Opening statements began Monday in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who is charged with recruiting women and girls for her longtime associate and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Prosecutors portrayed Maxwell as a sexual predator who enticed teenage girls, first by befriending them, then serving them up to Epstein to be sexually abused. Labeling Maxwell as Epstein's "partner in crime" in her opening statement, the prosecutor said in at least one instance both Maxwell and Epstein were more than double the age of their victim.
The government alleges Maxwell, 59, "assisted, facilitated and contributed to" crimes by Epstein by helping him recruit, groom and abuse girls as young as 14.
The prosecutor alleged Maxwell traded on the trust she earned from the girls, even being in the room when Epstein abused them.
Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim questioned the memories of Maxwell's accusers, portraying Maxwell as a government scapegoat for the real criminal — Epstein — and telling the jury that Maxwell is "a convenient stand-in for the man who cannot be here."
Epstein died in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial. His death has been officially ruled a suicide.
Maxwell has been in custody since June 2020, not far from the federal prison in Manhattan where Epstein was found hanging in his cell.
Maxwell is facing a maximum of 80 years in prison if convicted. Her trial is expected to last at least a month, though it's unclear if Maxwell will take the stand herself.