Discover more from Vicky Ward Investigates
Day Seven: “An Expletive That Rhymes with ‘Front’”
Dispatches from the Maxwell Trial
Some of the most fascinating moments in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial have not actually happened in front of the jurors, but in conference between Judge Alison Nathan and the prosecution and defense teams, who have grown increasingly combative—to the point that, at the end of the day yesterday, Nathan instructed both sides “to behave.”
“Counsel, both of you need to behave,” she told them.
Tension had started building at 8:45am when the pre-trial conference began. Maxwell defense lawyer Laura Menninger, whose demeanor has been cool and unflappable for most of the trial thus far, was visibly furious as she told Judge Nathan that she’d been notified early that morning—very early, 3 a.m.— that prosecutors had met with “Brian”—the brother Accuser Number One, “Jane”—on Monday night, and it had emerged that Jane and Brian had communicated with each other since Jane’s testimony.
Witnesses are not supposed to talk to one another.
According to Menninger, Jane had not only talked to Brian about a document she’d been shown but had also described Menninger to her brother as “an expletive that rhymes with ‘front.’”
Judge Nathan asked for prosecutors “to fully inquire what Brian learned from Jane or anyone else about testimony that's taken place” and said that, once the inquiry was done, they would allow for “legal analysis from both sides as to what an appropriate remedy is in light of what we learn factually.”
At the lunch break, Judge Nathan said that, should Brian testify, then Menninger could ask him about his conversation with Jane. “There was no order in place for witnesses not to speak,” Nathan said. “It could have been requested, I suppose. It wasn't requested. I didn't put one in place. I never have. And the reason is because if witnesses speak to each other, that's going to come out on cross, and boy is that going to look bad for the witnesses.”
Suffice it to say, by the end of the day, the prosecution said they were no longer planning to produce “Brian” and that, further, they will rest—most likely by the end of Thursday.
Now, that is quicker than most of us had thought.
It means that most of the government’s case is now already out there. Have they proven that Maxwell is guilty on all of the six counts she is charged with in terms of enabling Epstein to abuse and traffic underage girls—and done so beyond reasonable doubt?
Part of the prosecution’s argument was establishing a pattern of abuse.
We heard yesterday from Accuser Number Four, whose first name is Carolyn, who told a heart-wrenching story of sheer poverty: being addicted to drugs and alcohol, having an alcoholic and drug-addicted mother, being convicted of a couple of felonies, having a child at 16.
Carolyn gave a very graphic account of how, when Virginia Roberts took her over to Epstein’s for the first time, Roberts had her “dress sexy” and then, in front of Carolyn in the massage room, Virginia stripped, according to Carolyn, and, after Epstein turned over, had sex with Epstein.
Carolyn was interviewed by the FBI in 2007 and sued Sarah Kellen and Epstein in 2009. The defense cross seized on this, focusing on Virginia Roberts as the person who introduced Carolyn to Epstein. They also tried to paint Kellen as the main facilitator. (Kellen has not been charged with wrong-doing, and Roberts has not been called to testify in this case.) The defense also highlighted the inconsistencies between Carolyn's statements in 2007 and 2009 and what she is saying now.
But you can also see what the prosecution was doing with this witness: establishing a story that is repeating itself. Even though there are inconsistencies in each of these witnesses, there is a pattern emerging of how the abuse occurred—and it all follows the pattern outlined by Dr. Lisa Rocchio about how predators groom their victims (which I wrote about last week).
The other part of the prosecution’s argument is dependent on the narrative that, as some witnesses have suggested, Epstein and Maxwell had a relationship that went far beyond the merely professional or platonic.
I wrote yesterday how it might be that photos are more powerful than words. And when photographs of Epstein and Maxwell— taken from images on CDs found by the FBI at Epstein’s house when they raided it after his arrest in July 2019—were shown in court, yes, you could clearly see that this was a couple who were extremely sexual, over a number of years, judging by the change in haircuts and facial lines.
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at Cipriani Wall Street on March 15, 2005 in New York City. || Patrick McMullan \ Getty
One particular photograph of Maxwell—rubbing Epstein’s feet on a private plane, with her shirt pushed back off her shoulders, her cleavage exposed in a tight white tank, a look of abandon her face—said more about her and her desire for Epstein than much of the testimony has, frankly.
And yet…given all my reporting over the past 19 years, I remain deeply confused about their relationship and how long it really lasted.
I remember so vividly how Epstein denied to me in the fall of 2002 that he and Maxwell were romantic. Instead, he’d “promoted her.” “She’s my best friend,” he told me. When I asked him if they were mutually dependent on each other, he’d been almost indignant. “That has a syrupy connotation,” he said.
Yesterday, after we saw the photos, we also saw images from copies taken from a hard drive owned by “Gmax” that had been seized by the FBI.
A Word document, created on that drive on October 14, 2002— the same time I was reporting on Epstein and talking to him daily—was a list of points about Maxwell and Epstein’s relationship:
“Jeffrey and Ghislaine have been together, a couple for the last 11 years. They are, contrary to what many people think, rarely apart — I almost always see them together.
Ghislaine is highly intelligent, and great company with a ready smile and an infectious laugh who always puts one at one's ease, and always makes one feel welcome.
Jeffrey and Ghislaine share many mutual interests and they have a lot of fun together. They both have keen searching and inquisitive minds. She grew up amongst scientists and in an academic and business environment.
Jeffrey and Ghislaine complement each other really well and I cannot imagine one without the other. On top of being great partners, they are also the best of friends.”
The final line—“the best of friends.”
What was striking was how different the context was from the way in which Epstein used it with me.
He’d said it pejoratively; here, it’s used as a positive.
What’s the truth? Maybe by the end of this trial, we will find out.