Ghislaine Maxwell declines to testify as her defence rests

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Ghislaine Maxwell declined to testify on Friday as her lawyers wrapped up her defence on criminal sex trafficking charges after two days.

“Your honour, the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and so there is no need for me to testify,” Maxwell, 59, said on Friday afternoon, after Judge Alison Nathan offered her the standard opportunity to take the stand to testify in her own defence.

It was the first time Maxwell has been heard during the roughly three-week trial. The case will go to the jury after closing arguments, which start on Monday.

Maxwell had not been expected to testify — a family spokesperson told US media earlier this week that she was “too fragile” to do so because of ill-treatment in jail.

But the brevity of her defence was a surprise after her lawyers had told the court days ago that they planned to call as many as 35 witnesses. In the end, they called just nine. Among them was an expert on false memories, who previously testified on behalf of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.

The defence also called several women who had worked in the New York office of Jeffrey Epstein, the late sex offender who was Maxwell’s confidante. All acknowledged under cross-examination that they had not worked or spent considerable time at the private Palm Beach or New York mansions where he abused dozens of underage women.

Laura Menninger, one of Maxwell’s lawyers, pleaded on Friday morning for more time to round up witnesses. “Our client’s life is on the line,” she told Judge Nathan, who ultimately denied the request.

The government has alleged that Maxwell, a British socialite and daughter of the late press baron Robert Maxwell, was instrumental in recruiting Epstein’s victims, and in some cases participated in the abuse. She did so, they claim, in order to maintain access to a lavish lifestyle of private jets and opulent mansions Epstein provided.

She has denied wrongdoing. Her lawyers have argued that she is being made a scapegoat for Epstein, who died by suicide in a New York jail cell a month after his 2019 arrest.

The most notable witness on Friday was Eva Dubin, a longtime friend of Epstein. The former Miss Sweden dated him throughout the 1980s and remained friendly after marrying hedge fund billionaire Glenn Dubin in 1994. Dubin told jurors that her three children regarded Epstein like an uncle, calling him “Uncle F”. They made him godfather of one of their daughters.

Dubin said she could not recall meeting a government witness, identified as “Jane”, who had testified earlier in the trial that Epstein began to abuse her at age 14. Flight logs showed that “Jane” had flown on Epstein’s private jet with the Dubins in 1998.

Jane had testified that she had participated in group sexual encounters with Epstein and others including a woman she believed was named “Eva”. But Dubin denied ever having been involved “in a group sexual encounter” with her, saying: “Absolutely not.”

Under cross-examination, Dubin, 60, acknowledged that she was suffering from health-related memory problems. “It’s very hard for me to remember anything far back. Sometimes I can’t even remember things from last month,” she said. “My family notices it. I notice it. It’s been an issue.”

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