Ghislaine Maxwell declines to testify as sex-trafficking trial nears end
New York, Dec 17 (EFE).- Lawyers defending Ghislaine Maxwell against charges she helped the late Jeffrey Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse multiple underage girls in the 1990s rested their case Friday as the 59-year-old British socialite declined to testify.
“Your honor, the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and so there is no need for me to testify,” she said with the jury absent when Judge Alison Nathan asked Maxwell if she understood her right to speak in her own defense.
After telling Nathan that they planned to present 35 witnesses, the defense attorneys called only nine people to the stand before deciding to rest their case Friday.
Maxwell’s lawyers tried to prevail on the judge to give them more time to track down other witnesses, but Nathan refused, pointing out that they had more than a year to prepare.
The prosecution and defense will make their closing arguments next Monday and the jury of six men and six women is likely to begin deliberations before Christmas.
A trial expected to last up to six weeks looks set to conclude in half that time.
The prosecution team, led by Assistant United States Attorney Maurene Comey, daughter of former FBI Director James Comey, dropped a number of potential witnesses and wrapped up their case at the end of the second week.
The jurors heard from four women who said that Maxwell enabled and – in some instances – participated in their sexual abuse at the hands of Epstein when they were minors.
Maxwell, who pleaded not guilty on all counts, could be sentenced to 35 years in prison if convicted.
Defense attorneys insisted throughout the trial that Maxwell was being made a scapegoat for the crimes of Epstein.
Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor with experience in sex-trafficking cases, told the Law&Crime website that it would be a mistake for Maxwell to testify.
“I base my opinion on her publicly-available civil deposition, where she was arrogant, combative and strained credibility beyond its breaking point,” Epner said. “In fact, she was indicted on two counts of perjury for statements she made during that deposition.”
The charges against Maxwell were brought by the acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, whose office in July 2019 had charged Epstein with sex trafficking of minors between 2002 and 2005.
The case against Epstein was formally closed after the 66-year-old financier was found dead in his jail cell in August 2019, in what coroners ruled a suicide, though experts retained by the dead man’s lawyers said he was murdered.
“This case against Ghislaine Maxwell is the prequel to the earlier case we brought against Jeffrey Epstein,” Strauss said on July 2, 2020. “These charges announced today are the latest results of our investigation into Epstein and the people around him who facilitated his abuse of minor victims. That investigation remains ongoing.”
The crimes in the Maxwell case date back to the years between 1994 and 1997, when the daughter of disgraced British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell (1923-1991) was in an intimate relationship with Epstein and also managed different properties of his in New York City; Palm Beach, Florida; and Santa Fe, Mexico.
Epstein, the source of whose wealth was never entirely clear, numbered many powerful people among his friends, including former US President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew. EFE