The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell on child-sex trafficking charges will enter its second week of testimony in federal court in Manhattan on Monday.
The final witness to testify last week was Michael Dawson, a Palm Beach police sergeant who participated in an October 2005 search of a South Florida estate owned by the financier Jeffrey Epstein, Maxwell’s former romantic partner. Dawson said authorities seized two massage tables and sex toys.
In 2019, Epstein’s Manhattan house was searched. Prosecutors say “schoolgirl costumes, small ones, were found in the same floor of the house as a massage room where an underage girl was sexually abused”, evidence they say is “highly probative” of Epstein’s predatory interest in minor teens.
Epstein, a convicted sex offender whose associates included Prince Andrew and former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, killed himself in a New York City jail in August 2019, while awaiting his own sex-trafficking trial.
Maxwell, 59 and the daughter of the late British publishing baron Robert Maxwell, was arrested in July 2020 in New Hampshire, for her alleged role in Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls as young as 14. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In the first week of testimony in her trial, jurors heard a powerful account from an accuser referred to in court as “Jane”. She alleged Maxwell was sometimes present when Epstein abused her – and that Maxwell sometimes participated.
“Who was most frequently in the room when you had sexual contact with Jeffrey Epstein when you were 14 years old?” prosecutor Alison Moe asked.
“Ghislaine Maxwell,” Jane said.
“There were hands everywhere,” she recalled of one alleged incident with Epstein and Maxwell. She also said she experienced group sexual encounters with Epstein, Maxwell, and others. The abuse continued into her 15th and 16th years, she said.
“It would be them leading me to a massage table and showing me how Jeffrey likes to be massaged,” Jane said of some alleged incidents. She also alleged Maxwell gave instructions on how to touch Epstein in a sexual manner and said Epstein sometimes abused her with sex toys.
Juan Alessi, house manager at Epstein’s South Florida home from 1990 to 2002, seemed to corroborate some elements of Jane’s account. He said he had seen two females who appeared to be minors. One was “Jane”, he said.
Alessi said he did not witness sexual abuse of any sort but was tasked with cleaning up after Epstein’s massages. He described finding sex toys.
The trial took a shocking turn on Friday when prosecutors brought one of Epstein’s massage tables into court. The table was taken into evidence during the 2005 raid. The witness on the stand, former Palm Beach police officer Gregory Parkinson, examined it in front of jurors. He confirmed it was the table seized 16 years ago.
Parkinson walked jurors through a video taken during the search. Prosecutors’ statements indicated that the video showed a “sexually suggestive photograph of a very young girl” displayed outside Epstein’s bedroom.
- The Guardian