As the criminal trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime companion of serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, entered its second week, a woman identified by the pseudonym "Kate" testified that Maxwell recruited and groomed her for sexual activity with Epstein when she was a young woman, under the pretense that they were "friends."
"Kate" said she was approximately 17 years old and living in London when she met Maxwell during a trip to Paris. "Kate" gave Maxwell her phone number, she said, and Maxwell called her a few weeks later to invite her over for tea. "Kate" was excited, she said, to have made such a "sophisticated and elegant" connection.
"She seemed to be everything I wanted to be," she said. "She seemed as excited as I was to have a new friend."
Within a few weeks, "Kate" said," she was engaging in sexually explicit massages with Epstein at Maxwell's London townhouse, which was in the same neighborhood where "Kate" then lived with her mother.
Prior to her testimony, Judge Alison Nathan read to the jury a "limiting instruction" informing them that "Kate" was over the legal age of consent at all relevant times and locations, and therefore the jury cannot convict Maxwell of any charges in the indictment based on her testimony. The government is thus only permitted to describe her as a "witness" but not a "victim."
Prosecutors argued that "Kate's" testimony was relevant to show Maxwell's modus operandi and that Maxwell knew that massages with Epstein would be sexualized.
During her first trip to Maxwell's home in London, "Kate" said she noticed lots of photographs of Maxwell with an older man with peppered hair. The man in the pictures, she learned later, was Epstein, and Maxwell introduced "Kate" to him as "the girl I told you about" on her next visit.
Maxwell, "Kate" said, encouraged her to massage Epstein's feet and shoulders. Epstein was "very approving," she said, but then he took a phone call, "Kate" said, and Maxwell ushered her out. A few weeks later, "Kate" said, Maxwell called again, claiming a massage therapist had cancelled at the last minute, and she asked if "Kate" could "do her a favor" by coming over to massage Epstein again.
This time, "Kate" said Maxwell led her upstairs to a small, dimly-lit room with a massage table. Epstein was wearing a robe, but he took it off after Kate entered. Maxwell, she said, closed the door. Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz if Epstein initiated sexual conduct with her during the massage, Kate answered, "Yes."
On her way out, "Kate" said Maxwell asked, "How did it go? Did you have fun? Was it good? She seemed very excited and happy and thanked me again."
Two days later, "Kate" said, she returned to give Epstein another massage, and Maxwell lead her to the same room where further sexual contact with Epstein occurred. Afterwards, "Kate" said, Maxwell told her, "You're such a good girl. … He really likes you."
"Kate" traveled with Epstein and Maxwell occasionally over the next several years, she said, visiting them in Florida, New York and the Virgin Islands. Kate said she understood Maxwell's role to be "to take care of Jeffrey's needs" and noted that she seemed very involved in managing the properties and staff.
Maxwell's attorney have sought through the case to distance her from Epstein, suggesting in their opening statements that Epstein hid his prurient activities from others, including Maxwell.
"Jeffrey Epstein manipulated the world around him and the people around him," Maxwell attorney Bobbi Sternheim said last week. "He compartmentalized his life, showing only what he wanted to show to the people around him, including Ghislaine."
During one visit to Epstein's Palm Beach estate, "Kate" said she arrived at her guest room to find a "schoolgirl outfit" laid out on her bed. When she asked Maxwell why it was there, "Kate" said Maxwell told her she "thought it would be fun for you to take Jeffrey his tea in this outfit."
Asked why she continued to spend time Epstein and Maxwell despite what she alleges was happening, "Kate" said she "wanted to maintain a relationship with Ghislaine."
"I thought," "Kate said, "she was going to be my friend."
During cross examination by Sternheim, "Kate" acknowledged she was in contact with Epstein through 2012 -- including emails before, during and after he was incarcerated in Palm Beach. And in one email correspondence in 2011, "Kate" was the one who initiated contact with Epstein to say she wanted to visit him in New York.
"Kate" said was not in contact with Maxwell during that same period.
During her testimony, "Kate" acknowledged that she had abused alcohol, cocaine and sleeping pills in her teens and young adulthood but she denied that substance abuse could have impacted her memories of Epstein and Maxwell.
"The memories I have of significant events in my life have never changed," she said.