January 28, 2022

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Maxwell sex abuse trial to resume with Epstein pilot’s testimony – Reuters

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Ghislaine Maxwell listens as defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim gives her opening statement at the start of Maxwell’s trial on charges of sex trafficking, in a courtroom sketch in New York City. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

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NEW YORK, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal sex abuse trial was set to enter its second day on Tuesday, with prosecutors expected to question a longtime pilot of the deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell is accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls to give Epstein erotic massages that a prosecutor described in her opening statement on Monday as a “ruse” for sex abuse. Maxwell’s defense attorney has said that the British socialite is being scapegoated for crimes that Epstein committed.

Epstein died in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-abuse charges.

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Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two perjury charges that will be tried at a later date. She faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

In testimony on Monday afternoon, Lawrence Visoski, the pilot, said Maxwell often contacted him to schedule flights for Epstein. Visoski described Maxwell as an office assistant of Epstein’s who frequently flew on his private planes, but also said their relationship appeared to be “more personal than business.”

“We interacted quite often,” Visoski said of himself and Maxwell.

Prosecutors are expected to resume questioning the pilot on Tuesday, and Maxwell’s defense will cross-examine him after they finish.

Visoski’s testimony provides jurors with a sense of the lifestyle that Epstein and Maxwell lived between 1994 and 2004, the period in which prosecutors say Maxwell lured four underage girls to Epstein. Visoski said he frequently shuttled Epstein and guests between Epstein’s properties in New York, Florida, New Mexico, Paris and private islands in the Caribbean.

In her opening statement on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz said prosecutors would present flight logs that included the names of Maxwell and some of the alleged victims.

“The defendant and Epstein made young girls believe that their dreams could come true,” Pomerantz said. “They were exploiting kids. They were trafficking kids for sex.”

Maxwell’s defense attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, on Monday said there was nothing inherently wrong with having private jets. Sternheim reminded jurors that during jury selection, they had indicated to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan that they “would not be biased by affluence or opulence.”

Epstein’s private planes “were used as commuter jets. Guy friends; past, present, and future girlfriends; and an array of other very interesting people – academics, politicians, scientists,” Sternheim said. “There were families on the flights and children on the flights.”

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Reporting by Luc Cohen and Karen Freifeld in New York;
Editing by Noeleen Walder and Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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