The long-awaited and highly anticipated trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend and alleged accomplice, officially began in New York City on Monday at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse–a trial that is expected to last six weeks.
"I never thought this day would come," alleged victim Sarah Ransome told reporters outside the courthouse while awaiting to enter the building.
Ghislaine Maxwell, 59-years-old, has been charged with four counts of enticing minors and two counts of sex trafficking in connection with Epstein's alleged international sex trafficking ring. The youngest victim was 14-years-old at the time of the alleged abuse and is set to testify against Maxwell in the coming weeks.
The charges involve four minors that were allegedly sex trafficked by the pair in multiple locations across the globe. Those locations include Epstein's properties in West Palm Beach, Manhattan, New Mexico, and Little St. John (Esptein's Island).
Judge Alison Nathan, the presiding judge over the case that was recently nominated by President Biden and Chuck Schumer for US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, sworn in the jury early Monday and opening statements were allowed to begin.
In opening statements, prosecution alleged that Ghislaine Maxwell was Epstein's accomplice that helped recruit and abuse victims for his international sex trafficking ring, while the defense attempted to portray Maxwell as a victim. Maxwell denies all allegations made against her.
Assistant US Attorney Lara Pomerantz discussed the elitist social lifestyle of Epstein and Maxwell and detailed Maxwell's vital role in helping the convicted child sex offender recruit victims. Epstein and Maxwell preyed on young girls that came from broken homes or were financially disadvantaged. The victims were offered money to "massage" Epstein, but were allegedly sexually assaulted during that time.
The prosecutions opening statement reads:
"There were times she was in the room when it happened. That is why we are here today. Between 1994 and 2004 the defendant sexually exploited young girls. She preyed on them and served them up to be sexually abused. She was trafficking kids for sex. He owned a ranch in New Mexico, an apartment in Paris, a mansion in Manhattan, Palm Beach, a private island. Epstein has private planes and pilots. The defendant got to enjoy that luxury right along with Epstein."
"The defendant was the lady of the house. She imposed rules. Employees were to hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing. There was a culture of silence. That was by design. The defendant's design. To get the girls to touch Epstein, they used the cover of massage. The defendant massaged Epstein then told the girls to do it. Epstein brought girls into his massage room every single day. It was sexual abuse. Before I describe those so-called massages, let me say: these are the facts. Epstein touched the teenage girls with equipment. He sometimes penetrated... The defendant helped Epstein find those girls, for so-called massages. They lured their victims with a promise of a brighter future then destroyed their lives. The defendant was jet-setting in private planes."
"So, what happened to Jane? You will hear from her. Someone from Epstein's office invited her to Epstein's house. He told her mother he was offering a scholarship. Jane was 14 - a kid. Epstein was in his early 40s, the defendant in her early 30s. Jane traveled to New York to Epstein's mansion, where he abused her. She was not the only one. You will learn about multiple girls during the course of this trial. You will learn about a 16-year-old girl who traveled to the ranch in New Mexico. The defendant told the girl she was going to give her a massage. But she touched her elsewhere. The girl was 16 years old. There's a 17-year-old, spotted in a parking lot. The driver pulled over." [Maxwell seen putting on her glasses and jots down notes].
"They moved beyond scholarships and moved on to a pyramid scheme of abuse. They encouraged girls to bring other girls, for extra cash. The defendant knew exactly what she was doing. That's what we expect the evidence will show. You'll hear about a fund that paid millions to the victims of Jeffrey Epstein. But you will learn that these victims would have paid anything to have this not have happened to them. You will hear from relatives. You will hear from staff members. You'll see massage tables. A school girl's outfit. You'll see other records - flight logs showing the names of some of Epstein's victims."
"At the end we will speak again. Until then, pay attention, follow Judge Nathan's instructions, and use your common sense. You will reach the only verdict possible: that Ghislaine Maxwell is guilty."
Days before the trial started, Ghislaine Maxwell's brother Ian Maxwell told the Associated Press that his sister's prosecution is "the most over-hyped trial of the century," and that they are trying to blame Ghislaine for Epstein's crimes. Epstein allegedly committed suicide, itself a cause of controversy, in a New York City jail cell in August 2019.
In the defense's opening statement, Maxwell's attorney Bobbi Sternheim suggested that Ghislaine was one of Epstein's victims.
"Yes, Jeffrey Epstein manipulated the world around him and the people around him, including Ghislaine," Ms Sternheim told jurors, adding: "Ghislaine Maxwell is on trial as a scapegoat for Epstein."
"Epstein will be mentioned throughout the trial. He is the elephant in the room. He is consuming this entire courtroom and the overflow courtrooms. You are not here to judge Epstein. You are here to determine if Ghislaine Maxwell committed these crimes. Epstein had many positive traits. Attractiveness. He radiated what's called a halo effect. Ghislaine became his employee, to administer his real estate, like small boutique hotels. Like many New Yorkers, he wintered in Palm Beach."
Moments before the trial began, victim Jennifer Aaroz told CBS News in an interview that Epstein's sex trafficking ring is a "big enterprise" and hopes that all involved are held accountable.
"It was a huge web, a big enterprise, and I want everybody who was involved to face their day in court and have justice," Epstein victim Jennifer Araoz said in a statement to CBS News.
"It's not going to justify anything, but it does make me feel good for the other victims, that they're going to have their day in court to speak their mind and, hopefully, get closure," Aaroz continued.
The first witness brought forth to trial was Epstein's former employee and pilot, Larry Viskovski, who described the pair's relationship resembling that to a "couple." Viskovski confirmed that he flew Epstein's private planes out of multiple airports, which include Teterboro, JFK and Newark.
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