Maxwell, Epstein were ‘partners in crime,’ prosecutor says

NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein were “partners in crime” who made the sexual abuse of teenage girls since at least 1994 seem normal and casual, a prosecutor told jurors Monday at the opening of Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz said Epstein and Maxwell, a British socialite, enticed girls as young as age 14 to engage in “so-called massages” by showering them with money and gifts before they were sexually abused.

What happened

The prosecutor sought to make clear to a jury of 12 that there was no confusion about whether Maxwell, Epstein's longtime companion, was his puppet or accomplice.

She described the 59-year-old woman as central to Epstein’s sex abuse scheme, which prosecutors say lasted more than a decade.

“She was in on it from the start. The defendant and Epstein lured their victims with a promise of a bright future, only to sexually exploit them,” Pomerantz said.

What prosecutors said

Maxwell “was involved in every detail of Epstein’s life,” the prosecutor said. “The defendant was the lady of the house.”

Even after Maxwell and Epstein stopped being romantically involved, the pair “remained the best of friends,” Pomerantz said.

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She said Maxwell “helped normalize abusive sexual conduct” by making the teenagers feel safe and by taking them on shopping trips and asking them about their lives, their schools and their families.

The prosecutor spoke from an enclosed plastic see-through box that allowed her to take off her mask. Maxwell, wearing a cream-colored sweater and black pants, was at times writing and passing notes to her lawyers.

A defense lawyer was to follow the prosecutor's opening.

About Ghislaine Maxwell

The wealthy, Oxford-educated Maxwell is the daughter of British newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after falling off his yacht — named the Lady Ghislaine — near the Canary Islands. Robert Maxwell, whose holdings at the time included the New York Daily News, was facing allegations that he had illegally looted his businesses’ pension funds.

The openings came in the afternoon, after hours in the morning were lost to questions about whether two prospective jurors could work throughout the six weeks the trial is projected to last.

During the morning, Maxwell gazed frequently at her sister, who was seated in the front row of a spectator section diminished in space by coronavirus restrictions.

One prospective juror was dismissed after he acknowledged he'd had to listen to someone he knew who was “passionate” about the case. Another juror's employment was in jeopardy until the judge contacted the employer to speed the process of approval for the juror's service.