Ghislaine Maxwell accuser says seeking 'peace and healing' through trial testimony

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By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A woman who has accused British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell of grooming her for sexual abuse by financier Jeffrey Epstein when she was 14 years old said on Wednesday she is seeking "peace and healing" by testifying in Maxwell's criminal trial.

The woman, known by the pseudonym Jane, was pushing back on attempts by Maxwell's attorneys to paint her testimony as unreliable and to argue that she was testifying for financial incentives.

"This is something that I have been running from my entire life up until now and I'm just tired of it," Jane said toward the end of around eight hours of testimony over two days. "I was just hoping that I could help in any way to make that happen, and hopefully find some peace and healing some day."

Jane, one of four accusers expected to take the stand at Maxwell's sex abuse trial, is a professional TV actress. Maxwell's attorney Bobbi Sternheim said in opening statements earlier this week that Jane was a "pro at playing roles" and was motivated to implicate Maxwell by her claim to a compensation fund for Epstein's victims.

But in follow-up questioning by prosecutor Alison Moe in federal court in Manhattan, Jane said she was not acting on the stand, and that her only motivation for testifying was to "hopefully find some sort of closure."

Maxwell, 59, is charged with eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two perjury charges that will be tried separately. The daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.

Upon entering the courtroom on Wednesday morning wearing a grey turtleneck sweater and black dress pants, Maxwell greeted her sister Isabel and brother Kevin, who were seated in the front row.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and her lawyers have said prosecutors are scapegoating her for Epstein's alleged crimes. The well-connected investment advisor died by suicide at age 66 in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex-abuse charges.

Maxwell's lawyers have argued that the four accusers' memories have been manipulated over time. They say the women never mentioned Maxwell's role in their abuse until after Epstein's death.

'MOVE ON WITH MY LIFE'

Jane, now in her early 40s, said at the start of her testimony on Tuesday that she had sexual encounters with Epstein at his Palm Beach, Florida, home multiple times per month when she was 14, 15 and 16. Other people occasionally participated, including Maxwell, who touched her breasts, Jane testified.

A former romantic partner of Jane's, known by the pseudonym Matt, testified on Wednesday that she told him about abuse by Epstein in 2009, a year after Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution and served a one-year prison term in Florida.

Matt, an actor who dated Jane from 2006 to 2014, said under questioning by prosecutor Moe that Jane "said that having a woman there made her feel more comfortable" during those encounters, but did not tell him it was Maxwell until her 2020 arrest.

During cross-examination, another Maxwell attorney, Laura Menninger, questioned Jane about apparent discrepancies between her testimony and conversations with prosecutors before Maxwell's July 2020 arrest.

Jane said she did not recall if she told prosecutors before Maxwell's arrest that Maxwell had touched her during the encounters.

In follow-up questioning by Moe, Jane said she held back some details during her initial conversations with them because she did not yet know them well and found it "too difficult" to share everything.

Jane said on Tuesday she had received $5 million from the victims' compensation fund.

"I wish I would have never received that money in the first place," Jane said after a long, tearful pause. "Hopefully this just puts it all to an end and I can move on with my life."

(Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Mark Porter and Grant McCool)

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