Lawyers Question Why Maxwell Jury Only Heard From Four Accusers
(Bloomberg) -- More than a hundred women have said they were abused by Jeffrey Epstein, but only four of them were called by prosecutors to testify in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, his alleged right-hand woman.
It’s a decision that lawyers who have represented some of those other women question.
“They had a mountain of evidence that they could have brought,” said Adam Horowitz, who previously represented several Epstein victims. The prosecution “had a very difficult burden and didn’t seem to put on as much evidence forward as I thought they would have.”
The jury began deliberations in the case on Monday and broke for the holidays Wednesday without reaching a verdict. They will reconvene on Dec. 27.
Maxwell is charged with enticing and grooming underage girls for sexual abuse by Epstein, her former boyfriend and employer. If convicted on the top sex-trafficking count, she faces as many as 40 years in prison. Her lawyers claims she’s being scapegoated for the crimes of Epstein, who was found dead in his jail cell in 2019 while awaiting his own sex-trafficking trial.
‘Inclined to Acquittal’
Horowitz thinks Maxwell’s lawyers have scored points with the jury.
“An acquittal wouldn’t surprise me,” he said. “It’s a difficult case and [the prosecution] put on some really good witnesses, but the defense did a good a job poking holes in some of them.”
Robert Lewis, who represents Sarah Ransome, an Epstein victim who has attended the trial but is not testifying, also thinks Maxwell’s lawyers made some inroads with jurors.
“The defense has readied some interesting questions” that the jury will need to discuss, he said. “Some of them might be inclined to acquittal.”
The lawyers said the defense was relying on an age-old “play-book” of discrediting the four victims who testified. On cross-examination, Maxwell’s lawyers questioned them about inconsistencies between their trial testimony and previous accounts they’ve given to law enforcement or in civil suits. For instance, Carolyn, who testified using only her first name was asked why she said in a lawsuit that Epstein called her on one occasion but attributed the same call to Maxwell on the stand.
“I think it’s normal for people to tell the same story a little differently each time,” Horowitz said. “But in the context of a jury trial, when it’s sworn testimony, it becomes effective when the defense can poke those holes.”
Maxwell’s defense team has also tried to suggest her accusers’ civil lawyers influenced their memories and testimony with a goal of maximizing payouts from a compensation fund set up by Epstein’s estate. Each of the accusers were questioned about the millions of dollars they received from the fund and earlier civil suits. The defense also tried to call three of their lawyers to testify, but U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan shot down the request.
All of the accusers who testified denied having any financial incentive to testify. Prosecutors also said unequivocally there was no money at stake for the witnesses.
Lisa Bloom, an attorney representing several Epstein victims, sharply criticized Maxwell lawyers’ gambit in an emailed statement.
The defense “wants us to believe, without proof, that civil lawyers manipulated the victims’ memories, or that victims’ failure to go after Maxwell years ago means they are lying now,” Bloom said. “We don’t believe the jury will buy these lies and myths.”
Lewis said prosecutors may have sought to limit the impact of defense claims by putting only four accusers on the stand.
“I imagine they decided to put forward a very focused case, a very simple case,” he said. “If they were to bring in too many victim witnesses, it might give the defense counsel too much ammunition” to confuse and complicate the stories of victim witnesses.
As it was, Lewis thought Maxwell’s team may have been overly aggressive in going after the four women who testified. “Rather than focus on four or five key inconsistencies and really pound those, she had 12,” he said of defense lawyer Laura Menninger. It “made you feel sorry for the witness.”
And Lewis said prosecutor Maurene Comey was very effective in the government’s final words to the jury on Monday. She said that, to acquit Maxwell, they would have to believe that the witnesses “came into this courthouse and committed perjury,” he recalled.
Ultimately, Lewis thinks the government’s case will prove persuasive.
“I think, after deliberating, they will look at the testimony and evidence” and “will come to the conclusion that she is guilty,” he said.
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