A trip to New York to see “The Lion King” on Broadway was at the center of a sharp exchange in court on Wednesday as a lawyer defending Ghislaine Maxwell against sex-trafficking charges tried to chip away at the testimony of a woman who says she was sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein and Ms. Maxwell when she was a teenager.
The woman, identified only as “Jane” in the trial, had once told investigators that Mr. Epstein flew her to New York on his private jet to see “The Lion King” on Broadway in 1994, when she was 14. By then, according to the vivid account Jane testified to on Tuesday, Mr. Epstein and his longtime companion, Ms. Maxwell, had already pulled her into a pattern of persistent sexual abuse.
Ms. Maxwell’s lawyer, Laura Menninger, pounced on the 1994 date.
“The Lion King did not come out until 1997?” Ms. Menninger asked the witness. Questioned at length, Jane testified that she had been “incorrect in my timeline.”
The exchange was emblematic of the defense’s attempt to undercut the testimony of the first of the four accusers the government is expected to call to testify during the trial, in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The defense also once again elicited testimony about the celebrities in the orbit of Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell. On the witness stand, Jane said Mr. Epstein had taken her to Donald J. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in the 1990s, where she said she met Mr. Trump.
Ms. Menninger began the cross-examination on Wednesday by asking Jane what she had told family members about her initial meeting with Mr. Epstein, while she was away at a summer camp in Michigan in 1994.
Jane testified on Tuesday that Ms. Maxwell had approached her first and that Mr. Epstein had begun speaking with her afterward. But Ms. Menninger suggested that Jane had earlier told her older and younger brothers that she had been approached by Mr. Epstein.
“True you told your brother Brian you had been approached by Epstein?” Ms. Menninger asked. “Told your brother nothing about Maxwell being there?”
“I don’t recall,” Jane replied. Over the course of the morning’s questioning Jane testified that she could not remember enough to answer a variety of Ms. Menninger’s questions.
She said she could not recall whether she had told investigators in 2019 that she was not sure if Ms. Maxwell had ever touched or kissed her. She also said she could not recall if she had told them she did not remember Ms. Maxwell advising her on how to massage Mr. Epstein.
The defense lawyer asked Jane whether her current recollection of events was clear.
“As you sit here today,” Ms. Menninger asked, “you don’t remember if you and Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein were ever in a room alone together?
“No,” Jane replied.
Ms. Menninger also appeared to hint that Jane might have a financial motive in accusing Ms. Maxwell of abuse, asking about whether she was supporting family members and pointing out that she had filed civil lawsuits against Ms. Maxwell and the Epstein estate and “participated” in a compensation fund for victims of Mr. Epstein.
She also asked Jane questions about her career as a soap opera actress — someone who “plays the role of a fictional character,” “takes lines borrowed from a writer” and is accustomed to “melodramatic or sentimental treatment” of reality.
At times, Jane sought to explain what the defense lawyer implied were unreliable recollections.
Ms. Menninger compared testimony about Ms. Maxwell calling Jane’s house to a statement she was said to have made in 2019 to investigators, in which she said that it was Mr. Epstein who had called.
“Two years later, now you remember that Ghislaine called your home to make appointments,” Ms. Menninger asked. “That memory has come back to you in the past two years?”
Jane replied: “Memory is not linear.”
Throughout the defense’s questioning, Jane largely retained her composure. But she seemed shaken at times during the follow-up questions from the prosecution, and at one point paused to weep and dab at her face with tissues.
During that redirect questioning, a prosecutor asked Jane why it had initially been hard for her to talk about being sexually abused and why she had not been able, during early meetings with investigators, to “share with the government all of the details of what had happened to you.”
“I was sitting in a room full of strangers and telling them the most shameful, deepest secrets I had been carrying around with me everywhere,” she replied. “It was too difficult, too difficult emotionally, too difficult on every level.”
A few moments later, the prosecutor asked Jane why she had shown up in court to testify.
“I’m here to hopefully finally find some sort of closure to all of this,” she said “to hopefully find some peace and healing some day.”
Jeffrey Epstein looms over nearly every aspect of the sex-trafficking trial of his former partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, but his suicide in a federal jail cell in Manhattan removed any possibility of hearing the evidence against him at trial.
Mr. Epstein was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correction Center at 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2019, while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. The New York City medical examiner determined he had hanged himself with a bedsheet on a night when he was alone because his cellmate had been transferred.
His death in Manhattan set off a rash of unfounded conspiracy theories on social media that were picked up and repeated by high-profile figures, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. But investigations by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department’s Inspector General found no evidence of a conspiracy, proving Mr. Epstein’s death was a suicide, the Attorney General at the time, William P. Barr, later said.
It was not the first time he had tried to kill himself. A month earlier, after being denied bail on federal sex trafficking charges, Mr. Epstein was found unconscious in his jail cell with marks on his neck in what prison officials investigated as a suicide attempt.
The Friday morning before he died, thousands of documents from a civil suit had been released, providing lurid accounts accusing Mr. Epstein of sexually abusing scores of girls.
Investigations into the suicide found jail officials had made serious mistakes. Mr. Epstein was supposed to have been checked by the two guards in the protective housing unit every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed that night. One of the guards was not a full-fledged correction officer.
In addition, because of Mr. Epstein’s earlier attempted suicide, he was supposed to have had another inmate in his cell, officials said. But the jail had recently transferred his cellmate and allowed Mr. Epstein to be housed alone, a decision that also violated the jail’s procedures, the two officials said.
Two days after Mr. Epstein died, Mr. Barr said he “was appalled” by the suicide and sharply criticized the management of the jail. He ordered a full investigation. The warden was transferred.
The two guards, Michael Thomas and Tova Noel, were charged criminally with ignoring their duties and then lying about it. Prosecutors said the guards had been browsing the internet and napping rather than checking on Mr. Epstein every half-hour as they were supposed to the night he died. They were also accused of falsifying official logs, recording they had made the rounds. In May, they reached an agreement with prosecutors that allowed them to avoid prosecution and do community service.
This year, a trove of more than 2,000 pages of Federal Bureau of Prisons records obtained by The New York Times after filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit suggested Mr. Epstein had gone to lengths to persuade jail officials that he was not suicidal after the first apparent attempt to hang himself in July 2019.
The notes and reports compiled by those who interacted with Mr. Epstein during his 36 days of detention show how he repeatedly assured them he had much to live for, while also hinting that he was despondent. After the first attempt, for instance, Jeffrey Epstein said he was living a “wonderful life,” denying any thoughts of ending it, even as he sat on suicide watch.
“I have no interest in killing myself,” Mr. Epstein told a jailhouse psychologist. He was a “coward” and did not like pain, he explained. “I would not do that to myself.”
In recent weeks, the country has watched two gripping trials with wide social resonance unfold on television and computer screens.
Video broadcasts allowed an untold number of people to watch the trial and acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two people during a protest over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis. A similarly large audience watched the trial and conviction of three white men in Georgia charged in the murder of a Black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery. In the past, such access would likely have required a seat inside a courtroom.
So why is Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial not equally accessible? The answer has to do with the difference in jurisdictions — federal court in the case of Ms. Maxwell, and county courts in the other two.
There are specific, sometimes arcane rules that govern federal proceedings. Though the federal judiciary has experimented with pilot programs allowing cameras in civil cases, the broadcast of criminal cases has been barred since 1946 under Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
By contrast, some state and county courts for decades have had latitude to allow trial broadcasts. For instance, in 1993, the Los Angeles County Superior Court let Court TV broadcast the trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez, brothers who used shotguns to kill their parents but claimed they did so in self-defense after years of sexual and psychological torture.
Vivid scenes with weeping defendants and dramatic cross-examinations helped create a cultlike following among some of those who tuned in. Soon afterward, Court TV and the E Channel both covered O.J. Simpson’s murder trial live from Los Angeles County. Those proceedings, too, drew devoted audiences.
But the televised trials also had their critics, who complained that the national audience encouraged lawyers, judges and witnesses to grandstand.
The first attempt to prosecute the Menendez brothers ended with jurors unable to agree on a verdict. The judge handling the case, Stanley M. Weisberg, believed that the television coverage had affected many potential jurors for the retrial and barred electronic coverage of the second trial to “protect the rights of the parties, the dignity of the court and assure the orderly conduct of the proceedings.”
In 1994, the U.S. Judicial Conference, which sets policy for federal courts, voted down a proposed amendment to Rule 53, which would have allowed cameras in criminal proceedings. The conference also rejected a similar proposal to allow the recording and broadcast of civil proceedings, concluding “the intimidating effect of cameras on some witnesses and jurors was cause for concern.”
People who want to keep track of legal proceedings remotely in federal cases in New York may have an easier time when verdicts are appealed. The Second Circuit, which hears appeals in New York State, as well as in Connecticut and Vermont, has a web page for the “livestream audio” of oral arguments. Those who tune in cannot watch what is happening inside the courtroom but can listen to what is being said.
A day after she described searing details of sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, a woman who is testifying under the name Jane faced intense cross-examination on Wednesday morning.
Near the beginning of the third day of Ms. Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial, a lawyer for Ms. Maxwell sought to poke holes in Jane’s account and suggested that her story had changed over the years.
The woman, an actress who has asked not be identified because it might affect her career, said on she was only 14 years old when she met the couple at a talent camp and was invited to Mr. Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach. Ms. Maxwell, 59, is accused of enticing underage girls into illegal sex acts with her longtime partner, Mr. Epstein, the disgraced financier and notorious sex offender who died in jail in 2019.
But during her cross-examination, which began on Tuesday afternoon, a lawyer for Ms. Maxwell, aggressively questioned Jane about the details of her account, seeking to portray her as unreliable and motivated by opportunism.
“You waited 20 years to report your claim to law enforcement?” the lawyer, Laura Menninger, asked. “The first time you spoke with law enforcement Mr. Epstein was dead?”
Jane, the first of Mr. Epstein’s accusers to testify, told jurors that he had abused her for years starting when she was 14, subjecting her to sexual touching and even “orgies.”
She portrayed Ms. Maxwell as playing a pivotal role in normalizing the abusive behavior and sometimes taking part in it.
Jane began her testimony by sketching a vivid scene that she said took place when she was at camp in 1994: while sitting on a bench with a few friends, she was approached by Ms. Maxwell, who was walking a Yorkie. After some interaction, Jane told jurors, Mr. Epstein then arrived and eventually asked for her phone number. Her first invitation to Mr. Epstein’s home followed.
But on Wednesday morning, Ms. Menninger sought to cast doubt on that account, questioning the witness’s story about the initial meeting. She suggesting that Jane had previously said to investigators that Ms. Maxwell was only passing by and that Mr. Epstein had been the one to approach her. That was the account she gave in 2019 during her first meeting with the government, Ms. Menninger said.
“You told the government only Epstein came up to meet you, correct?” she asked Jane.
“I wouldn’t have said that,” Jane said.
“So the F.B.I. got it wrong?” Ms. Menninger replied.
The defense has signaled that it plans to try to undermine Jane’s credibility in other ways.
In her opening statement on Monday, another defense lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, appeared to anticipate the impact the first hand testimony of Ms. Maxwell’s accusers might have, telling jurors the trial was about “memory, manipulation and money.”
She described Jane to jurors in that opening as “a talented musician and a singer from a musical family” who Epstein, a patron of the arts and supporter of young talent, offered to help, paying for her schooling and vocal lessons and paying for or co-signing for a Manhattan apartment that Jane and her mother used while she went to a prestigious professional school there.
A month before Mr. Epstein’s death while in federal custody in Manhattan, Ms. Sternheim said, Jane did not want to be involved in any criminal case connected to him. But after the death, she said, Jane took a different view.
“When money was on the line, she changed her mind,” Ms. Sternheim said.
The first accuser in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell took the witness stand on Tuesday. Identified in court only by the pseudonym “Jane,” the witness testified that she had been sexually abused for years by Ms. Maxwell and her former partner, Jeffrey Epstein, beginning when she was 14.
Here are some takeaways from her testimony.
Jane said she saw Ms. Maxwell as an older sister before she was sexually abused by Mr. Epstein.
Jane said she began visiting Mr. Epstein’s Palm Beach, Fla., estate by herself when she was 14 after Ms. Maxwell and Ms. Epstein befriended her at a camp for talented teenagers and invited her and her mother over to have tea.
She said that she initially saw Ms. Maxwell as “a little bit odd and quirky,” but kind. Soon, she started talking to Jane about her sex life, and Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein took Jane shopping, including to Victoria’s Secret for white cotton briefs.
“I remember maybe the first time I went to the pool side and I walked out there and there was these four women and Ghislaine, all topless and some of them were naked,” Jane said. “I was just shocked because I hadn’t seen that before.”
Later, she said, Ms. Maxwell was present when Mr. Epstein had sexual interactions with her and acted “like it was no big deal.” Sometimes, she said, Ms. Maxwell participated. She also gave instructions on how to give Mr. Epstein erotic massages, Jane said. The abuse went on for years, and at times involved groups of people, she said.
Jane said Mr. Epstein sexually abused her for the first time in the pool house on his Palm Beach estate.
Jane said she and Mr. Epstein were talking about her future when he “abruptly” ended the conversation and led her from his office to the pool house. Jane said he brought her to a couch, and proceeded to pull his own sweatpants down. She said he then pulled her on top of him and then began to masturbate.
“I was frozen in fear, I had never seen a penis before,” Jane said. “I was terrified and felt gross and like I felt ashamed.”
The abuse continued, and during later encounters he touched her breasts, vagina, and encouraged her to touch his feet, nipples, and penis. The prosecution asked Jane if Ms. Maxwell ever touched her during those encounters, and she said yes. “Mainly my breasts,” Jane said.
The prosecution elicited testimony suggesting that Jane was vulnerable to the abuse because her father had died.
Jane testified that her father had died shortly before she met Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein. Her family had filed for bankruptcy and had moved into a friend’s pool house. After a few visits, Mr. Epstein offered Jane money, saying, “This is for your mother. I know she’s having a hard time.”
Alison Moe, a federal prosecutor, asked Jane if she ever talked to friends or family about the abuse, or saw a guidance counselor growing up. Jane said she was grieving her father’s death and feeling neglected by her mother when, in seventh grade, she saw a counselor.
“I told her how I was feeling, how sad I was, how unavailable my mother was,” Jane said.
She said the counselor called her mother, who responded to the call by berating and slapping her. Jane did not return to counseling.
Jane said she did not want her name used in court to protect her acting career.
Jane said “victim shaming is still very present to this day” in the entertainment industry, and she was afraid that she wouldn’t get work if people knew she had accused Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell of criminal sexual abuse. That fear was also why she was silent for so many years, she said.
The 14-year-old girl from Florida was away at summer camp in Michigan in 1994, she said, when a “tall thin woman” with a “cute little Yorkie” walked by.
The woman stopped at the bench where the girl and her friends were eating ice cream, and the girls asked if they could pet the dog. After a while the friends left.
But the 14-year-old stayed, and soon a man joined her and the woman at the bench. He asked about her favorite classes in school and said he was a benefactor who liked to help people. Then he asked for her phone number.
Testifying on Tuesday in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the 14-year-old from Florida, now an adult identified in court only as “Jane,” told jurors how what seemed like a chance encounter with Ms. Maxwell — the woman with the Yorkie — and Jeffrey Epstein led to years of sexual abuse.
That abuse sometimes involved groups of people, she said: “Kissing, oral sex on each other, oral sex on Jeffrey, full on intercourse.” Sometimes, she said, Ms. Maxwell took part in the sex acts.
Weeks after the initial meeting, Jane said she was back at home in Palm Beach when she got an invitation to visit Mr. Epstein at his house for tea. The home was impressive, she said, and so were Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell, even as their conduct was sometimes confusing or overwhelming.
“From the very beginning there was a lot of bragging about how they were friends with everyone,” Jane said, adding that Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein would engage in “name dropping.” The effect was to suggest that “they were very well connected and affluent.”
Ms. Maxwell often came across like a big sister figure — “odd,” Jane said, “but nice.” But soon, Ms. Maxwell began talking to her about sex, Jane said.
She began going to Mr. Epstein’s house on average once every week or two, she said, and Ms. Maxwell was a steady presence. On one day, she was among a group of women who were topless beside Mr. Epstein’s pool. On another, she took Jane shopping to Victoria’s Secret for underwear: “white cotton briefs, basic looking ones.”
One day when she was still 14, Jane testified, Mr. Epstein told her he could introduce her to talent agents. Then he “abruptly” ended a conversation about her interests and her future and guided her into a pool house, taking her hand and saying “follow me.”
Inside the pool house, Jane said Mr. Epstein led her to a couch or futon and took off his pants. He then pulled her on top of him and “proceeded to masturbate,” she said, speaking in a slow halting voice. After he was done, she added, he went into a bathroom to clean up, then “acted like nothing had happened.”
“I was frozen in fear,” Jane said. She testified that she did not tell anyone about what had happened inside the pool house, adding: “I was terrified and felt gross and felt ashamed.”
Similar incidents followed, Jane said. While she was still 14, she said, Mr. Epstein “would touch my breasts, he would touch my vagina.”
She said she touched him “everywhere” including his feet, nipples and penis.
Sometimes Ms. Maxwell would take part in the abuse. And, she said, sometimes multiple people would be involved. Those incidents, like her first experience inside the pool house, would often begin abruptly, Jane said.
A group of people would be socializing when Mr. Epstein or Ms. Maxwell would “summon” them into his bedroom or to a massage room. There, Jane said Ms. Maxwell and others would disrobe and Mr. Epstein would lie down. That, Jane said, would “turn into this orgy.”
The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, a former girlfriend and longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, is set to begin Monday. Here are some of the events that led to the highly anticipated trial:
July 7, 2019
Mr. Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.
Federal prosecutors accused Mr. Epstein of engaging in criminal sex acts with minors and women, some as young as 14.
Aug. 10, 2019
Mr. Epstein killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell.
Mr. Epstein hanged himself in his jail cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center; he was not under suicide watch at the time of his death. He had just been denied bail on federal sex trafficking charges.
Ms. Maxwell sued Mr. Epstein’s estate.
Ms. Maxwell said in the lawsuit that Mr. Epstein and Darren Indyke, a longtime lawyer for Mr. Epstein and the executor of his estate, both promised to pay her legal fees, but she said they hadn’t. Her legal fees mounted as more women claimed she helped Mr. Epstein recruit them for sexual activity when they were underage.
Ms. Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire.
The indictment listed three minor victims who say they were recruited by Ms. Maxwell from 1994 to 1997 for criminal sexual activity.
Ms. Maxwell asks for release on $5 million bond.
Her lawyers asked a federal judge in Manhattan to release her from jail on $5 million bond. Judge Alison J. Nathan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan denied the request after prosecutors argued that Ms. Maxwell posed a high risk of fleeing before her trial.
Ms. Maxwell calls jail “oppressive.”
Ms. Maxwell asked again to be released, this time on $28.5 million bond, arguing that the conditions of her Brooklyn jail were “oppressive.” But once again the request was denied, after prosecutors said the probability she would flee was extremely high. Prosecutors also said the conditions in jail were reasonable, pointing to her personal shower, phone and two computers.
Ms. Maxwell is charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old.
A new indictment accuses Ms. Maxwell of grooming an additional minor. She is charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl who engaged in sexual acts with Mr. Epstein at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate.
Ms. Maxwell goes on trial.
Opening arguments are set for Monday.
Ghislaine Maxwell faces six counts in her federal trial, which relate to accusations that she facilitated the sexual exploitation of girls for her longtime companion, the disgraced financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The six counts center on the accounts of four accusers. The charges include:
One count of enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, in which Ms. Maxwell is accused of coercing one girl — identified as Minor Victim 1 in charging documents — to travel from Florida to New York, between 1994 and 1997, to engage in sex acts with Mr. Epstein.
One count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illegal sex acts, which accuses Ms. Maxwell of bringing the same girl from Florida to New York on numerous occasions.
One count of sex trafficking of a minor, which charges that between 2001 and 2004, Ms. Maxwell recruited, enticed and transported another girl — identified in the charges as Minor Victim 4 — to engage in at least one commercial sex act with Mr. Epstein.
And three counts of conspiracy, which are related to the other counts. The conspiracy counts in the indictment are more expansive, involving all four accusers and homes in the United States and in London. These charges involve accusations that Ms. Maxwell worked with Mr. Epstein to secure underage girls for sex acts, for example, by encouraging one to give Mr. Epstein massages in London between 1994 and 1995.
Ms. Maxwell, 59, could face a lengthy prison term if convicted. Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40 year sentence; the other charges have maximum penalties of five or 10 years.
When Ms. Maxwell was arrested in July 2020, she was also charged with two counts of perjury, accusing her of lying under oath in 2016 during depositions for a lawsuit related to Mr. Epstein. In April, Judge Alison J. Nathan granted the defense’s request to sever the perjury counts, which will be tried separately.