Ghislaine Maxwell’s defense in disarray as plans for witnesses fall apart
Ghislaine Maxwell‘s second day of defense got off to a rocky start Friday when it emerged that one witness refused to respond to a subpoena, another said they would take the fifth and a third was not being called.
In addition, Maxwell tried to have an 81-year-old pub owner from England try to fly over to bolster her case at the 11th hour.
At Maxwell’s trial in New York, Judge Alison Nathan appeared exasperated that these issues were being raised at the last minute.
The previous night Maxwell’s lawyers had said they planned to call three women named Eva, Kelly and Michelle – but their plans fell apart before the jury were even brought in.
Ghislaine Maxwell’s second day of defense got off to a rocky start Friday
Maxwell’s defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim and Laura Menninger are seen arriving to court Friday morning. Maxwell’s lawyer Laura Menninger said that Maxwell’s ‘life is on the line’ and they were only being given one and a half days to mount their defense
Maxwell’s defense attorneys Jeffrey Pagliuca (left) and Christian Everdell (right) are seen arriving to court Friday. One witness refused to respond to a subpoena, another said they would take the fifth and a third was not being called
Maxwell’s lawyer Laura Menninger told the court that the witness named Kelly had ‘refused’ to respond to their subpoena which they had issued two-and-a-half weeks ago.
She asked that the US Marshals force Kelly to attend the court, as is standard practice with witnesses who do not reply to a subpoena.
Judge Nathan asked: ‘Why am I hearing about it for the first time now?’
Menninger pleaded: ‘There’s been a lot going on. To be honest your honor, it’s a lot of work’.
Judge Nathan told her: ‘A non responsive witness is not a little thing’.
Menninger replied that Maxwell’s ‘life is on the line’ and they were only being given one and a half days to mount their defense.
Judge Nathan said that the defense could make an application for the US Marshals to get involved but said that she was not inclined to delay the trial.
Christian Everdell, another of Maxwell’s lawyers, said that they planned to call the owner of the Nag’s Head pub in London, which was across the road from a house that Maxwell owned.
Everdell said that the man knew the previous owners of Maxwell’s home and Maxwell and could verify that she didn’t live there until 1997 when she bought the place.
Maxwell claims that the accuser known as Kate’s testimony that she was lured by Maxwell to her house before that time was wrong because she wasn’t living there then.
Everdell said that it was a ‘critical issue’ but the pub owner could not be there until Monday at the earliest.
Kevin and Isabel Maxwell arrive for their sister’s trial in Manhattan Federal court on Friday
Epstein appears with his arm around Ghislaine as he takes a phone call in this evidence photo
Prosecutor Maurene Comey said that the defense had had an ‘extraordinary amount of time’ to prepare for their case and that it was not appropriate to introduce a new witness at this stage.
Judge Nathan was again unimpressed and said that she did not want to delay the trial.
She said that ‘if this case closes today’, meaning Friday, then ‘it closes today’.
Another problematic witness was one who was going to take the fifth, meaning she would refuse to comment if she appeared in court.
Everdell told the court that the person’s lawyer had indicated that to them in a letter.
Judge Nathan suggested to both side to agree to a stipulation to save the person turning up in court
A British man named Alexander Hamilton had been due to give evidence for Maxwell via video link to claim that the accuser Kate told him that the Epstein case ‘fell into my lap’.
Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said he would not be giving evidence any more and blamed technical issues.
The pedophile Epstein was seeing Celina Midelfart in the mid 1990s around the same time he was dating other women, it was claimed
Midelfart later dated former President Donald Trump and is allegedly the woman he dumped to be with his eventual third wife, Melania
The defense kicked off on Thursday with its first witness, Cimberly Espinosa, 55, who worked at Epstein’s Madison Avenue office between 1996 and 2002, first as a legal assistant and then a month into her employment Maxwell asked her to be her executive assistant, a job she held until she left.
Espinosa, wearing a black jacket, top and trousers, described a parade of women visiting Epstein in his office, one of them being Celina Midelfart, a Norwegian heiress who also once dated Donald Trump
Espinosa said that she remembered ordering some flowers for Midelfart on Epstein’s behalf during the early years of her employment in the 1990s.
That was the time that Epstein was dating Maxwell as well, the court heard.
Maxwell’s defense lawyer Christian Everdell asked: ‘Did you get the impression there was a romantic relationship?’ referring to Epstein and Midelfart.
Espinosa said: ‘I felt like Jeffrey liked her…I felt they were a couple, they were together. A couple’.
Everdell asked: ‘Did this happen during or after the time when it appeared to you that Ghislaine was in a romantic relationship with Epstein?’
Espinosa said: ‘It was at the very beginning of my employment…they could have been concurrent for a little bit of time’.
Everdell asked if Maxwell knew that Espinosa was buying flowers for Midelfart.
Despite being Maxwell’s executive assistant at the time, Espinosa said: ‘No, she did not.’
Taking the witness stand Thursday morning was Cimberly Espinosa, 55, who worked at Epstein’s Madison Avenue office between 1996 and 2002, first as a legal assistant and then a month into her employment Maxwell asked her to be her executive assistant, a job she held until she left
Asked how old the women visiting Epstein were, she said: ’18 and over. Young women.’
‘We were together just about every day,’ she told the court.
Among the women Espinosa saw was Shelley Lewis, who Espinosa said was ‘English’ – Lewis is said to have dated Epstein from 1999 to 2002. Another woman Espinosa recalled was Gwendolyn Beck.
Espinosa said Maxwell, 59, was a demanding boss but that she learned a lot from her. ‘I highly respected Ghislaine,’ Espinosa said. ‘I looked up to her very much.’
Earlier Espinosa described how she thought that Epstein and Maxwell were ‘together’ when she first met them.
Asked why she said it as the ‘way they interacted together, they were a little flirty…they behaved like a couple’.
Espinosa said that she recalled that Maxwell dated computer millionaire Ted Waitt some time in the 2000s and was still with him when she applied for a job with Waitt some time before 2010 – she didn’t get it.
Everdell asked Espinosa about Jane, the accuser who claims that Maxwell and Epstein recruited her at 14 and that he repeatedly raped and abused her.
Espinosa said that the first time she met Jane she thought she was ‘probably 18’ and that she visited Epstien’s office around five times, usually with her mother.
Espinosa said that Jane’s mother told her that she was Epstein’s goddaughter which meant she was ‘treated with utmost respect’ and that the women who worked in the office ‘considered her (Jane) family of Jeffrey’s’.
The six charges against Maxwell:
Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts (5 years max sentence)
Enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts (20 years)
Conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity (20 years)
Transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity (10 years minimum, life maximum)
Sex Trafficking Conspiracy
Sex Trafficking of a Minor
Ghislaine Maxwell also faces two charges of perjury but those counts are due to be tried after her sex crimes trial.
The charges relate to testimony she gave in 2016 in a defamation case filed against her by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre.
Prosecutors say Maxwell groomed three girls between 1994 and 1997 for Epstein.
They are not named in the indictment, but she allegedly targeted them in London, Florida, New York and New Mexico.
Maxwell, it is alleged, would befriend the girls by asking them about their life and their schooling. She would put them at ease by taking them to the movies and taking them shopping, winning their trust to later deliver them to Epstein, it’s alleged.
To ‘normalize’ the abuse that would come later, prosecutors say she undressed in front of the girls herself and asked them sexual questions.
She then not only facilitated Epstein abusing them, prosecutors say, but took part in some of it herself.
The alleged sex abuse includes ‘sexualized group massages’.
The indictment also says Maxwell made the girl feel ‘indebted’ to Epstein by encouraging them to take money from him and let him pay for their education and travel.