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What the first alleged victim of Epstein and Maxwell said on the witness stand

A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell talking with an attorney in New York on Nov. 30. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

NEW YORK — A 41-year-old woman told jurors how Ghislaine Maxwell allegedly helped groom and recruit her into the life of financier Jeffrey Epstein decades ago, including watching at times as Epstein forced her into sexual acts.

During hours of cross-examination, however, she acknowledged some discrepancies between her testimony and information she previously gave to investigators. Maxwell’s lawyers also told the jury that a Broadway show the woman described attending on a 1994 trip to New York with Maxwell and Epstein actually opened in 1997.

The woman — testifying under the pseudonym Jane — was the first of four alleged victims who will testify at Maxwell’s trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. She gave a mostly matter-of-fact account of being lured into Epstein’s world of daily erotic massages as a 14-year-old, globe-trotting on private jets and enduring years of group sexual activities and abuse.

Maxwell, 59, who was Epstein’s longtime associate and paramour, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and related charges.

Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting his own federal trial.

More than two years after Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in jail, the sex-trafficking trial of his longtime partner, Ghislaine Maxwell opened on Nov. 29. (Video: Reuters)

On the witness stand, Jane, now a professional singer and actress, said she met Maxwell and Epstein at a prestigious summer camp for music students of which Epstein was a benefactor.

The pair invited the girl and her mother to tea at Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., and earned the mother’s trust as potential mentors for her daughter, prosecutors allege. Eventually, Epstein paid for the girl’s schooling and an apartment in New York where she and her family stayed.

Jane testified that she visited Epstein’s mansion about every other week. Initially, she said, the visits were “casual” — centered around trips to the movies and poolside hangouts. The woman said she was first exposed to sex acts with Epstein when he led her into the pool house during a discussion about calls he could make to his influential friends to help her launch her career. There, he exposed himself, she said, using her as a prop as he masturbated.

“I was frozen in fear. . . . I was terrified, I felt gross and I felt ashamed,” she testified, saying it was the first time she had seen male genitalia.

Maxwell’s defense team began to cross-examine Jane late Tuesday afternoon and continued Wednesday.

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Defense lawyers confronted her with apparent inconsistencies between her testimony on the stand and what she told FBI agents and prosecutors in interviews over a roughly two-year period before the trial. Several times, Jane explained the differences by saying investigators must have written a “typo” into their reports, or denied telling them details that were contained in their handwritten notes.

One discrepancy at issue was the location of the first act of abuse by Epstein. Laura Menninger, one of Maxwell’s lawyers, showed Jane notes from an interview with investigators which said Epstein abused her for the first time during a trip to New York. But she testified on Tuesday that the first sexual encounter was in Palm Beach.

Jane’s answers over time also varied as to whether Maxwell was present for her first act of abuse, according to records that were introduced Wednesday. In another instance, Jane was pressed by Menninger about a trip she said she took to New York with Epstein and Maxwell when she was 14 — the year she said she was first abused — to see Lion King on Broadway. The long-running production did not actually debut in New York until 1997, several years later, according to Menninger’s questioning.

Menninger suggested in her initial questioning that Jane had exaggerated her family’s financial distress around the time she met Epstein and Maxwell in 1994 at the Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp in Michigan.

Menninger also pressed Jane on why she waited until 2020 to take her allegations about Epstein and Maxwell to law enforcement. By then, Menninger noted, she was represented by a personal injury attorney.

Jane answered that she was reluctant to tell many people because her story was “embarrassing” and “shameful.”

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Defense lawyers said in opening statements that they will seek to undermine the credibility and motives of Maxwell’s accusers, presenting testimony about how memory can change over time and about alleged financial incentives the women may have had in coming forward. Jane recently was awarded $5 million by a fund set up to administer payments from Epstein’s estate to his victims. After attorney fees and deductions, she kept about $3 million.

Prosecutors have argued that Maxwell, the daughter of late media mogul Robert Maxwell, was the key to trapping underage victims for Epstein, helping to “normalize” sexual interactions with adults. To win Maxwell’s conviction, prosecutors must prove among other things that she helped transport the young victims over state lines, knowing illegal sex acts would take place.

Jane testified Tuesday that she flew to Epstein’s homes New York and New Mexico, and that she was sexually abused in both locations. She also said Maxwell and Epstein on one early occasion led her to a massage table at his Palm Beach estate where they instructed her on how Epstein “likes to be massaged.”

She said she was abused “more than once” by Epstein at age 14, and that Maxwell was the person who was most often in the room when it happened.

Jane told jurors she was made to watch as Epstein and Maxwell had sexual encounters. During hangouts at the mansion, she said, she and other young women who were often at the house and whose ages she didn’t know were summoned to participate in what amounted to orgies.

Jane’s voice cracked at two points — including when she described the dread she felt during a trip to Epstein’s New Mexico ranch when a messenger came to her room to summon her for Epstein.

“My heart sank into my stomach,” she said. “Because I did not want to go see him.”