Second accuser takes stand in Maxwell sex trafficking trial
New York (AFP) – A second woman took the witness stand Monday in the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell and accused the British socialite of grooming her to engage in sexual activity with Jeffrey Epstein.
"Kate," a pseudonym, is the second of four women expected to testify at the trial of the 59-year-old Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty to six counts of enticing and transporting minors for sex.
Maxwell is accused of grooming underage girls to be exploited by her long-time partner Epstein, a wealthy American financier who killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting trial.
Kate said she was introduced to Maxwell by a then boyfriend in Paris in 1994 when she was 17 years old.
"She was very sophisticated and very elegant," Kate said of Maxwell during questioning by prosecutors. "She was very impressive."
Kate said she gave Maxwell her phone number, and she was invited to tea a few weeks later at her home in London.
"I felt really special," Kate said. "I felt that I had found a new connection that could be really meaningful to me. Like somebody wanted me, like somebody wanted to be my friend."
Kate said she told Maxwell about her difficult home life. She lived in London with her mother, who was ill.
Maxwell, she said, "told me amazing things about her boyfriend," that he was a philanthropist and "liked to help young people."
"She said that he was going to love me," she said.
A few weeks later, Maxwell invited Kate to meet Epstein at her London home, she said.
Kate said she was asked by Maxwell to "give his feet a little squeeze" and rub his shoulders.
A few weeks later Kate was invited back to give Epstein a massage.
She said Epstein disrobed in a dimly lit room with a massage table in Maxwell's London home. Maxwell left and closed the door.
The massage turned into sex act, Kate said, after which Maxwell asked: "How did it go? Did you have fun? Was it good?"
"She seemed very excited and happy," Kate said.
'I was fearful'
Kate's testimony was not allowed to include details of sex acts with Epstein because she was 17 at the time, the age of consent in Britain.
Rather than provide evidence of criminal wrongdoing, prosecutors are using her testimony to illustrate the wider pattern of grooming young girls and corroborating other accuser statements.
Kate said she returned more times after that and Maxwell told her that Epstein "obviously liked you a lot."
"I was really pleased that she was pleased," she said.
"You know what he likes -- cute, young, pretty, like you," Kate quoted Maxwell as saying.
Kate said she continued to see them for the next few years, traveling to Epstein's properties in Palm Beach, New York and the Caribbean.
"I didn't know how to say no," she said.
Kate said she saw photographs of underage girls in the Palm Beach house and saw other girls in person, including one "who seemed a lot younger than me. Very young."
Kate said she never recruited any other girls.
She said she maintained contact with Epstein into her early 30s.
"I did not want to admit what happened to me," she said. "I was fearful of disengaging because I had witnessed how connected they both were."
Maxwell "seemed to know everybody," she said. "She told me she was friends with Prince Andrew. Friends with Donald Trump."
Kate was also asked about her years-long addiction to alcohol, cocaine and sleeping pills.
She said she has been sober since May 2003 and her memories "of significant events in my life have never changed."
Kate said she received $3.25 million from the Epstein victims fund but has no financial stake in the current case.
A woman identified by the pseudonym "Jane" testified last week that she was 14 when Epstein started sexually abusing her, and that Maxwell was sometimes present and even participated.
Maxwell, the daughter of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell, faces an effective life sentence if convicted.
The trial continues with cross-examination of Kate by Maxwell's defense team.
© 2021 AFP