The Washington Post

Accuser testifies that Maxwell groomed her at 14

Woman says Epstein associate forced her into sex acts with financier


new york — A 41-year-old woman told jurors Tuesday how Ghislaine Maxwell allegedly helped groom and recruit her into the life of financier Jeffrey Epstein decades ago, including watching at times as Epstein forced her into sexual acts.

The woman — testifying under the pseudonym Jane — was the first of four alleged victims who will testify at Maxwell’s sex-traffickin­g trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. She gave a mostly matter-of-fact account of being lured into Epstein’s world of daily erotic massages as a 14-year-old and globe-trotting on private jets.

Maxwell, 59, who was Epstein’s longtime associate and paramour, has pleaded not guilty.

Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting his own federal trial.

On the witness stand, Jane, now a profession­al singer and actress, said she met Maxwell and Epstein at a prestigiou­s summer camp for music students of which Epstein was a benefactor.

The pair invited the girl and her mother to tea at Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., and earned the mother’s trust as potential mentors for her daughter, prosecutor­s allege. Eventually, Epstein paid for the girl’s schooling and an apartment in New York where she and her family stayed.

Jane testified that she visited Epstein’s mansion about every other week. Initially, she said, the visits were “casual” — centered around trips to the movies and poolside hangouts. The woman said she was first exposed to sex acts with Epstein when he led her into the pool house during a discussion about calls he could make to his influentia­l friends to help her launch her career. There, he exposed himself, she said, using her as a prop as he masturbate­d.

“I was frozen in fear. . . . I was terrified, I felt gross and I felt ashamed,” she testified, saying it was the first time she had seen male genitalia.

Maxwell’s defense team began to cross-examine Jane late Tuesday afternoon and will continue Wednesday.

Laura Menninger, one of Maxwell’s lawyers, suggested in her initial questionin­g that Jane had exaggerate­d her family’s financial distress around the time she met Epstein and Maxwell in 1994 at the Interloche­n Center for the Arts summer camp in Michigan.

Menninger also pressed Jane on why she waited until 2020 to take her allegation­s about Epstein and Maxwell to law enforcemen­t. By then, Menninger noted, she was represente­d by a personal injury attorney.

Jane answered that she was reluctant to tell many people because her story was “embarrassi­ng” and “shameful.”

Defense lawyers said in opening statements that they will seek to undermine the credibilit­y and motives of Maxwell’s accusers, presenting testimony about how memory can change over time and about alleged financial incentives the women may have had in coming forward. Jane recently was awarded $5 million by a fund set up to administer payments from Epstein’s estate to his victims. After attorney fees and deductions, she kept about $3 million.

Prosecutor­s have argued that Maxwell, the daughter of late media mogul Robert Maxwell, was the key to trapping underage victims for Epstein, helping to “normalize” sexual interactio­ns with adults. To win Maxwell’s conviction, prosecutor­s must prove among other things that she helped transport the young victims over state lines, knowing illegal sex acts would take place. Jane testified Tuesday that she flew to Epstein’s homes New York and New Mexico, and that she was sexually abused in both locations. She also said Maxwell and Epstein on one early occasion led her to a massage table at his Palm Beach estate where they instructed her on how Epstein “likes to be massaged.”

She said she was abused “more than once” by Epstein at age 14, and that Maxwell was the person who was most often in the room when it happened.

Jane told jurors she was made to watch as Epstein and Maxwell had sexual encounters. During hangouts at the mansion, she said, she and other young women who were often at the house and whose ages she didn’t know were summoned to participat­e in what amounted to orgies.

Jane’s voice cracked at two points — including when she described the dread she felt during a trip to Epstein’s New Mexico ranch when a messenger came to her room to summon her for Epstein.

“My heart sank into my stomach,” she said. “Because I did not want to go see him.”

Jane said her first meeting with Epstein and Maxwell started when she and her friends saw Maxwell walking a dog at Interloche­n.

“We saw this tall thin woman approach us,” she said. “She was walking a cute little Yorkie, and the Yorkie came by us and we asked if we could pet the dog.”

Jane also said her mother often reminded her that she should be grateful to Epstein and Maxwell. “She thought they seemed very generous and that they must think I’m special,” she said, adding that her time in Epstein’s world created adulthood scars.

“It ruined my self-esteem, my self-worth,” she said. “I didn’t know how men were supposed to treat me and how I was supposed to reciprocat­e any of that.”

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