trafficking trial testified in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday that she was just 14 when the British socialite allegedly lured her into Jeffrey Epstein’s abusive orbit.

This accuser, who used the name “Jane” in court, alleged that Maxwell was sometimes present when this abuse occurred and participated on some occasions.

Related: Ghislaine Maxwell was ‘No 2’ in Jeffrey Epstein’s hierarchy, pilot says

Epstein, a New York financier and convicted sex offender who counted Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew among his acquaintances, killed himself at a New York City jail in August 2019, while he was awaiting his own sex-trafficking trial. Maxwell, 59 and the daughter of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell, was arrested in New Hampshire in July 2020.

Maxwell is on trial for six counts related to her alleged involvement in Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor teenagers. She has pleaded not guilty.

“Did there come a time in your life when you had sexual contact with Jeffrey Epstein?” the prosecutor Alison Moe asked when Jane took the stand. The witness answered in the affirmative.

Moe asked her age at the time. “Fourteen years old,” she said.

“Did that happen once or more than once when you were 14 years old?” the prosecution asked. “More than once,” she replied.

The witness was asked: “Was there ever anyone else in the room?”

“Yes,” Jane said.

Moe then asked: “Who was most frequently in the room when you had sexual contact with Jeffrey Epstein when you were 14 years old?”

“Ghislaine Maxwell,” Jane said.

Ghislaine Maxwell
Ghislaine Maxwell photo issued by the Department of Justice on Tuesday. Photograph: US Department of Justice/PA

Moe also elicited testimony from Jane in an effort to establish that Maxwell groomed Epstein’s victims, by gaining their trust and gradually ratcheting up inappropriate behavior, to normalize abuse.

Jane told the court she had met Maxwell in summer 1994, when she attended a renowned youth arts camp in Michigan, Interlochen Center for the Arts. “We were eating ice cream,” recalled Jane. “We were sitting around socializing, and we see this tall, thin woman approach us.”

“She was walking a cute little Yorkie and the Yorkie came by us, and we asked if we could pet the dog,” Jane said. “We started chitchatting and petting the dog. The rest of my classmates had to go to class.”

A man, who turned out to be Epstein, came and joined Maxwell. Jane said they expressed interest in her time at camp, telling Jane that they gave kids scholarships; Jane had recently lost her father to leukemia, and her family had fallen into bankruptcy.

After they learned Jane was from Palm Beach, they asked for her mom’s phone number, she said. She gave them her mom’s contact information. When Jane returned from Interlochen, they called and invited her and her mother to tea, she said.

During tea at Epstein’s house, he told Jane’s mother that he wanted to see Jane sing. In the months following this tea, Jane started spending time with Epstein every week or two; Maxwell was usually present, she said.

They took her shopping and to the movies, “casual stuff”, Jane said. There were some somewhat odd things.

“I remember, maybe the first time I went to the poolside, and I walked out there and there was at least four women and Ghislaine, all topless and some of them were naked,” Jane said. “I was just shocked because I hadn’t seen that before.”

Jane said the first time Epstein had abused her was at his Palm Beach home, when he was telling her that she needed to focus on her desired career field in the arts.

“He said: I know everybody, I know all the agents, I know all the photographers, I know the owner of Victoria’s Secret, so I can make things happen, but you’ve just got to be ready for it,” Jane recalled. “The conversation sort of ended abruptly. It was in his office. He just kind of took my hand and said: ‘Follow me.’”

“He took me in the pool house and, on the right hand side was this couch, futon-looking thing, and he just proceeded to pull me over. He sat in the corner and didn’t say a word,” Jane said. Epstein pulled his pants down. “He pulled me on top of himself, and proceeded to masturbate on me …”

“I was frozen in fear. I’d never seen a penis before.”

Sexual encounters continued over the next three years during almost every visit with Epstein, about every two weeks, Jane said. When Jane was 14, 15, and 16, there were times when Maxwell was in the room during Epstein’s abuse; sometimes, she touched the girl’s breasts, she said.

“There were hands everywhere,” Jane said of one encounter with Epstein and Maxwell. Jane described being in group sexual encounters with Epstein, Maxwell, and others.

Jane repeatedly turned toward the jury as she spoke, and used hand gestures while speaking. She grabbed a tissue at one juncture, and kept it in her left hand for the majority of the later part of her testimony. At times, when she talked about sexual details, she would breathe deeply.

Jane’s voice cracked at two points during her testimony. Jurors appeared to watch Jane’s testimony closely. Maxwell wrote several notes to her attorneys during Jane’s testimony, according to a pool report from inside the courtroom.

Jane was called to testify second, following testimony from Epstein’s longtime pilot, Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr. During Visoski’s testimony, he discussed Maxwell’s relationship with Epstein as he saw it, saying Maxwell was “No 2” in Epstein’s hierarchy, with Epstein “No 1”.

Later, Visoski said that this related to Maxwell’s handling of Epstein’s non-business affairs. She ran everything in Epstein’s life, such as managing his properties, that didn’t relate to his business.

Visoski was asked by lawyers for Maxwell if he had ever seen Epstein engage in sex acts. “No,” he said.

The trial continues.

  • In the US, call or text the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. In the UK, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adult survivors on 0808 801 0331. In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, and adult survivors can contact Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380. Other sources of help can be found at Child Helplines International

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