AFTER financier Jeffrey Epstein died, prosecutors “pivoted” to accusing his associate Ghislaine Maxwell of finding teenage girls for him to abuse, a lawyer for the British socialite said in closing arguments of her trial on Monday.
Lawyer Laura Menninger said Maxwell was an “innocent woman” and that prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she was aware of or involved in Epstein’s apparent crimes.
“We are not here to defend Jeffrey Epstein,” Menninger said. “The government, in this case, has now pivoted because Epstein’s not here and they said her too, her too.”
Maxwell, 59, who is charged with sex trafficking and other crimes, has pleaded not guilty. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 at the age of 66 while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges.
The defense has sought to portray the accounts of her four accusers as not credible. Menninger said the women were motivated to implicate Maxwell by the prospect of a payout from a victim’s compensation fund run by Epstein’s estate.
“The money brought the accusers to the FBI,” Menninger said, saying the women brought personal injury lawyers with them to interviews with law enforcement agents decades after they said the abuse occurred. “Memories have been manipulated in aid of the money.”
Earlier on Monday, prosecutor Alison Moe said Maxwell was Epstein’s “partner in crime” in a scheme to abuse teenage girls. Maxwell’s presence assuaged teenagers who otherwise would have found Epstein “creepy” that touching him was normal behavior, Moe said.
“Epstein could not have done this alone,” Moe said.
But Menninger disputed prosecutors’ argument that Maxwell targeted and groomed them for abuse, saying that several of the women testified they were introduced to Epstein by people other than Maxwell.
She focused on the testimony of Jane, who said Maxwell often took part in her sex acts with Epstein. Menninger said Jane’s body language suggested she could not truly recall whether she was ever alone with the two of them, and noted that Jane said her first encounter with Epstein did not involve Maxwell.
“Jane told you when she was first abused she was taken alone into a poolhouse where Epstein masturbated on her,” Menninger said. “Ghislaine wasn’t even there.”
Menninger’s closing argument is expected to last up to two-and-a-half hours. Prosecutors will then have an opportunity to present a rebuttal argument before the jury begins deliberating.