Former Epstein employee tells jury she saw no misbehaviour by Ghislaine Maxwell
By Luke Ridley
Published: 16/12/2021- 20:36
Updated: 14/02/2023- 11:57
A former office worker for Jeffrey Epstein has testified as the first defence witness at the sex abuse trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, telling jurors she did not witness misconduct by Maxwell while working closely with her for six years.
“Never,” said Cimberly Espinosa when asked if she ever saw Maxwell or Epstein “engaged in any misbehaviour”.
Ms Espinosa also testified about seeing a key accuser in the case — who testified for the government as “Jane” to protect her privacy — visiting the financier’s New York City office on Madison Avenue “a few times” in the late 1990s. She said Jane’s mother had told workers she was Epstein’s goddaughter.
Because of that, “she was treated with utmost respect”, Ms Espinosa said. Jane’s interactions with Epstein gave her the impression “it was a loving relationship”, she added.
Ms Espinosa told the jury in federal court in Manhattan she assisted Maxwell in managing Epstein’s multiple high-end properties between 1996 and 2002, saying “I looked up to her very much”.
When defence lawyer Christian Everdell finished his questioning, assistant US attorney Lara Pomerantz tried to convince jurors that Ms Espinosa was an irrelevant witness by asking her only whether she had ever worked at any of Epstein’s homes.
When Ms Espinosa said she had not, Ms Pomerantz said she had no other questions.
The defence case began after the jury heard four women, including Jane, detail accusations that they were teenagers when they became victims of a sex-abuse scheme devised by Maxwell and Epstein.
The British socialite’s lawyers are expected to make the case that Maxwell is not the one to blame.
The government’s case lasted only two weeks and the defence case could last just two days. Both sides streamlined their witness lists without revealing why, making the trial end well short of an original six-week estimate.
The start of the defence case has already sparked the usual speculation about whether the high-profile defendant will take the witness stand in her own defence — a gamble that is almost never taken. Either way, US District Judge Alison Nathan will have to receive direct confirmation from Maxwell about her decision before the defence can rest.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she acted as Epstein’s chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse during sexual massages.
Maxwell was once Epstein’s girlfriend before becoming a trusted employee. Witnesses testified that the pair exploited them between 1994 and 2004 at Epstein’s homes, including an estate in Palm Beach, Florida; his Manhattan townhouse; and a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The defence has insisted that Maxwell is being made a scapegoat for alleged sex crimes by Epstein, who killed himself in jail in 2019. Her lawyers have sought to show that the accusers exaggerated her involvement at the behest of lawyers seeking payouts for the women from civil claims against the Epstein estate.