News People Maxwell ‘took part’ in Epstein’s abuse, trial told
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Maxwell ‘took part’ in Epstein’s abuse, trial told

ghislaine maxwell trial
In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell's defence lawyer Laura Menninger, left, cross examines a witness using the pseudonym "Jane". Photo: AAP
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A woman who says she was sexually abused by the late financier Jeffrey Epstein at 14 years old has told jurors at Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal trial that the British socialite facilitated and took part in some sexual encounters.

The woman, known by the pseudonym Jane, took the stand for the government on the second day of Ms Maxwell’s sex abuse trial in Manhattan federal court.

During cross-examination, a lawyer for Ms Maxwell questioned Jane, now in her early 40s, about how she did not report the alleged abuse until decades after it occurred.

Ms Maxwell, 59, faces sex trafficking and other charges. Prosecutors say she recruited and groomed Jane and three other underage girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.

Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges.

Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and her lawyers have said she is being scapegoated because Epstein is no longer alive.

They have said Jane and the other alleged victims, who are also expected to testify at the trial, have faulty memories and financial incentives to accuse Ms Maxwell.

During three hours of explicit and emotional testimony on Tuesday (local time), Jane said Ms Maxwell and Epstein first approached her and a group of friends when they were eating ice-cream at an arts summer camp in Michigan in the summer of 1994.

Jane, a singer, said her family was struggling financially after her father’s death the previous year. She said Epstein and Ms Maxwell told her they were benefactors of her camp and awarded many scholarships.

They remained in touch after Jane returned home to Palm Beach, Florida, where Epstein also had a home, Jane testified.

She said Ms Maxwell sometimes took her to the movies or spent time with her by Epstein’s pool. She said they talked about school, including whether Jane had a boyfriend.

Prosecutors said in a 2021 indictment against Ms Maxwell that behaviour such as buying girls gifts and discussing sexual topics amounted to “grooming” them for abuse.

Jane said she had a sexual encounter with Epstein in the pool room of his Palm Beach house while still 14.

“He pulled me on top of himself and proceeded to masturbate on me,” Jane said. “I was terrified and felt gross and I felt ashamed.”

On other occasions, also at age 14, Jane said Ms Maxwell and Epstein would take her to a massage table in his Palm Beach house and demonstrate how Epstein liked to be massaged.

The massages transitioned into sexual activity, and Ms Maxwell sometimes touched her breasts, Jane said.

Jane told the court that she and others, including Ms Maxwell, would “abruptly” be summoned to Epstein’s bedroom or a massage room.

“What would Maxwell typically do?” Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe asked.

“She, along with others, would just start taking their clothes off, Jeffrey would get on the massage table,” Jane said.

“It just turned into this orgy.”

Ms Maxwell’s lawyers have said Jane and other accusers received payouts from a fund set up by Epstein’s estate to compensate victims.

In his opening statement on Monday, Ms Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, said accusers could “enhance” their rewards by co-operating with prosecutors.

Mr Sternheim called Jane a “very successful actress” who never accused Ms Maxwell of wrongdoing before Epstein’s death.

“She is a pro at playing roles and as her scripts and characters change, so has the story that you will hear,” Mr Sternheim said.

During cross-examination, Jane confirmed she did not report the alleged incidents to law enforcement until 2019.

When another Maxwell lawyer, Laura Menninger, asked whether she told family members and close friends about Ms Maxwell’s alleged role, Jane said: “I don’t know.”

“I was very reluctant to give details,” Jane said.

Jane said in testimony that she had been employed as an actor for 22 years and was awarded $US5 million ($7 million) by the compensation fund.

She is expected to return for further cross-examination on Wednesday.

-AAP