Maxwell defence grills accuser on sex abuse claims

The alleged victim, identified in court only by the pseudonym 'Jane,' was the first of four expected to testify in the trial of Maxwell - accused of grooming underage girls to be exploited by her long-time partner, who killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting trial.

FILE: Ghislaine Maxwell. Picture: Laura Cavanaugh/AFP

NEW YORK - The defence in Ghislaine Maxwell's sex-trafficking trial sought Wednesday to find inconsistencies in the witness testimony of an alleged victim who said she was sexually abused by the heiress and the late financier Jeffrey Epstein when she was just 14 years old.

The alleged victim, identified in court only by the pseudonym "Jane," was the first of four expected to testify in the trial of Maxwell - accused of grooming underage girls to be exploited by her long-time partner, who killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting trial.

The 59-year-old Maxwell, who was wearing a turtleneck and black pants in court, has pleaded not guilty to six counts of enticing and transporting minors for sex. If convicted, she faces an effective life sentence.

Cross-examining her accuser, Maxwell's defense lawyer Laura Menninger suggested discrepancies in how Jane told her story in initial conversations with the government and in court testimony the day before.

Menninger also pointed to law enforcement notes of conversations dating back to December 2019 that suggested Jane's uncertainty over whether Maxwell touched or kissed her, comparing them to the vivid account she gave the jury that alleged Maxwell's participation in sexualised massages, group sex and abuse with Epstein.

The line of questioning sought to imply that Jane was drawing on her years of experience as an actor in a soap opera to heighten the drama of her testimony.

When the time came for the prosecution again to question Jane, attorney Alison Moe asked her if she was "acting here today."

"No," Jane responded, adding that in her first interview with law enforcement agents she had found it difficult to tell strangers "the most shameful, deepest secrets that I've been carrying around with me my whole life" and had not divulged every detail.

'MOVE ON WITH MY LIFE'

Through tears she said she gradually became more comfortable about recounting her story, and "started to feel like I could trust" the government.

"This is something that I have been running from my entire life. I'm just tired of it," she said.

Under initial questioning by prosecutors, Jane said she met Epstein and Maxwell at a summer arts camp in Michigan in 1994, when she was 14-years-old.

During her time on the stand Wednesday, prosecutors asked Jane about the defence team's implication that she was testifying because she thought it could help her receive money from civil cases or from the Epstein fund.

Jane replied that she had no financial stake in testifying, noting that she does not have a pending civil case and has already received $5 million from the Epstein fund. That sum came to $2.9 million after legal fees.

She then paused a while, crying and hiding her face behind a tissue. When she regained her composure, she said she had been "seeking some sort of closure."

"I guess in this country compensation is the only thing you can get to try and move on with your life."

"Hopefully this just puts it all to an end."