Jury sworn in in Ghislaine Maxwell sex abuse trial in New York – .

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Jury sworn in in Ghislaine Maxwell sex abuse trial in New York – .


NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (Reuters) – A jury was sworn in on Monday in the sexual abuse trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of recruiting and treating underage girls for disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Between 1994 and 2004, Maxwell – a former employee and love partner of Epstein – reportedly sent gifts such as lingerie and discussed sexual matters with the girls to gain their trust before encouraging them to give Epstein erotic massages, according to the 2021 indictment against her.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two counts of perjury which will be tried at a later date. Maxwell, who appeared in court with a white face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic, faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

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Twelve jurors and six alternates are sworn in to hear the case, which is expected to last six weeks. Opening statements are expected to begin Monday afternoon.

United States District Judge Alison Nathan thanked jurors for their patience as she sorted out last-minute issues with two of them.

“You have to keep an open mind until the end of the trial,” Nathan told jurors. “You shouldn’t draw conclusions until you have all the evidence in front of you. “

NO FIREFISH

Maxwell’s lawyers said prosecutors, unable to convict Epstein, were using the daughter of late British media mogul Robert Maxwell as a scapegoat. Epstein died by suicide at age 66 in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell pending trial on allegations of sexual abuse.

“Left without fish to try to fry, the government belatedly turned to Ms Maxwell,” her lawyers wrote in a Feb. 4 filing.

Maxwell’s trial comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has encouraged victims of sexual abuse to speak out against powerful men such as film producer Harvey Weinstein and R&B singer R. Kelly accused of misconduct. The case against Maxwell stands out in part because she is a woman.

Prosecutors said Maxwell encouraged the girls to massage Epstein while they were fully or partially naked. In some cases, Epstein or Maxwell would pay them in cash or offer to pay for their travel or education, and Epstein would sometimes masturbate or touch girls’ genitals during massages, prosecutors said.

“The victims felt in debt and thought Maxwell and Epstein were trying to help them,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. In some cases, Maxwell “was present and participated in the sexual abuse of underage victims,” ​​they said.

Maxwell’s lawyers have said they will question the credibility of the four alleged victims by asking them why they waited to come forward and arguing that they have financial incentives to lie or exaggerate.

“Any accuser who testifies that Ms Maxwell participated in sexual abuse or sex trafficking is not telling the truth,” Maxwell’s lawyers wrote in court documents.

One woman was motivated by a “desire for money,” they said in a separate file.

An expert defense witness – psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who testified for the defense in the rape trial of film producer Harvey Weinstein and the murder trial of real estate heir Robert Durst – is expected to testify on how people can be manipulated into having “false memories”. ”

Some legal experts said the strategy was risky and prosecutors would not have charged Maxwell if they were not convinced the accusers’ testimony would stand up to scrutiny.

“The shame of the victims … especially doesn’t work now in 2021, and it usually hurts you,” said Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, a New York City defense lawyer specializing in sex crimes cases.

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Reporting by Luc Cohen and Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Alistair Bell, Will Dunham and Mark Porter

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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