A woman testified on Tuesday that British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was often in the room when the witness, then just 14, had sexual interactions with the financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell “was very casual,” she told a New York City jury. “Like it was no big deal.”
She claimed the defendant instructed her on how to give Epstein sexual massages and sometimes physically participated in the encounters as well.
The witness, using the pseudonym “Jane,” was the first of four alleged victims expected to testify against Maxwell at a New York City trial where she is charged with recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to at least 2004.
The witness first met Epstein in 1994 when she was attending a music camp in pursuit of a singing career, she said. He came up to her and introduced himself as a donor. They discovered that they both lived in Palm Beach, Florida, she said.
The woman and her mother soon received invitations to Epstein’s home, she said. He and Maxwell would take her shopping for clothes, including underwear from Victoria’s Secret, she said.
The cycle of abuse started when Epstein abruptly took her by hand one day and said, “Follow me,” before taking her to a pool house at the home. Then he pulled down his pants, pulled her close and “proceeded to masturbate,” she said.
“I was frozen in fear,” she said. “I’d never see a penis before. ... I was terrified and felt gross and felt ashamed.”
Another time, she was taken to a massage room where he and Maxwell both took advantage of her, she said.
“There were hands everywhere and Jeffrey proceeded to masturbate again,” she said.
Other encounters involved sex toys or turned into oral sex “orgies” with other young women and Maxwell, she added.
On cross-examination, defence lawyer Laura Menninger sought to grill the witness on why she waited 20 years to report the alleged abuse by Maxwell. Menninger also asked if it was true she had previously spoken to her siblings and others close to her about Epstein’s behaviour but left Maxwell out of the earlier accounts.
“You never mentioned Ghislaine Maxwell?” the lawyer asked.
“I don’t know,” the witness responded, adding she only remembered being uncomfortable with going into all the details.
"Ghislaine looked at her, you know, from the very start and just kind of look toward her, no real expressions. She did seem to breathe a little heavier when the testimony began, but otherwise kept her face kind of trained toward the witness stand," said Associated Press reporter Larry Neumeister.
The cross-examination was expected to continue on Wednesday.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty. One of her lawyers said in an opening statement Monday that she’s being made a scapegoat for Epstein, who killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell at age 66 in 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.