A former employee of Jeffrey Epstein has told Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial that she “never” witnessed any misconduct by the British socialite in the six years she worked with her.
Cimberly Espinosa, 55, started working for J Epstein & Co as a legal assistant in October 1996 when she was 28 years old.
She later became Maxwell‘s assistant – a role that saw her working closely with the accused until 2002.
Ms Espinosa – the first defence witness at Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial – said she “never” witnessed the pair engage in any “misbehaviour”.
Also, she spoke about seeing a key accuser in the case – named “Jane” to protect her privacy – visiting the financier’s New York City office on Madison Avenue “a few times” in the late 1990s.
She said Jane’s mother had told workers she was Epstein’s goddaughter, and as a result, “she was treated with utmost respect”.
Jane’s interactions with Epstein gave her the impression “it was a loving relationship”, she added.
‘False memory’, financial motives, scapegoating – what Maxwell’s defence lawyers will use to try to discredit accusers
Ms Espinosa told the jury in a federal court in Manhattan she assisted Maxwell, 59, in managing Epstein’s multiple high-end properties between 1996 and 2002, saying “I looked up to her very much”.
Maxwell keenly watching day one of the defence’s case
By Martha Kelner, US correspondent, in court in New York
Ghislaine Maxwell seems more engaged than ever on the first day of the defence case.
Wearing a deep purple turtleneck jumper and black mask, she is constantly whispering with her lawyers during breaks in proceedings, particularly when her former executive assistant Cimberly Espinosa was on the stand.
Maxwell’s interaction with lawyers are tactile, at one point she repeatedly stroked the arm of lead defender Bobbi Sternheim.
When another defence lawyer, Jeffrey Pagliuca, approached her seat, he said: “I haven’t seen you today”, and enveloped her in an embrace.
When defence lawyer Christian Everdell finished his questioning, assistant US attorney Lara Pomerantz tried to convince jurors that Ms Espinosa was an irrelevant witness by asking her only whether she had ever worked at any of Epstein’s homes.
When Ms Espinosa said she had not, Ms Pomerantz said she had no other questions.
The defence case began after the jury heard four women, including Jane, make accusations that they were teenagers when they became victims of a sex-abuse scheme devised by Maxwell and Epstein and carried out at various Epstein properties between 1994 and 2004.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she acted as Epstein‘s chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse during sexual massages.
Her lawyers are expected to make the case that Maxwell is not the one to blame and that she is being made a scapegoat for alleged sex crimes by Epstein, who killed himself in jail in 2019.
A psychologist who studies “false memories” was also called to give evidence on Thursday.
Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine, gave evidence in support of the defence’s claim that the memories of the four accusers have become corrupted over the years.
Ms Loftus said that humans typically change their memories over time to remember themselves in a better light, adding that even recollections of traumatic events can be false.
“Even traumatic experiences can be subjected to post-event suggestion,” Ms Loftus said.
“False memories… can be very vivid, detailed. People can be confident about them, people can be emotional about them, even though they’re false.”
Ms Loftus, who said she was being compensated $600 per hour for her time, has been a witness or consultant for hundreds of trials, including those of Harvey Weinstein and OJ Simpson.
The prosecution case lasted two weeks but the defence case could last just two days, cutting the trial short of the expected six-week duration.
There is speculation whether Maxwell will take stand in her own defence before the case is over.
Her lawyers have sought to show that the accusers exaggerated her involvement at the behest of lawyers seeking payouts for the women from civil claims against the Epstein estate.