Ghislaine Maxwell trial: final accuser gives evidence as prosecutors wrap up

Prosecutors on Friday began finishing their case against Ghislaine Maxwell after two weeks of courtroom drama

Ghislaine Maxwell sits with her defence lawyers during her trial in New York City. Reuters
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Jurors in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial heard from the fourth and final accuser on Friday at the end of the prosecution’s case against the former girlfriend of late billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Annie Farmer gave evidence that Ms Maxwell, a British socialite, told her to undress and gave her a massage at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch when she was 16.

The prosecution was winding up its case against Ms Maxwell, 59, who has denied the eight charges over her alleged role in recruiting and grooming four teenagers for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.

Ms Farmer said Ms Maxwell touched her inappropriately during the massage, that the door had been left open and she thought Epstein was nearby.

“I just had this sense that he could see me,” Ms Farmer told the federal court in the Southern District of New York. “I just wanted so badly to get off the table and have this massage be done.”

Ms Farmer said she felt uncomfortable visiting Epstein’s ranch in 1996 because he had held her hand and caressed her at an earlier rendezvous in New York.

At the ranch, Epstein entered her room and told her he wanted to “cuddle”, climbed into her bed and “pressed his body into me”, she said, leaving her feeling “frozen”.

She had hoped Epstein would help pay for her college education, she said.

Epstein killed himself in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges. Ms Maxwell’s lawyers say she is being scapegoated in Epstein’s absence.

Scores of reporters and lawyers arrive at the courthouse in lower Manhattan each morning for the day's proceedings. They are sometimes greeted by protesters and attention-seeking conspiracy theorists.

In the first two weeks of the trial, jurors have heard emotional evidence from women who said they were teenagers when Ms Maxwell groomed them for abuse by Epstein.

“Carolyn”, now in her mid-30s, told the court that Ms Maxwell had fondled her in 2002 and said she had “a good body for Mr Epstein and his friends”.

She had told Ms Maxwell she was 14 and had been molested by her grandfather as a toddler, she told the court.

“Money will not ever fix what that woman has done to me,” she said, sobbing.

“Kate”, 44, recalled being 17 when she met Ms Maxwell and was impressed by her charisma.

Ms Maxwell encouraged her to give Epstein massages, which “Kate” said escalated into sexual activity.

Prosecutors also showed jurors intimate photos of Ms Maxwell and Epstein from the 1990s. Two of them showed Ms Maxwell rubbing Epstein’s bare foot while it was pressed against her chest.

Jurors also heard from a pilot of Epstein's private jet that shuttled teenagers to his private island, his desert ranch and his New York town house.

Famous passengers included Britain’s Prince Andrew, former US presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and actor Kevin Spacey.

Prosecutor Lara Pomerantz said Ms Maxwell focused on manipulating young girls and served “them up for sexual abuse” to Epstein.

They were “dangerous predators” and “partners in crime”, she added.

Witness Annie Farmer is questioned by defence lawyer Laura Menninger during the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell. Reuters

Ms Maxwell, daughter of the late British media baron Robert Maxwell, faces an effective life sentence if convicted.

She has been behind bars since July 2020, but has appeared calm and collected in court, chatting with her lawyers during evidence and passing them occasional notes.

It remains unclear whether Ms Maxwell or any other defence witnesses will take the stand.

In her opening statement on November 29, defence lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said Ms Maxwell was being blamed for other people's conduct.

“Ever since Eve was tempting Adam with the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behaviour of men,” she said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: December 10, 2021, 9:57 PM
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