On Tuesday, the first full day of witness testimony in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial, defense lawyers highlighted Epstein’s circle of high-powered acquaintances, naming former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as Prince Andrew and others as passengers aboard Epstein’s private planes for the first time in court. They also sought to depict Epstein’s jet travels as casual jaunts rather than debauched sex-trafficking missions while the prosecution zeroed in on Maxwell’s closeness to the late sex offender.
In the continued questioning of Epstein’s longtime pilot Larry Visoski, Christian Everdell, a lawyer for Maxwell, cited Clinton as an example of a passenger on Epstein’s private planes that Visoski would definitely have been notified of in advance, so he could make the plane “look nice” and arrange “special catering.”
Everdell also mentioned Prince Andrew as having flown with Epstein, as had Trump, astronaut John Glenn, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Limited Brand owner Les Wexner, Kevin Spacey, and Chris Tucker. “Plenty of important people” had traveled on the planes, he said. He noted that such celebrities might have a legitimate interest in protecting their privacy before asking Visoski about a non-disclosure agreement he’d signed as Epstein’s pilot. Visoski said the practice was “not at all” unusual and a “fairly normal request” for private jet pilots.
The big-name contacts were revealed in contrast to the many nameless passengers, many of them women, who might have traveled from one place to another on what the defense yesterday referred to as a “Hampton Jitney in the air.” Maxwell’s lawyers seem intent on depicting travel aboard Epstein’s jets — which photo exhibits entered into court Tuesday showed had increased in size over the years from a Hawker Siddeley with a half dozen rows of windows to a full Boeing 727 jet, the one reportedly nicknamed the “Lolita Express” — as a casual occurrence. Everdell confirmed with Visoski that members of Epstein’s family often traveled with him as “tagalongs.” Epstein would offer someone a lift like you’d offer a ride in a car, “only in the air,” Everdell said. Visoski said he never witnessed any sex acts or evidence of sex acts on the plane, and that while he always kept the cockpit door closed, Epstein invited him to use the lavatory at the rear of one of the planes, which he had to walk through the passenger cabin to reach.
During his testimony, Visoski described Maxwell as Epstein’s “Number Two,” saying she handled finances, including his expense reports during his employ. Maxwell sat beside her counsel in a light-colored sweater, leaning over to talk during breaks and watching proceedings from behind a face mask.
Visoski said he recalled meeting Jane on the plane, the 14-year-old whom the prosecution says Epstein and Ghislaine targeted at Interlochen summer arts camp in Michigan. He was never told her age, he said, but he told the prosecution she was “a mature woman,” with “piercing powder-blue eyes.” Everdell later asked if she’d had large breasts, appearing to attempt to draw a connection between physical development and maturity. Visoski did not answer the question but repeated that she’d appeared to him to be “a mature woman.” The defense also questioned whether Jane had actually traveled on the plane after meeting Visoski. He admitted he could picture her standing by the cockpit but couldn’t picture Jane in the passenger cabin the way he could picture some more memorable passengers — like Clinton, he noted.
In the second half of Tuesday, after Visoski’s testimony, the victim the court is calling Jane took the stand for the first time. She testified about three categories of abuse she endured between 1994 and 1996 when she was 14 to 16 years old. She said she was abused by Epstein alone, as well as by Epstein with Maxwell — whom she described as touching her breasts and instructing her on how to massage Epstein from head to toe — and on other occasions with Epstein and other women who were older than she was in a situation she described as an “orgy.” Most of the alleged abuse took place in massage rooms at Epstein’s houses. Jane testified to traveling aboard the private jet between Palm Beach, where she lived, the New Mexico ranch, and Epstein’s apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Asked how often Maxwell was in the room during her abuse, Jane said it was more than twice, but that she struggled to count how many times. “It all started to feel the same,” she said.
Jane wore a black turtleneck with her long brown hair draped over her shoulders. She spoke about her troubled home life and feeling like she was not allowed to grieve the death of her father because her mother had forbid her and her siblings from talking about their feelings growing up. She recounted one time when her mother shouted at her and slapped her for speaking with a school guidance counselor about the loss of her dad.
She said she had received $2.9 million from Epstein’s estate as an accuser. She also said that she had no financial stake in the outcome of the trial. “I’ve always just wanted to move on with my life,” she said, adding that she’s proud to have her own husband, her own children, and her own career. She made a statement about wanting to maintain anonymity because she fears “victim-blaming” and that revealing her identity could hurt her 22-year career as a working actor. “If someone looks at me and that’s all they see,” she said, “I’m afraid they wouldn’t hire me because of it.”
During cross examination, Jane pushed back against the defense, whose questioning seemed designed to upend the idea that Epstein had targeted her because she’d grown up facing hardship. Laura Menninger, one of Maxwell’s attorneys, spent several minutes trying to get her to confirm she had lived in a “gated community” with a country club when she met Epstein. She said she wasn’t sure whether the gate had been closed and described it as “more of a clicker.” She said, “We never went to a country club.” Menninger pulled up documentation of Jane’s application to Interlochen’s performing arts summer camp, asking her to confirm that the camp had cost $4,000 and that she had not applied for financial aid in 1994. “Yeah, but I was a child,” she said, adding that she had not filled out the form.
The trial is expected to last approximately six weeks.
From Rolling Stone US