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Ghislaine Maxwell trial: ‘False memory’, financial motives, scapegoating – what her defence lawyers will use to try to discredit accusers | US News


The prosecution case against Ghislaine Maxwell called 24 witnesses over ten days, including four accusers, but rested at least a week earlier than expected.

That left the defence scrambling to put together its list of witnesses. They now have 35 but not all of them will be called.

Maxwell‘s lawyers have also taken the extraordinary step of requesting that three witnesses be allowed to testify anonymously, which is highly unusual where minors or alleged victims of sexual assault are not involved.

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Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

At the heart of the defence case is the portrayal of Ghislaine Maxwell as a “scapegoat” for Jeffrey Epstein‘s crimes and her accusers as untrustworthy and motivated by money.

Here is what to look out for.

“False memory”

Maxwell’s lawyers will argue that the passage of time, alongside the intense media scrutiny of this case, has corrupted the memory of the accusers and witnesses.

More on Ghislaine Maxwell

The defence has already set out its stall, calling up apparent inconsistencies between what accusers said in court and what they told investigators in earlier interviews.

On the stand “Jane” – the first alleged victim to testify – recalled being 14 and eating ice cream on a picnic table when Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein approached her together.

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Key moments from Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial

But Maxwell lawyer Laura Menninger questioned her on an FBI deposition which suggests she initially said Epstein approached her alone.

Menninger also suggested Jane had “come up with” a memory about when she first had sexual contact with Maxwell.

The defence will use their key witness Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist who has testified in hundreds of trials, to tell the jury that recollections of alleged sexual abuse almost two decades ago cannot be trusted.

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Maxwell prosecution rests its case

Motivated by money?

The cross-examination of the four accusers was a precursor to the defence case so we can expect their credibility to come under sustained attack.

One of the alleged victims, Carolyn, identified by only her first name, wiped away tears as she told the court she came from a broken family, with an alcoholic mother and a grandfather who molested her.

Asked why she continued returning to Epstein’s home to give him “massages,” she said that the $300 she got for every visit was a lot of money to someone like her.

Carolyn received £2.45m from a compensation fund for Epstein victims.

But we know from documents filed by the defence that they will claim she was motivated by money on the table to implicate Ghislaine Maxwell and co-operate with the US government in their case against her.

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Maxwell ‘unlikely’ to testify

This is not about Jeffrey Epstein

Neither side appears to be disputing that Jeffrey Epstein was a habitual abuser of teenage girls.

Epstein died by apparent suicide in 2019 while charged with operating a vast network of young women to abuse.

If he had lived, the case against him would surely have been a slam dunk, because it’s not just the four accusers testifying in this case who say he sexually abused them but dozens more.

But for the jury, determining Maxwell’s guilt, on a criminal level, is a far more complex question.

We know from the opening statement by Bobbi Sternheim, Maxwell’s lead lawyer, that the defence will argue she’s being held responsible for Epstein’s crimes.

“Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam with the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behaviour of men,” she said.

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Ghislaine Maxwell’s family speak out

Will the accusers’ lawyers be on the stand?

The defence team said in court filings that they want to put the lawyers for three accusers who testified on the stand.

They say they want to ask Jack Scarola, Brad Edwards and Robert Glassman about multi-million dollar payments their clients received from the Epstein victims fund.

They state they want to ask Edwards – who represents Maxwell accuser “Kate”, a British woman – about whether she agreed to co-operate with the case against Maxwell because she believed it would help her application for a special visa to remain in the US.

“An alleged victim’s desire for a U-Visa is powerful evidence of motive and bias,” Maxwell’s lawyers wrote in the letter to Judge Alison Nathan.

The prosecutors have asked Judge Nathan to block the request, saying it would only “generate irrelevant evidence.”

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Will Ghislaine Maxwell be on the stand?

All of the witnesses who testified about their personal experiences of Ghislaine Maxwell have spoken about their first impressions of her.

They have, variously, recalled her as very attractive, brunette, well dressed, with a proper English accent.

She was a socialite, at ease with the rich and famous, confident enough to address the UN.

The key moments from week two of Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial – including $300 ‘massages’, nude photos and the Queen’s cabin

In court, she has seemed confident, smiling at times, hugging her lawyers and jotting down notes.

But it is highly unlikely she will take the stand herself.

The defence stated its case will likely last four days or fewer, a timeframe which wouldn’t allow for a rigorous cross examination of the defendant.

Most legal experts have said the potential risk of putting Maxwell on the stand far outweigh the potential gain, especially as she is also facing two additional perjury charges.


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