The defense in the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial began its case Thursday with a former office worker for Jeffrey Epstein testifying she did not witness any sexual misconduct by the disgraced ex-financier or the British socialite during the six years she worked for them.
Cimberly Espinosa, 55, also told jurors that "Jane," one of Epstein's youngest accusers, visited his New York office "a few times" in the late 1990s and said Jane's mother had told workers that she was Epstein's goddaughter. Because of that, Jane was treated with the "utmost respect," Espinosa said, adding that Jane's interactions with Epstein gave her the impression that the two had a "loving relationship."
Espinosa, who assisted Maxwell in managing multiple high-end properties Epstein owned between 1996 and 2002, said she thought of Maxwell as a mentor and "looked up to her very much."
Earlier this month, Jane told jurors she was just 14 years old when she was recruited and groomed by Maxwell to be sexually used and abused by Epstein and his roster of high-profile friends. She is one of four accusers who claimed under oath that Maxwell had taken part in the abuse.
EPSTEIN VICTIM TESTIFIES SHE WAS TAKEN TO TRUMP'S MAR-A-LAGO WHEN SHE WAS 14
Maxwell, the 59-year-old daughter of the late British media mogul Robert Maxwell, faces six counts of trafficking-related charges, including enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. She is also accused of conspiracy, including using one of Epstein's alleged victims to recruit other girls to participate in "paid sex acts with Epstein." She's also charged with perjury for allegedly lying under oath during depositions in a civil lawsuit against her.
Maxwell has denied the accusations. If convicted, she could spend decades behind bars.
She claims she was a victim and pawn in Epstein's seedy sexual exploits, but prosecutors say she was a willing participant who knew right from wrong. The defense also claims that Maxwell is a scapegoat and that people are vilifying her because they want to see someone punished for Epstein's crimes.
Her lawyers have said her accusers are exaggerating Maxwell's involvement in order to score larger payouts from civil claims against Epstein's estate.
Epstein died in a New York prison in August 2019, a month after he was arrested.
Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 in her New Hampshire estate.
AMANDA KNOX DRAWS PARALLELS BETWEEN GHISLAINE MAXWELL AND ELIZABETH HOLMES
The defense on Thursday also called Elizabeth Loftus, a California-based psychologist and "false memory" expert, to the stand. Loftus, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, has testified in roughly 300 trials since the mid-1970s. She is typically called by defense attorneys to poke holes in the accounts of accusers.
"One thing we know about memory is that it doesn't work like a recording device," she said, drawing a computerized diagram for jurors that mapped out the three stages of memory: acquisition, retention, and retrieval.
Loftus has either been consulted or testified on behalf of the defense in the high-profile trials of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, O.J. Simpson, Ted Bundy, Michael Jackson, and Robert Durst.
Maxwell's attorneys said they may call up to 35 witnesses yet estimated that they'd wrap up their case by early next week. There had been some courtroom buzz that Maxwell might take the stand, but her family told reporters that she was "too fragile."
Thursday morning, Judge Alison Nathan denied a request by the defense to allow witnesses to testify under assumed names despite allowing three of the four accusers testifying for the prosecution to do so.
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“The Defense’s primary contention is that some form of anonymity for its witnesses is justified by the same reasons that the Court permitted three alleged victims and two related government witnesses to testify under pseudonyms,” the federal judge wrote in a six-page opinion and order. “The Court disagrees with this basic premise and denies the Defense’s motion.”