A woman who says Ghislaine Maxwell groomed her for abuse by late financier Jeffrey Epstein while she was a teenager testified on Monday that she initially looked up to the British socialite, calling her “everything that I wanted to be.”
The woman, who is testifying under the pseudonym Kate, is the second of four women named in a 2021 indictment to take the stand at Maxwell’s sex abuse trial in Manhattan federal court. The trial began last week, and is set to last into January.
Kate said she was 17 and struggling to make friends after moving to Britain from France when she met Maxwell for tea at her London townhouse in 1994. Maxwell offered to introduce Kate to her boyfriend, who she said could help with her aspiring music career, Kate said.
“She seemed to be everything that I wanted to be,” said Kate, who said she is now 44. “I left there feeling exhilarated and like somebody wanted to be my friend.”
Maxwell later invited her to the house to give her boyfriend – Epstein – a massage, even though she was not a massage therapist, she said. Kate said she had the first of many sexual encounters with Epstein during the meeting.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other charges. Her lawyers say the memories of the four women named in the indictment have been corrupted over the decades that have passed since the alleged encounters.
Because Kate was over the age of consent in Britain, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan instructed the jury that any sexual encounters she described were not “illegal sex acts.” Prosecutors as a result did not ask Kate for details of those accounts.
Still, prosecutors could use Kate’s testimony to corroborate patterns in Epstein’s and Maxwell’s behavior that other witnesses have described, including that Maxwell’s doting on teenage girls was a means of “grooming” them for Epstein’s abuse.
Kate said she went on to become a musician and a model, and stayed in touch with Maxwell until she was 24 and with Epstein until her 30s. She said she was at first hopeful that Maxwell would be her friend, but later remained in their orbit because she “did not want to admit what had happened to me.”
“I was also fearful of disengaging because I had witnessed how connected they both were,” said Kate, who recalled that Maxwell told her she was friends with Britain’s Prince Andrew and U.S. businessman Donald Trump, who went on to become president.
Neither Trump nor Prince Andrew have been accused of wrongdoing in the case.
Maxwell’s lawyers also say their client is being prosecuted because Epstein is no longer alive. The globetrotting investor killed himself in 2019 at age 66 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting sex trafficking charges.
Last week, jurors heard from a woman known as Jane who said Epstein sexually abused her beginning in 1994 while she was 14. Maxwell sometimes participated in their encounters, which often began as massages before escalating, Jane said.
© 2021 Reuters