By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Opening statements in the Ghislaine Maxwell sex abuse case are expected to begin on Monday, as prosecutors try to convince a jury that the British social media site recruited and groomed girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein to abuse.
US prosecutors say that between 1994 and 2004, Maxwell – a former employee and romantic partner of Epstein – earned the girls’ trust by taking them to the movies, sending them messages gifts such as underwear and discussing sexual topics, according to a 2021 indictment filed by the United States Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.
The trial follows the #MeToo movement, which has encouraged victims of sexual abuse to speak out against powerful men like film producer Harvey Weinstein and R&B singer R. Kelly. Maxwell’s case stands out because she is a woman.
Jury selection is expected to close Monday morning before opening statements begin in Manhattan federal court.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other charges, including two counts of perjury to be heard at a later date. She faces up to 80 years in prison if found guilty on all counts.
Her lawyers have said that prosecutors, unable to convict Epstein, are using Maxwell as a scapegoat https://www.reuters.com/world/maxwell-challenge-accusers-seek-distance- epstein-sex-abuse-trial-2021- November 23
Epstein died by suicide in 2019 in his Manhattan cell while awaiting trial on charges of sexual abuse. Prosecutors have charged him with paying underage girls, some as young as 14, to give him erotic massages https://www.reuters.com/legal/go Government/epsteins -shadow-looms-over-jury-selection-maxwell-sex-crime-trial-2021-11-04.
“With no fish left to try to fry, the government belatedly turned its back on Ms. Maxwell,” her lawyers wrote in a Feb. 4 application.
Prosecutors say Maxwell encouraged the girls to give Epstein a massage while the girls were fully or partially nude. In some cases, Epstein or Maxwell would pay them cash or offer to pay for their travel or education, and Epstein sometimes masturbated or touched the girls’ genitals in the process. massage, prosecutors said.
“The victims felt indebted and believed that Maxwell and Epstein were trying to help them,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. In some cases, Maxwell “was present and engaged in the sexual abuse of juvenile victims,” they said.
Maxwell was arrested in July 2020. Since then, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan has denied four bail requests, concluding that Maxwell was a person at risk of flying. Those denials were upheld on appeal and she spent 17 months in isolation at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, where she voiced concerns about unsanitary conditions https http://www.reuters.com/world/us/ghislaine -maxwell-sex-crime-trial-highlights-condition-brooklyn-jam-2021-11-18.
‘DO NOT SAY THE TRUTH’
Maxwell’s attorneys indicated that they would question the credibility of the four alleged victims by asking why they waited to proceed and arguing that they had a financial incentive to lie or exaggeration.
“Any accuser who testifies that Ms. Maxwell engaged in sexual abuse or sex trafficking is not telling the truth,” Maxwell’s attorneys wrote in court papers.
One woman was motivated by a “lust for cash,” they said in a separate profile.
A witness of renowned psychologist and defense expert Elizabeth Loftus, who testified as a defense in the rape trial of movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the murder trial of estate heiress Robert Durst – is expected to testify about how people can be manipulated to have “wrong memories.”
Some legal experts consider this strategy very risky https://www.reuters.com/world/maxwell-challenge-accusers-seek-distance-epstein-sex-abuse-trial-2021-11-23 in post #MeToo era, and prosecutors will not press charges against Maxwell unless they believe the accusers’ testimony will withstand scrutiny.
“Victim shaming… doesn’t work particularly well in 2021, and it often leaves you in pain,” said Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, a New York-based defense attorney specializing in sex crime cases.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Alistair Bell)
https://whbl.com/2021/11/29/opening-statements-in-ghislaine-maxwell-sex-abuse-case-set-to-begin/ The opening of the Ghislaine Maxwell sexual abuse case is about to begin