The prosecution rests its case in Ghislaine Maxwell's sex-trafficking trial
The prosecution rested its case today in the trial against Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of assisting the financier Jeffrey Epstein in sexually exploiting minors.
When opening aruments began two weeks ago, the trial was predicted to last as long as 6 weeks. That timeline could now move up.
Here's the latest:
A fourth and final accuser takes the stand
The prosecution ended its case after the fourth accuser in the trial, Annie Farmer, took the stand. Farmer, who is the first accuser to use her real name rather than a pseudonym in court, said that in the 1990s, her sister, Maria, was an employee for Epstein in New York City. Maria was an aspiring artist who'd met Epstein at a show. He took an interest in helping her career, and eventually hired her to purchase art for him.
Annie Farmer told the jury that she met Epstein in 1995, and that he also took an interest in advancing her education. He offered to buy her a plane ticket to visit New York from Arizona.
It's a narrative the jury has heard repeatedly in this trial: all of the women who have taken the stand against Maxwell say she and Epstein initially expressed an interest in helping advance their education and careers, before redirecting their relationship toward sex.
Farmer says she and her sister reported Epstein's sexual abuse to the New York police and the FBI in 1996. Both sisters say there was no follow-up at the time.
Central in this case has been the concept of 'grooming': psychologically preparing someone for sexual abuse.
All four women who have testified so far say Maxwell facilitated Epstein's abuse, by creating trust (at least one woman described Maxwell as an older sister figure); creating a relaxed, jovial environment that became increasingly sexual; arranging visits; and even participating in the sexual abuse herself.
Several women also described being in life situations that made them especially vulnerable. One witness spoke of having recently lost a father; another had just moved and said she had few friends.
The infamous 'little black book'
One of the major points of curiosity in this case has been an address book filled with Jeffrey Epstein's contacts. Witnesses say this is where Epstein stored the names of the girls who gave him massages. Given the powerful and famous men in Epstein's social circle, this "little black book", as it's been referred to, has garnered intense interest from followers of the case.
Last week, witness Juan Alessi, Epstein's former house manager, said there were several such books around the house, with hundreds of names in each one. He said he frequently saw Maxwell using them to schedule massages for Epstein or to arrange visits from girls.
The defense has argued that there's no proof that all of those instances involved the same book.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan ruled that the book of contacts can be introduced in the trial. That doesn't mean the evidence will become public: in negotiations, the prosecution and defense have agreed that only excerpts of the book will be introduced.
The defense is expected to begin its case next week — the court says the trial will resume on Thursday. It remains an open question as to whether Maxwell will take the stand.
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