WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: An accuser in the trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who says she was sexually abused by sex criminal and financier Jeffrey Epstein, has told a New York court room of an encounter with Donald Trump when she was a teen.
Taking the stand on Wednesday (local time) to give evidence of Maxwell's alleged role in her sexual abuse, the woman said Epstein took her to meet Donald Trump at his Florida club when she was 14 years old.
The woman – one of four key accusers in the trial – did not allege any improper conduct by Mr Trump when she met him at his Mar-a-Lago resort, CNBC reported.
Testifying under the pseudonym "Jane", in part to protect a 22-year acting career, she did not characterise the meeting with the now former US president, nor accuse him of misconduct.
Donald Trump's relationship with Epstein is well documented. In 2002, Trump told New York magazine he'd known the mysterious financier for 15 years, calling him a "terrific guy".
"He’s a lot of fun to be with," Trump said then. "It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."
The testimony will likely bring more unwanted negative attention for the Republican firebrand who has since tried to distance himself from Epstein and continues to publicly flirt with another tilt at the White House.
But it wasn't the first time he has been mentioned in the trial. Epstein's longtime pilot Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr testified on the opening day of the trial that Trump was a passenger on flights he piloted. He also noted Britain's Prince Andrew and former US president Bill Clinton also flew on Epstein's plane, dubbed the "Lolita Express" by the media over rumours it was used to ferry young girls.
Prosecutors went to the heart of their sex trafficking case against Maxwell during the testimony of Jane, now in her early 40s.
She said Maxwell was often in the room when, at age 14, she had sexual interactions with Epstein.
During sexual encounters that began in 1994 and continued through 1997, Maxwell "was very casual," she told a New York City jury. "Like it was no big deal."
The witness testified in a quiet but steady voice, although she got choked up twice and also dabbed at her nose with a tissue as she described the sexual encounters. She said Maxwell instructed her on how to give Epstein sexual massages and sometimes physically participated.
The witness’ testimony was offered by prosecutors to support their claims that Maxwell recruited and groomed girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to at least 2004.
Accuser describes first sexual encounter with Epstein
After grooming the girl with shopping trips and personal conversations, the alleged cycle of abuse started when Epstein abruptly took her by the hand one day and said, "Follow me," before taking her to a pool house at the home. Then he pulled down his pants, pulled her close and "proceeded to masturbate," she said.
"I was frozen in fear," she said. "I’d never see a penis before. ... I was terrified and felt gross and felt ashamed."
Another time, she was taken to a massage room where he and Maxwell both took advantage of her, she said.
"There were hands everywhere and Jeffrey proceeded to masturbate again," she said.
Other encounters involved sex toys or turned into oral sex "orgies" with other young women and Maxwell, she added.
On cross-examination, defence lawyer Laura Menninger immediately attacked the witness’s credibility, asking why she waited over 20 years to report the alleged abuse by Maxwell to law enforcement and why she brought two personal injury lawyers along to her first meeting with the FBI.
Menninger also asked if it was true she had previously spoken to her siblings and others close to her about Epstein’s behaviour, but left Maxwell out of the earlier accounts.
Menninger also elicited testimony from the woman that she was awarded $5 million from a fund set up to compensate victims of Epstein and received $2.9 million once lawyer fees and expenses were deducted.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty. One of her lawyers said in an opening statement Monday that she’s being made a scapegoat for Epstein, who killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell at age 66 in 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.
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