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Ghislaine Maxwell doesn't testify, as her defense team rests its case

A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell, left, in court with defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca during her sex abuse trial in New York. Maxwell's defense team rested their case on Friday.
Elizabeth Williams
A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell, left, in court with defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca during her sex abuse trial in New York. Maxwell's defense team rested their case on Friday.

Ghislaine Maxwell's defense attorneys rested their case Friday, after just two days of calling witnesses to the stand. Maxwell herself did not testify. The British socialite is accused of facilitating trafficking and sexual abuse of minors at the hands of financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Closing arguments in the case will begin on Monday, meaning the jury could reach a verdict before Christmas — which also happens to be Maxwell's birthday.

Maxwell said "there is no need" for her to testify

When U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan told Maxwell in court that she had the right to testify or refuse to do so, Maxwell, 59, said it wouldn't be necessary.

"Your honor the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, so there is no need for me to testify," Maxwell said, according to Julie K. Brown of The Miami Herald.

As Friday's proceedings began, the defense called Eva Andersson-Dubin, 60, to the stand. She is a former Miss Sweden who once dated Epstein. Her husband, financier Glenn Dubin, is also involved in the case, at least tangentially: Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre has said she was told to have sex with Dubin. Giuffre wasn't asked to testify in the federal case against Maxwell.

Earlier in the trial, an accuser told the jury that "a woman named 'Eva' joined a group sexual experience with Epstein," the Associated Press reports. It adds that in reply to defense questions, Andersson-Dubin flatly denied taking part in any such activities. But under questioning by prosecutors, Andersson-Dubin also said that she has serious problems with her memory.

The defense began with an assistant from Epstein's office

Cimberly Espinosa was the defense's first witness. She worked as an executive assistant for Epstein and Maxwell, helping to manage Epstein's real estate holdings in the mid 1990s and early 2000s.

"I highly respected Ghislaine," Espinosa said. "I looked up to her very much."

She testified that when she started, Epstein and Maxwell were a couple, in what she saw as "a loving relationship." But by the time Espinosa left her job, she said, they'd broken up and grown apart. In fact, she said, Maxwell had stopped coming into the office as much, and she was dating other men.

Espinosa also testified that one of the accusers who took the stand for the prosecution at the beginning of the trial, a woman identified in court by the pseudonym "Jane," had what seemed like a very warm and loving relationship with Epstein.

Jane and her mother would stay at Epstein's house often, and her mother would refer to Jane as "Jeffrey's god-daughter," Espinosa said, adding that she "was treated with the utmost respect." She also testified that she never saw Epstein or Maxwell engage in inappropriate behavior with minors.

Prosecutors said witnesses didn't know what went on in Epstein's homes

The prosecution was pretty curt in handling the defense witnesses. They didn't spend a lot of time asking questions, as they tried to show that the witnesses were not deeply involved in Epstein's or Maxwell's private life.

In Espinosa's case, the prosecution simply asked if she had ever worked at Epstein's homes in New York, or in Palm Beach, Fla. After Espinosa responded "no," the prosecution stated, "no further questions" — which elicited some laughs in the courtroom.

Maxwell is charged with multiple felonies, including trafficking underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein to abuse. Epstein pled guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution in 2008; he died in 2019 while in custody in New York.

Defense wants the jury to view Maxwell and Epstein separately

Maxwell's defense team maintains that she is on trial for Epstein's crimes. Part of their strategy seems to aim at showing that the two of them were not as close as the prosecution has suggested.

Defense attorneys also sought to discredit previous testimony by the women who have accused Epstein and Maxwell of abuse, by bringing in a memory expert. Her lawyers have maintained that memories of events that allegedly happened nearly two decades ago cannot be trusted.

The trial had initially been expected to go on for six weeks, but the prosecution ended its case earlier than expected. The defense provided a list of 35 witnesses — far more than the prosecution had called. But Maxwell's team also said it was having trouble getting people to come to court, and it ended its case Friday.

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Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.