Ex-Epstein worker tells jury she ‘looked up’ to Ghislaine Maxwell

New York: A former office worker for financier Jeffrey Epstein has testified at the sex abuse trial of Ghislaine Maxwell that she worked on a daily basis with Maxwell for six years and had only admiration for her.

Cimberly Espinosa, the first defence witness, told a jury she was Maxwell’s assistant at Epstein’s New York City office on Madison Avenue from 1996 to 2002. Maxwell was managing Epstein’s multiple high-end properties at the time, she said, calling it a “huge job”.

A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell, left, conferring with her defence attorney Bobbi Sternheim.Credit:AP

“I highly respected her,” Espinosa said in federal court in Manhattan. “I looked up to her very much.”

The defence case began after the jury heard four women detail accusations that they were teens when they became victims of a sex-abuse scheme devised by Maxwell and Epstein. The British socialite’s attorneys are expected to make their case that Maxwell isn’t the one to blame.

The government’s case lasted only two weeks and the defence case could last just two days. Both sides streamlined their witness lists without revealing why, making the trial end well short of an original six-week estimate.

The start of the defence case has already sparked the usual speculation about whether the high-profile defendant will take the witness stand in her own defence – a gamble that is almost never taken. Either way, US District Judge Alison Nathan will have to receive direct confirmation from Maxwell about her decision before the defence can rest.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges she acted as Epstein’s chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse during sexual massages.

Maxwell was once Epstein’s girlfriend before becoming a trusted employee. Witnesses testified the pair exploited them between 1994 to 2004 at Epstein’s homes, including an estate in Palm Beach, Florida; his posh Manhattan townhouse; and a Santa Fe, New Mexico, ranch.

The defence has insisted that Maxwell is being made a scapegoat for alleged sex crimes by Epstein, who killed himself in jail in 2019. 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.

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