Ghislaine Maxwell’s defense attorneys on Monday portrayed her as a scapegoat being accused because of “the bad behavior of men,” — one in particular — since prosecutors never had a chance to put late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein on trial.
Her lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, invoked the Bible at the start of her opening statement, arguing that women have been condemned for crimes committed by men since the beginning of time.
“Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam with the apple,” said Sternheim. “Women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men.”
“Ghislaine is on trial here and you heard about the conduct of Jeffrey Epstein. She is filling that hole. And filling an empty chair,” said Sternheim, adding that her client was a “convenient stand-in” for the dead sex offender.
Sternheim also took aim at the four alleged victims in the case, claiming they had been taken advantage of by aggressive civil defense attorneys and, in some cases, are searching for a payday.
“Memory, manipulation and money,” Sternheim repeatedly told jurors would be raised by defense attorneys as they seek to sow doubt in the prosecution’s case.
One of the victims, Sternheim said, was not introduced to Epstein by Maxwell, rather by another accuser, Virginia Giuffre, and her claims never included alleged crimes committed by Maxwell until after Epstein’s death.
The reason her story switched, Sternheim said, is because she was seeking cash from an Epstein victims’ fund — and turned over information about Maxwell to prosecutors in an effort to bolster that claim.
“In many regards, he was like a 21st Century James Bond,” Sternheim said about Epstein. “His mystery has stirred interest. His accusers have shaken the money tree and millions of dollars have fallen their way.”
Defense attorneys will also poke holes in the prosecution by attempting to show two of the victims in the case were above the age of consent when sexual contact between them and Epstein took place, Sternheim said.
One of the victims, Sternheim said, only met Maxwell once when she was 16 years old in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is above the age of consent in the state.
Another one of the four victims was a woman who lived a “jetsetter” lifestyle before she met Epstein and once dated a man more than twice her age, who knew Maxwell from Oxford, Sternheim said.
That victim, the attorney continued, was above the age of consent in every place she met with Maxwell and Epstein.
Maxwell — who has been locked up since her July 2020 arrest — stands accused of helping Epstein to “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” girls as young as 14, according to the indictment against her.
The six counts she faces — including sex-trafficking of minors — stem from the allegations of four women who say they were abused by Epstein and Maxwell between 1994 and 2004 when they were teenagers.
Her trial in Manhattan federal court is set to resume on Tuesday morning.