Defense attorneys called their first witnesses in the trial for Ghislaine Maxwell
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Meanwhile, the trial against Ghislaine Maxwell resumed today, with defense attorneys calling their first witnesses. The British socialite is accused of facilitating the trafficking and abuse of minors at the hands of financier Jeffrey Epstein. NPR's Jasmine Garsd has been reporting on this case. She joins us now from outside a courthouse in Manhattan. Hey there, Jasmine.
JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi.
KELLY: All right. So we're in week three. The defense calling witnesses - who'd they call?
GARSD: Cimberly Espinosa was the first witness. She first worked as Jeffrey Epstein's executive assistant and then as Ghislaine Maxwell's for about six years in the mid-'90s and early 2000s. She testified that when she started, Epstein and Ghislaine were a couple. But by the time she ended her job as assistant seven years later, they'd broken up and grown apart. In fact, she says, Ghislaine Maxwell wasn't even coming into the office much anymore. Espinosa also testified that one of the accusers who took the stand at the beginning of the trial, a woman identified 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, quote, "Jeffrey's goddaughter."
KELLY: What did the prosecution have to say in response to that?
GARSD: Well, the prosecution was pretty curt today. They didn't spend a lot of time asking questions. They were dismissive and tried to show these witnesses weren't involved in Epstein's or Maxwell's private life. In the case of Espinosa, the prosecution simply asked, did you ever work at Jeffrey Epstein's home in New York or Palm Beach? Espinosa responded, no. And the prosecution said, no further questions, which elicited some laughs in the courtroom.
KELLY: And remind us how the defense is actually using the charges against Maxwell to build their case.
GARSD: Maxwell is charged with several counts, including sex trafficking, basically procuring underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein pled guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution in 2008, and he died in custody in New York. Maxwell's defense team maintains that she is on trial for Epstein's crimes. The questioning today was designed to show that the two of them were not that close. 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 team have maintained that memories of events that allegedly happened nearly two decades ago cannot be trusted.
KELLY: All right. And just to recap where we are and what's coming next, this was Day 1 for the defense. You have told us before, Jasmine, that the expectation was this trial might run about six weeks. Are they on track for that? What is yet to come?
GARSD: Well, actually, the defense has provided a list of 35 witnesses. That is exponentially more than the prosecution. We don't know who they are yet. The trial was, as you said, expected to go for six weeks. But 35 witnesses - that's cross-examinations. Holidays are coming up. This might take a lot longer than foreseen.
KELLY: That is NPR's Jasmine Garsd reporting on the trial underway for Ghislaine Maxwell. She's reporting from outside the courthouse in Manhattan. Thank you so much, Jasmine.
GARSD: Thank you.
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