Jeffrey Epstein could not have sexually abused girls without a “posh, smiling” Ghislaine Maxwell grooming them, a court heard on Monday night as the jury prepared to deliberate over her fate.
The US Government appealed to the 12-person jury to convict the “sophisticated… (and) dangerous predator” who caused “deep and lasting” harm to her alleged victims, as they delivered their closing statement.
Alison Moe, the Assistant US Attorney, argued that Ms Maxwell’s presence made young girls feel comfortable spending time with Epstein. Otherwise, receiving an invitation to spend time with a middle-aged man would have seemed “creepy” and “set off alarm bells”, Ms Moe said.
“Epstein could not have done this alone,” Ms Moe said. “When that man is accompanied by a posh, smiling, respectable, age-appropriate woman, that’s when everything starts to seem legitimate. And when that woman … acts like it’s totally normal for that man to touch those girls, it lures them into a trap.”
She claimed Ms Maxwell normalised physical touch and sexualised massages to the alleged victims she groomed for Epstein, some of whom were as young as 14.
“She was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” Ms Moe said, outlining eight reasons why Ms Maxwell is guilty.
The Maxwell family presented a united front on the first row of the public gallery on Monday, with Ian and Christine joining Kevin and Isabel, who have been in court supporting their youngest sibling since the trial’s opening three weeks ago.
Ms Maxwell, 59, who is facing an effective life sentence on six charges of sex-trafficking, scribbled notes on post-its and shuffled pieces of paper for the first half of the prosecution’s closing as she avoided looking over at the jury.
Ms Moe said it was “not an accident” that the alleged victims largely came from troubled backgrounds and single-parent families, and had similar accounts of their abuse.
Speaking of one of the four victims, a British woman using the name “Kate”, she said: “She was dazzled by this impressive woman who made her feel special. It was predatory behaviour – finding kids who needed something and exploiting that need.
“She ran the same playbook again and again and again.”
On Monday, Laura Menninger (pictured above) for Ms Maxwell, claimed she was being scapegoated for her former boyfriend’s crimes. “They wanted you to think she was Cruella de Vil and the Devil Wears Prada all wrapped into one,” Ms Menninger told the jury, referring to the film depiction of British Vogue editor Anna Wintour. “That is a manipulation of the truth as old as Hollywood itself.”
Ms Menninger, taking an aggressive tone, reminded the jury that it was Ms Maxwell on trial, not Epstein.
‘Money, manipulation and memories’
“The Government focused its case on Epstein. They proved to you he was a master manipulator. But that has nothing to do with Ms Maxwell,” she went on, saying the allegations were “straight-up sensationalism”.
She described Epstein as a puppet-master who dated women behind Ms Maxwell’s back. “She was a happy, educated, beautiful woman. Why would she risk it all for one man, just because, as they said, he was a means to support her lifestyle?” Ms Menninger asked. “Use your common sense.”
Ms Moe, however, suggested being “a right hand to a multi-millionaire” had “considerable benefits”, pointing to photographs the jury had been shown of Epstein’s private jets and helicopter and exotic foreign holidays.
The defence has relied on the three “Ms” – “money, manipulation and memories” – to prove Ms Maxwell’s innocence.
Ms Menninger questioned why the four women, several of whom had launched civil lawsuits against Epstein, had not implicated Ms Maxwell until after his death. “Why would you go decades without mentioning it?” she asked.
A brief two-day defence presentation included former Epstein employees who had fond memories of Ms Maxwell. It also included testimony from Elizabeth Loftus, a memory expert, who said memories are particularly vulnerable to corruption as time passes.
“These accusers have stories to tell of Epstein, only decades later did they insert Ms Maxwell,” she said. “Memories have been manipulated over time for money.”
‘We molested kids money’
Each of the four accusers won payouts from the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Fund set up by his estate after his death in prison in 2019.
However, Ms Moe pointed out that the women had received the money before the trial began and “they had no financial stake in its outcome”.
In a passionate rebuttal to the defence closing statement, Maurene Comey, the lead prosecutor, said it was “borderline laughable” that Ms Maxwell didn’t know about Epstein’s crimes. She added that the millions of dollars given to Ms Maxwell by Epstein was “we molested kids money”.
Ahead of closing arguments, federal prosecutors released photos and videos into evidence, including video of a raid of Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion in 2005.
There were several images of Ms Maxwell accuser Annie Farmer, who testified last week that she was abused on Epstein’s New Mexico ranch when she was 16.
Also submitted was a photo of two boxes of the “Twin Torpedo” sex toy that was recovered by the FBI at Epstein’s home.
The jury was sent out to deliberate on Monday and will be encouraged by Judge Alison Nathan to try to reach a verdict before court adjourns for Christmas on Wednesday evening.