Ghislaine Maxwell warned Epstein’s house manager not to ‘look at his eyes’, court hears

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  • Ghislaine Maxwell
    Ghislaine Maxwell
    Socialite
  • Jeffrey Epstein
    American financier
  • Robert Maxwell
    Czechoslovak-born British media proprietor and Member of Parliament (1923-1991)
<span>Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

The former house manager of Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach home said on Thursday that Ghislaine Maxwell warned him that he should “never look” his boss in the eyes, describing a work environment where he faced the grim task of cleaning up their sex toys amid stifling micromanagement.

Juan Alessi, who worked at Epstein’s Florida residence from about 1990 to 2002, made the disclosures during his testimony at Maxwell’s child sex-trafficking trial in Manhattan federal court. Alessis’s words painted a portrait of extreme privilege, as well as strict control, and appeared to corroborate some accusers’ allegations against Epstein and Maxwell.

Epstein, a mega-rich financier who counted Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton among his associates, killed himself at a New York City jail in August 2019, pending trial. Maxwell, 59 and the daughter of the deceased British publishing titan Robert Maxwell, was arrested in July 2020 at a sizable New Hampshire estate.

Related: Press, protesters, QAnon: the scene outside Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial

The former British socialite is now on trial on charges related to her alleged participation in Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls, some as young as 14. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Maurene Comey’s questioning of Alessi sought to bolster the government’s position that Maxwell was deeply involved in all aspects of Epstein’s life. Prosecutors have alleged that Maxwell was Epstein’s “best friend and right hand” – and that they were “partners in crime”.

“Other than Mr Epstein, who else, if anyone, gave you instructions about your job responsibilities during your employment?” Comey asked.

“Ms Maxwell,” said Alessi, 71.

Alessi said that when he first met Maxwell, she was a “pretty girl, a tall brunette”.

“Ms Maxwell was the girlfriend of Mr Epstein; I understand she was the lady of the house,” Alessi recounted. “From the day she came to the house, she right away took over, and she mentioned to me she was going to be the lady of the house. Also, she was in charge of other homes, other properties.”

Epstein – who had hired Alessi full-time after convincing him to leave his other clients – started acting differently toward him.

“It changed gradually from being cordial to more just, uh, professional,” he recalled. “Our conversations with him were less and less.”

“What, if anything, did Ms Maxwell tell you about whether you could speak directly with Mr Epstein?” Comey asked.

“Only I was supposed to speak with Mr Epstein when he asked me questions.

“At the end of my stay, there was a time when she says: ‘Jeffrey doesn’t like to be looked at [in] his eyes.’”

Maxwell allegedly told him: “‘You should never look at his eyes. Just look at another part of the room and answer to him,’” Alessi said.

Alessi said that he was tasked with tidying up after Epstein’s massages.

“I would clean the table, and I would put the table away,” he said. Asked whether there were “any instances that stood out in your mind”, he said, “Yes.”

“I remember finding a large dildo,” he said after additional questioning.

He claimed to have also seen pornographic tapes and a “black vinyl or leather costume” in a basket. Alessi also said that, on several occasions he found massagers in Epstein’s room after massages.

Some of Epstein and Maxwell’s accusers have said that they were sexually abused under the guise of giving him a massage. Some have said that they were abused with sex toys.

Alessi said that he saw two females at Epstein’s house who looked to him to be minors. One was “Jane” – the woman who testified against Maxwell earlier this week.

The other was Virginia Giuffre, a longtime Epstein and Maxwell accuser, he said. Giuffre has alleged that Maxwell and Epstein coerced her into sexual activity with Prince Andrew when she was 17, a claim that the Duke of York denies.

Alessi provided details on how Maxwell met Giuffre that seemed to corroborate her recollections of her first encounter when she was 15. Giuffre has claimed that Maxwell approached her at Mar-a-Lago, where she was working as a locker room attendant.

Alessi said that he saw Giuffre on other occasions at Epstein’s home.

“At the end of my stay there, I saw her bring in two other girls,” Alessi said. He said he never saw their faces.

Toward the end of Alessi’s tenure at Epstein’s home, he said Maxwell gave him a booklet with rules on managing Epstein’s houses – with pages upon pages of time-consuming checklists, as well as requirements for his comportment.

“It was very degrading to me,” he said. “Most of the pages were just unbelievable to me.”

Alessi was presented with a copy of these instructions to read aloud in court.

“Try and anticipate the needs of Mr Epstein, Ms Maxwell, and their guests,” was one instruction. “Do not discuss personal problems with guests.

“Remember that you see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, except to answer a question directed at you. Respect their privacy.”

  • 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