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Ghislaine Maxwell trial: Another woman describes being groomed for Epstein

Witness "Kate" is questioned by prosecutor Lara Pomerantz during the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, in a courtroom sketch in New York City on Dec. 6. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

NEW YORK — A woman who says she had a years-long sexual relationship with Jeffrey Epstein told jurors on Monday that Ghislaine Maxwell played a key role in facilitating their encounters, first telling her that Epstein was a philanthropist interested in helping young people and then encouraging her to give him massages.

The former British model, actress and musician testified in Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial under the pseudonym Kate, although she has been named in interviews she has given in the past about alleged abuse by Epstein.

Because she was not under the legal age of consent when she was involved with Epstein, jurors in U.S. District Court in Manhattan were told she is not one of Maxwell’s alleged sex-trafficking victims.

But prosecutors hoped her testimony would further illustrate the ways in which Maxwell Epstein’s longtime girlfriend and household managerallegedly groomed and recruited young women to help feed Epstein’s demanding sexual appetites.

Kate, now 44, said she first met Maxwell 27 years ago, in 1994, while visiting Paris with an older man she was dating at the time. The man was a friend of Maxwell’s.

“She was very sophisticated and very elegant,” Kate said on direct examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz. “I was quite excited to be friends with her. . . . She seemed to be everything I wanted to be.”

Ghislaine Maxwell’s tawdry fall from grace

Kate described Maxwell as a mentor of sorts. As their friendship developed, Maxwell discussed Epstein, her longtime companion, and told Kate she wanted to introduce them, explaining that Epstein was a philanthropist “who liked to help young people.”

Kate also told the jury she had a “lovely time” at Maxwell’s home on the day when she first met Epstein. It was then that Maxwell suggested Kate give Epstein a foot massage. Eventually, she said, she began a regular routine of giving Epstein massages that also involved sex acts.

“Did you have fun?” Maxwell allegedly asked her after the first sexual encounter, remarking that she was a “good girl.” Epstein “likes you a lot,” Kate quoted Maxwell as saying.

“[Maxwell] sounded really pleased. And I was really pleased that she was pleased,” the witness said.

Kate was the second alleged Epstein victim to testify in the trial. Last week, a woman who said she was 14 when the sexual encounters with Epstein began described a similar process of being groomed by Maxwell.

On Monday, Kate said she continued communicating with Epstein for years, into her 30s, including during visits to his Palm Beach, Fla., home and his private island in the Caribbean. She exchanged emails with Epstein as he was serving a jail sentence in Florida, following a controversial plea deal that resulted in a relatively lenient sentence, about a year behind bars.

In those missives, Epstein asked her to send photographs, she said. But she didn’t comply. One message from her to Epstein was signed: “Love Always, [Kate].”

Maxwell’s attorneys have tried to undermine the credibility of the women accusing Epstein and Maxwell by questioning their motives and their memories.

Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein’s protector, and his alleged procurer

On cross-examination, defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim pressed Kate about the $3.25 million settlement she got from a victim compensation fund that was set up for Epstein’s accusers after his death by suicide while he was awaiting trial in jail in August 2019.

Sternheim, through questioning, suggested Kate’s drug and alcohol use during the time she was involved with Epstein may have hampered her ability to correctly recall events. She testified, however, that her memory about those interactions was clear.

“Those events come back to me all the time,” Kate said during questioning. “I have nightmares about them.”

Kate was also asked about her efforts to get the U.S. attorney’s office to help her apply for a U.S. visa that is available to certain crime victim survivors.

Maxwell faces sex-trafficking and related charges and could be sentenced to up to 70 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

The trial is slated to last into early January.