Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022
Juan Alessi, house manager, testifies Virginia Roberts Guiffre visited ‘very often’

Epstein killed himself in jail in 2019, while charged with sex trafficking counts that alleged he abused dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida. The case against Maxwell stems from four now-adult women who said she helped him victimise them.

Giuffre’s allegations, which include claims that Epstein and Maxwell trafficked her at age 17 and 18 to other prominent men who have denied it, including Prince Andrew, are not part of the case.

Prince Andrew pictured with Virginia Giuffre at the home of Ghislaine Maxwell (right) in London in 2001.

Prince Andrew pictured with Virginia Giuffre at the home of Ghislaine Maxwell (right) in London in 2001.

Maxwell, 59, the daughter of late British media baron Robert Maxwell, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other charges. Her lawyers say prosecutors are going after her because they can’t try Epstein.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they decide to tell their stories publicly, as Giuffre has done.

Maxwell, a British socialite, was Epstein’s onetime girlfriend and, later, employee. Prosecutors said she took the girls on shopping trips and movie outings, talked to them about their lives and encouraged them to accept financial help from him.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in New York in 2005.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in New York in 2005.Credit:Getty

The government also says she also helped to create a sexualised atmosphere by talking with the girls about sex and encouraging them to give Epstein massages, and the woman identified as “Jane” testified this week that she had sexual interactions with Epstein at age 14 with Maxwell in the room and sometimes participating. Maxwell’s lawyers pointed to FBI documents that said the woman gave the government a different account in 2019; she questioned the documents’ accuracy.

Alessi portrayed an imperious Maxwell letting it be known that she was “the lady of the house” and handing out a 58-page booklet with rules for staff on everything from how to address her and Epstein to what types of notepads to put on their desks.

“Checklists will assist you in making sure every task has been completed and not even the smallest detail has been overlooked,” the book said, instructing employees to “try to anticipate” Epstein and Maxwell’s needs and to “see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing” except when spoken to.

“I was supposed to be blind, deaf and dumb and say nothing of their lives,” Alessi, 71, said.

Staffers had to “run the house like a five-star hotel”, keep Epstein’s cars washed and stocked with $US100 bills in them for his weekend visits and avoid looking him in the eye.

Maxwell, whom he called “the girlfriend of Mr Epstein”, primarily supervised him.

“Jeffrey doesn’t like to be looked at in his eyes,” Alessi recalled Maxwell telling him. “Just look at another part of the room and answer him.”

Alessi said she and Epstein called him “John” instead of “Juan”.

Earlier on Thursday, psychologist Lisa Rocchio testified that child sexual abusers often groom their victims in a progression that includes giving presents, building a sense of trust and gradually introducing more sexually charged talk and touching.

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Jane said Maxwell often took her to the movies and asked her about boyfriends. Rocchio’s testimony could bolster the government’s argument that this was not innocent behaviour.

“When children are sexually abused, most often it is not done through the use of physical force but rather through grooming and coercion in the context of a relationship,” Rocchio said, referring generally to grooming and not to Maxwell specifically.

Before the trial, Maxwell’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully to block Rocchio’s testimony, saying it didn’t have enough scientific grounding.

After she took the stand, defence lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca suggested that some things Rocchio described as grooming — such as giving gifts, taking children to special places or paying them attention — could also be innocuous.

He recalled, for example, his grandfather taking him to the Bronx Zoo as a child.

“I’m assuming he wasn’t taking you there for sexual abuse,” she retorted, saying that simple kindness isn’t grooming “in the context of a healthy and normal relationship”.

Ghislaine Maxwell is seated at the defence table while watching testimony of witnesses during her trial in New York.

Ghislaine Maxwell is seated at the defence table while watching testimony of witnesses during her trial in New York. Credit:AP

In a previous civil case against Maxwell, Alessi testified that Maxwell routinely prepared a list of places to go for the purpose of recruiting girls to massage Epstein, and he often drove her there, court filings show.

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Jurors earlier this week heard from a woman known by the pseudonym Jane who testified that Maxwell groomed her for abuse by Epstein when she was 14 in the mid-1990s. Maxwell sometimes participated in those sexual encounters and touched her breasts, Jane said.

One of four accusers expected to testify in the case, Jane said the interactions would often begin as massages but then escalate.

Maxwell’s lawyers sought to highlight discrepancies between Jane’s testimony and her earlier interactions with law enforcement, in which she did not discuss Maxwell’s role. They have argued the accusers’ memories have become corrupted over time and that they have financial incentives to implicate Maxwell.

AP, Reuters

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