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Maxwell wraps up defense to sex trafficking charges

The ex-girlfriend of notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein opted not to take the stand, saying she did not believe the government had proved its case.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Ghislaine Maxwell’s attorneys rested their case on Friday after just two days of presenting witnesses in the former British socialite’s federal sex trafficking trial. 

Maxwell, a former girlfriend of the deceased multimillionaire and accused sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, is accused of grooming minors as young as 14 years old to give Epstein sexual massages and participate in group sex, sometimes with Maxwell herself joining in. 

As her legal team reached its conclusion, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan asked Maxwell if she wanted to take the stand. 

“Ms. Maxwell, I want to make sure you understand you have the right to testify in your own defense,” Nathan said. “You also have the right not to testify." 

Standing with her attorneys, Maxwell replied: “Your honor, the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and so there is no need for me to testify.” 

Maxwell has been in custody since her July 2020 arrest, incarcerated at a federal detention facility in Brooklyn. She pleaded not guilty in April to eight criminal counts in the Southern District of New York: six stemming from the reported sex ring, and two separate counts accusing her of lying during a 2016 deposition.

Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim, left, questions expert witness Elizabeth Loftus, right, as Judge Alison Nathan listens, on the bench at center, during the Ghislaine Maxwell sex abuse trial, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)

Defense attorneys cited “false memories” of Maxwell’s accusers to undercut testimony from victim witnesses. On Friday, prosecutors raised questions about the memory capacity of a defense witness. 

Eva Andersson-Dubin is the wife of billionaire hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin. She testified that she dated Epstein “off and on” from 1983 until 1990 or 1991, and remained friends with him afterward. 

Andersson-Dubin testified that she had never seen Epstein acting inappropriately with underage girls. She, her husband and her children were passengers on Epstein’s private jet in the 1990s — her kids had an “uncle-like” relationship with Epstein, and called him “Uncle F.” 

On cross-examination, Andersson-Dubin responded in the affirmative when prosecutors asked if she had memory issues, and if they were related to medical treatment she had received. 

‘It’s very hard for me to remember anything far back, and sometimes I can’t remember things from last month,” she said. “My family notices it, and I notice it. It’s been an issue.” 

Also called to the stand was Michelle Healy, one of Epstein’s former assistants, who got the job through her sister in the mid-1990s. She spoke highly of Maxwell, who was also her boss. 

“She’s fantastic,” Healy said of the accused sex trafficker. “She taught me a lot, I respected her. She was tough but she was great.” 

Healy said the only one of Epstein’s properties she visited was the so-called Zorro Ranch in New Mexico, where her sister was working at the time. 

“My sister got into a very bad car accident and broke her jaw, and Ghislaine was kind enough to take me there,” Healy said. “I was working – but at least to set eyes on my sister because she was so hurt.” 

Maxwell’s attorneys asked both Healy and Andersson-Dubin if they had ever participated in group sex or sexualized massages with a victim witness referred to as Jane, who testified about being groomed and sexually abused starting at age 14

“Absolutely not,” responded both witnesses, respectively, during separate testimonies, though Healy said she had hung out with Jane several times while working for Epstein. 

Defense attorney Christian Everdell, (left at podium,) questions the first defense witness Cimberly Espinoza, Ghislaine Maxwell's former assistant, as Judge Alison Nathan, center, listens from the bench, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Defense attorneys began their case on Thursday, almost a week after the government rested, due to a trial break as Judge Nathan went before a U.S. Senate panel weighing whether to promote the Obama-appointed district court judge to the Second Circuit. 

Maxwell’s team wanted to call a witness named Kevin Moran, who owns Nags Head pub in London, located across the street from one of Maxwell’s former apartments. His testimony would speak to when Maxwell occupied the house, and if events described by victim witness Kate (a pseudonym) could have even taken place. 

Moran wasn’t available until after the weekend, prompting Nathan and prosecutors to balk at the notion of delaying closing arguments, Maxwell’s attorney Laura Menninger shot back: “Our client’s life is on the line, and we’re being given one day to put on a defense — one day and a half,” she said. 

Ultimately the witness was not called. The parties stipulated to a number of issues over lunch, giving way for the defense to wrap up its case shortly before 4 p.m. Prosecutors did not present a rebuttal. Closing arguments will begin on Monday. 

Follow @NinaPullano
Categories / Criminal, Entertainment, Trials

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