Ghislaine Maxwell's Trial Defense Is Quickly Unraveling

Ghislaine Maxwell's defense on Thursday appeared to be quickly unraveling, with witnesses called to the stand failing to offer the "shocking" revelations in the sex abuse trial promised by the British socialite's defense lawyers.

After a three-day hiatus, Maxwell's lawyers began making their case at the 59-year-old's trial. Called to the stand was an expert on "false memories," former employees of Maxwell, government officials, and travel agents.

But none appeared to be able to provide anything substantial that could overwhelmingly aid Maxwell's defense.

Maxwell is accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls for the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein between 1994 and 2004, and faces six counts of sex trafficking. She has maintained her innocence in the case and has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Four Maxwell accusers—Jane, Kate, Carolyn and Annie Farmer—in their testimonies have so far painted a damaging picture of the British socialite's alleged grooming behavior.

First to take the witness stand for Maxwell's defense on Thursday was Cimberly Espinosa, a former executive assistant to Maxwell between 1996 to 2002, who testified that she "highly respected" her former employer.

"I looked up to her very much," she said, testifying that she had never seen Maxwell or Epstein engage in inappropriate conduct with minors. "I actually learned a lot from her."

Espinosa described disgraced financier Epstein as "a giver" and a "generous" individual.

"I always knew him to be donating to charities and just being a kind person." Espinosa said, adding that he "paid for a personal trainer" for her.

When pressed further during cross-examination however, Espinosa said she had never visited Epstein's Palm Beach residence, where Maxwell's accusers have testified they were abused. She was unable to speak specifically to any of the allegations at the heart of Maxwell's sex abuse trial.

Maxwell's first accuser Jane testified on November 30 that the alleged abuse by Epstein began in the mid-1990s when she was 14. She said Maxwell was sometimes present during the encounters at the Palm Beach estate, and participated at times.

Corroborating Jane's testimony, Juan Alessi, a former manager of Epstein's Palm Beach house, testified on December 2 that Epstein had "many, many, many" female guests at the estate, including two who appeared to be underage.

Alessi said Jane appeared to be 14 or 15 when he first saw Jane at the Palm Beach estate. He also testified that he saw Jane's name in a directory of massage therapists that he would call to arrange massages for Epstein, sometimes at the direction of Maxwell.

Also called to the stand on Thursday was Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine, and an expert on "false memories."

She sought to discredit the accusers' testimonies by suggesting that their memories could be corrupted.

"Even traumatic experiences can be subjected to post-event suggestion," Loftus said. "False memories [...] can be very vivid, detailed. People can be confident about them, people can be emotional about them, even though they're false."

During cross-examination, U.S. prosecutor Lara Pomerantz sought to portray her as favoring defendants, and her testimony as irrelevant to the case.

"Have you conducted a study where you arranged for girls to be sexually abused?" Pomerantz asked.

"No, absolutely not," Loftus responded. She also said she had never carried out a study in which she tried to implant a false memory of sexual abuse.

Pomerantz also noted that Loftus had written a book in 1991 titled, "Witness for the Defense." Loftus has only once before taken the stand for the prosecution in about 150 criminal trials.

"You wrote a book called 'Witness for the Defense?'" Pomerantz asked.

"Yes," Loftus responded.

"You haven't written a book called 'Impartial Witness,' right?," Pomerantz hit back, to which Loftus responded: "I don't have a book by that title, no."

Raghu Sud, a former employee of a travel booking company used frequently by Maxwell in the late 90s and early 2000s also took to the stand, although it wasn't clear why he testified.

Maxwell's lawyers have said they plan to call 35 witnesses to the stand in her defense. The trial is expected to last into January 2022.

Courtroom sketch of the Ghislaine Maxwell trial
This courtroom sketch shows Juan Alessi (R), Epstein's house manager, Judge Alison Nathan and Ghislaine Maxwell (L) during her trial on charges of sex trafficking, in New York City, on December 1, 2021. After a three-day hiatus, Maxwell's lawyers began making their case at the 59-year-old's trial. JANE ROSENBERG/AFP/Getty Images