Home New mexico real estate Victimacy and vulnerability in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial

Victimacy and vulnerability in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial

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When I arrived in downtown Manhattan for the Ghislaine Maxwell trial, which opened this week, there was already a long line of reporters and curious observers outside the Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse – enough of people to fill a socially remote courtroom and three overflow rooms. , in which the trial was transmitted via a video stream. Maxwell, a fifty-nine-year-old former socialite and daughter of British publishing mogul Robert Maxwell, has been accused of aiding Jeffrey Epstein – a man who has been variously described as her employer, boyfriend and best friend – to recruit, prepare and sexually abuse four underage girls from mid-90s to mid-two thousand. In 2019, Epstein, a multimillionaire financier, was arrested for allegedly coercing dozens of young women and teenage girls into sexual acts. In August of the same year, before his case was brought to trial, he died by hanging in his prison cell. Maxwell’s trial is widely seen as a final blow of justice for the many women who claim to have been abused by Epstein. If found guilty on all counts, she faces up to seventy years in prison. (She pleaded not guilty.)

Maxwell has been out of the public eye for over two years, but his trail has been hotly pursued after Epstein’s suicide. In August 2019, we briefly caught a glimpse of her, when she was photographed in a San Fernando Valley In-N-Out Burger. About a year later, she was caught in New Hampshire. Even though the fact of his arrest was public, according to the Times, FBI agents broke into Maxwell’s front door and watched, through a window, as she rushed into another room in the house – we still couldn’t see her.

So the desire in the courtroom to see this notorious woman up close was palpable. And yet, as a journalist exiled in an infinity-edge room, it struck me as ironic that while I got a glimpse of Maxwell, I still did so through a screen. On the second day of the trial, she wore a cream-colored sweater, dark pants and a blue surgical mask, with her black hair loose and united over her shoulders. The outfit was a far cry from the much flashier and revealing designer outfits of his Epstein years in high society; rather it reminded me of the type of woman who might ask you if you need help finding something at Nordstrom. The look seemed designed to banish all thoughts of not only sex crimes but also sex itself from the jurors’ minds. Sitting side by side with his defense team, Maxwell remained largely unmoved throughout the legal process.

The first witness called by the prosecution was Larry Visoski, who was hired as Epstein’s private pilot in 1991. (He testified in a COVID-Sure witness who allowed him to remove his mask.) Visoski – alert and accommodating, with freshly styled white hair and a dark suit paired with a red and white striped tie – painted a surprisingly healthy picture of his experiences with Epstein and Maxwell. (The latter, he said, was Epstein’s “No.2” in property and travel matters.) His testimony seemed intended to establish the very wealthy world in which Epstein and Maxwell operated, rather than suggest a criminal act on their behalf. .

For the most part, Visoski talked about real estate. The pilot took Assistant US Attorney Maurene Comey (one of the lead prosecutors in the case, and a daughter of former FBI Director James) through the provisions of a number of Epstein’s properties : the nearly ten thousand acre Zorro Ranch, in New Mexico, whose entrance gate was decorated, in an infantile touch, with the “Z” logo of the fictional swashbuckler; the pretty townhouse on the Upper East Side; The private Caribbean island of Little St. James, with its helipad, wharf and gargantuan estate. For nearly three decades, Visoski worked in close collaboration with Epstein, piloting its planes (including a Gulfstream with a “burgundy carpet” and a Boeing 727, nicknamed by the press the Lolita Express) as well as its helicopters, and ensuring the ferry service. , between the various houses, a crowd of guests, the most notable being Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker.

Epstein’s account by Visoski, while not precisely glowing, was still very impressed. At one point, I counted the word “huge” repeated at least four times in as many minutes. The pool at Little St. James was great, as was the sound system at the financier’s house on the island. The same is true for New Mexico, not to mention, again, its sound system. (Visoski, aside from flying, was, he said, also responsible for handling Epstein’s audiovisual needs, and clearly still has a lot of respect for a good stereo setup.) While Visoski flew the planes – which were stored, like houses, by Maxwell – the cockpit door remained, as a rule, closed, and the pilot insisted that in nearly thirty years of service he had never seen it happen sexual acts, whether or not involving underage women. Passionate about cars, Epstein gifted him with several luxury vehicles over the years and built a house on forty acres that the financier had given him at Zorro Ranch, where he felt confident enough to allow his own young daughters – including high school and college, he said, Epstein had paid to ride with Maxwell. “Do you remember her as a nice person?” Defense attorney Christian Everdell asked, a question to which Visoski answered, without hesitation, in the affirmative. (As far as I know, the masked Maxwell remained empty, even when praised.) If Visoski had known of any inappropriate behavior towards minors on his part or from Epstein, he said. , he would have immediately quit his job. But as he spoke, I kept thinking that for Visoski, even subconsciously, a lot of things had to roll over not awareness.

If in Visoski telling the world that Epstein and Maxwell lived was as wide open and welcoming as the friendly sky on his plane’s windshield, it was something completely different for “Jane,” the first victim called for the bar, later Tuesday. Testifying under a pseudonym, she described her former relationship with Epstein and Maxwell as a nightmarish journey between a maze of oppressive spaces and dark corners at Epstein’s various properties, where she says her abuse took place. She recounted in low, measured voices how Epstein and Maxwell allegedly recruited, groomed, trafficked and sexually assaulted her from 1994, when she was just fourteen. An aspiring singer, she met Epstein and Maxwell during their visit to the artistic summer camp in Interlochen, Mich., Shortly after Jane’s father died suddenly from leukemia, leaving his family in a difficult financial situation. She was eating ice cream when the two adults approached her and started, as she put it, “chatting”. Realizing that she was from Palm Beach, Florida, where Epstein had an estate, the couple befriended her, apparently interested in honing and supporting her artistic aspirations. Epstein, Jane said, started giving her the money. (“It’s for your mother. I know she’s having a hard time,” he apparently told her.) Meanwhile, Maxwell reminded him of an older sister – friendly, joking, asking questions about her. school and boyfriends. She took Jane to the movies and shopping.

Jane, who is now in her 40s, is only a little younger than me. Listening to her testimony, I felt a hint of gratitude for the mid-90s trade status items she recalled buying by Epstein and Maxwell for her: moccasins, a cashmere sweater, underwear. Victoria’s Secret, a “preppy” shirt. But then she testified that Epstein and Maxwell’s kindness quickly turned grim. One day, she said, Epstein walked her wordlessly to his pool house in Palm Beach, where he masturbated on her, leaving her “frozen in fear.” She had “never seen a penis before” and felt “disgusting” and “ashamed”. Gradually, and under the tutelage of Maxwell – who Jane said was an occasional libertine, acting as if everything that happened was “no big deal” – Jane realized her role in the household was to sexually pleasing Epstein. The abuse took place every time she saw him, which for the next two years was about every two weeks. Maxwell taught him “what he liked” – raw, all-nude massages that included touching the financier “everywhere”, and being touched and caressed in turn, sometimes also by Maxwell. Sex toys were involved, even when Jane protested that they had harmed her. She never told her mother what was going on. “My mom was so in love with the idea that these wealthy, well-off people care about me,” Jane said, and told her she should be “thankful” for the attention they were giving her. Epstein and Maxwell tried to teach him a similar lesson. From the start, they’ve always “boasted” and “under-named,” said Jane, wealthy and powerful figures whom they knew and often received calls, in her presence, from their VIP friends. (It reminded me of a tactic recalled by a victim of Harvey Weinstein, who recounted at the disgraced mogul’s trial how he bragged to her about his phone calls to the Clintons.) Jane said she felt intimidated and trapped.