Prosecution and defense argue about several photographs that might be presented at sex-trafficking trial in New York
First published on Fri 3 Dec 2021 12.47 EST
Ghislaine Maxwell’s child-sex trafficking trial took a shocking turn on Friday when prosecutors brought one of Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous massage tables into the courtroom.
By bringing this green, folding table into the courtroom, and then expanding it, prosecutors are working to bolster allegations that Epstein and Maxwell sexually abused teen girls under the pretext of giving him a massage.
The prosecution also revealed that “sexually suggestive photograph of a very young girl” was displayed outside Epstein’s bedroom at his Palm Beach mansion. “Schoolgirl” costumes were also recovered during a search of Epstein’s Manhattan home.
Epstein, the wealthy financier whose acquaintances included Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton, killed himself at a New York City jail in August 2019, while awaiting his own sex-trafficking trial.
Maxwell, 59, his former girlfriend and the daughter of the late British publishing baron Robert Maxwell, was arrested in July 2020 at a luxurious New Hampshire estate. She denies all the charges against her.
Gregory Parkinson, a former police officer who helmed the search of Epstein’s Palm Beach estate in October 2005, was questioned about what was within the home. He walked jurors through a video of this search, and answered questions about still images presented on-screen.
“Mr Parkinson, what is the green object?” the prosecution asked in reference to one photo.
“That is a portable, collapsable massage table,” Parkinson replied.
The prosecution asked Judge Alison Nathan for permission to bring in government exhibit 51. Into the courtroom walked a detective, carrying a folded massage table.
Parkinson descended the witness stand, put on a pair of gloves, and briefly examined the table while it remain in its folded position. He then went back to the witness stand. The detective who brought in the massage table opened it shortly thereafter. Parkinson was asked to describe what he saw.
“The table itself in an open position,” he said.
The detective who ferried this table into the courtroom folded it back up. It remained in the courtroom for the remainder of this trial day. The images discussed on Friday were recovered during searches of Epstein’s various residences. One depicted a young girl pulling down her underwear, exposing her buttocks. An image depicted a young girl on Epstein’s lap.
The prosecution said that one of the photos “is the primary decoration outside the master bedroom that the defendant [Maxwell] shared with Mr Epstein”.
“In order to get into that room, you have to get by a sexually suggestive photograph of a very young girl,” the prosecution said. “The fact that there is a sexualized photograph, of a clearly underaged female, is highly probative.”
The prosecution also revealed that “schoolgirl costumes” were found when law enforcement searched Epstein’s New York City property in 2019. The outfits were “small ones found in the same room where an underage girl says she was sexually abused”, said prosecutors. “It’s certainly relevant.”
This debate came before Juan Alessi, the house manager of Epstein’s south Florida manse from 1990 to 2002, resumed his testimony. As this discussion took place before trial proceedings began in earnest, jurors were not present.
Alessi’s testimony on Thursday described Maxwell as a domineering “lady of the house” who warned him to “never look” Epstein in the eyes as she increasingly saddled the employee with degrading demands.
Alessi also appeared to support some accusers’ allegations against his former boss and Maxwell. He claimed to have seen two minor-looking teenagers at Epstein’s house. One of these females was Jane – as the first accuser to testify against Maxwell at this trial is referred to in court.
Epstein introduced her to Donald Trump when she was 14, she told the court earlier in the week. This accuser also claimed that she was on a flight with Prince Andrew, although she did not accuse the now former president or the duke of any misconduct.
The other female Alessi alleges to have seen was Virginia Giuffre. She is a longtime Epstein and Maxwell accuser. Giuffre has claimed that Maxwell and Epstein coerced her into sexual activity with Prince Andrew at 17, an allegation that the Duke of York denies.
Alessi said that Epstein, who had hired him full-time after coaxing him to leave his other clients, began acting differently toward him after Maxwell’s hiring.
“It changed gradually from being cordial to more just, uh, professional,” he said. “Our conversations with him were less and less.”
Some of Epstein and Maxwell’s accusers have claimed that they were sexually abused under the pretext of giving him a massage. Some have alleged that they were abused with sex toys.
Maxwell’s legal team tried to undermine Alessi’s credibility during cross-examination on Friday. Alessi admitted that he didn’t see any signs that people were hurt during these massages.
They then asked whether anyone had told him about abuse during Epstein’s massages. “I wish they would have,” Alessi said, “Because I would have done something to stop it.”
Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organisations. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html