The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged accomplice of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, began Monday.
Maxwell was first indicted in July 2020 on charges related to the sex trafficking of minors, including enticement and conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, along with several other charges involving grooming and luring minors into sex acts. The indictment alleged that Maxwell helped Epstein run an underage sex trafficking ring, with victims as young as 14 years old.
Prosecutors also alleged Maxwell engaged in “group sexual encounters” with Epstein and a minor, and they alleged that Maxwell encouraged underage girls to provide massages to Epstein before engaging in sex acts. (RELATED: Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Virginia Giuffre Reacts To Arrest Of Ghislaine Maxwell)
Epstein, who died in August 2019 in an apparent suicide, was arrested and charged with one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in July 2019. Maxwell was a longtime associate and former girlfriend of Epstein, and she was named in his indictment for allegedly hiring then-15-year-old Virginia Roberts Giuffre to perform sexual acts on Epstein.
Maxwell’s trial could result in a sentence of up to 70 years in prison for the alleged Epstein accomplice if she is found guilty on all counts. The trial is taking place in the courthouse for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, New York City.
Several people who were minors at the time they were allegedly abused by Maxwell and Epstein are set to testify in the trial, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The defense plans to call a University of California at Irvine psychology professor, Elizabeth Loftus, as an expert witness to argue that the victims may have been manipulated into having “false memories,” Reuters reported. Prosecutors reportedly intend to call psychologist Lisa Rocchio to speak about the effects of sexual trauma on the victims.
“Juries are often sympathetic to women defendants generally, and if they can paint her as a type of victim of Epstein as well, that might work in their favor in this regard,” Columbia Law School lecturer Jennifer Rogers told The New York Post. “The very fact that she was a woman likely made the victims trust her more, possibly leading to more and more serious abuse than would otherwise have occurred, so this sort of betrayal of her sex might offend at least some of the jurors.”
The case will be presided over by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2011.
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