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Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers to open defense in sex crimes trial

Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers will begin their case that the British socialite did not recruit and sexually abuse girls with the late financier Jeffrey Epstein when her high-profile trial resumes Thursday.

The defense has indicated that it plans to call 35 witnesses as it seeks to persuade the New York jury to acquit Maxwell of six counts of enticing and transporting minors for sex.

Attorneys for the 59-year-old intend to challenge the recollections of the case’s four accusers by calling to the stand psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, an expert on “false memories.”

She told the sex abuse trials of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby that memories become distorted over time, particularly during questioning years later.

The defense counsel is also expected to ask forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz to describe the “halo effect” to explain that a person may not be aware of crimes committed by someone they are enamored with.

Maxwell’s lawyers have unusually requested that three witnesses be allowed to testify using just their first names or a pseudonym.

It is common for alleged victims of sexual abuse to give evidence anonymously, as three of Maxwell’s accusers did, but it’s virtually unheard of for defense witnesses.

The government has opposed the request and Judge Alison Nathan is due to rule on it.

The prosecution rested its case on Friday, taking just 10 days to question its witnesses.

They sought to portray Maxwell as Epstein’s partner-in-crime, recruiting young girls to be sexually exploited by the American money-manager, who killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting his own trial.

Two women said they were as young as 14 when Maxwell allegedly began grooming them and arranging for them to give massages to Epstein that ended in sexual activity.

One, identified only as “Jane,” detailed how Maxwell recruited her at summer camp and made her feel “special.” She said sexual encounters with Epstein became routine, with Maxwell sometimes present.

Another, going by “Carolyn,” said she was usually paid $300 after sexual encounters with Epstein, often by Maxwell herself.

Annie Farmer, the only accuser to testify using her real name, said she was 16 when Maxwell fondled her breasts during a massage at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch.

The defense questioned the women’s ability to remember quarter-century-old events. They also brought up past drug use by two of them.

The government’s case also included testimony from Epstein’s longtime pilot who recalled flying Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Kevin Spacey on Epstein’s private planes.

Maxwell’s alleged crimes occurred between 1994 and 2004. The daughter of ex-newspaper baron Robert Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.

Although not impossible, she is unlikely to testify herself. The move would be risky as it would open her to intense cross-examination from prosecutors.

Maxwell faces an effective life sentence if convicted. AFP