By Larry Neumeister and Tom Hays, The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A woman testified on Tuesday that British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was sometimes present when the witness, then just 14, had sexual interactions with the financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The witness, using the pseudonym “Jane,” was the first of four alleged victims expected to testify against Maxwell at a New York City trial where she is charged with recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to at least 2004.
A prosecutor began by asking the woman how old she was when she had “sexual contact” with Epstein.
“Fourteen years old,” she responded in a quiet voice.
She also was asked if there was ever anyone else in the room when there was sexual contact.
“Ghislaine Maxwell,” she replied.
The testimony was expected to continue throughout the day and into Wednesday.
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.
Epstein’s former pilot testifies
Earlier Tuesday, a former pilot for Epstein testified that he never saw evidence of sexual activity on planes as he flew his boss and others — including a prince and ex-presidents — for nearly three decades.
Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr., the trial’s first witness, was responding to questions by a defense lawyer when he acknowledged that he never encountered sexual activity aboard two jets he piloted for roughly 1,000 trips between 1991 and 2019.
He said he stayed in the cockpit for the majority of flights, but would sometimes emerge to go to the bathroom or get coffee.
Although he was called as a witness by the government, Visoski’s testimony seemed to aid the defense of Maxwell as he answered questions posed by Maxwell attorney Christian Everdell about what he saw when he straightened up the aircraft after a flight.
Visoski didn’t hesitate when Everdell asked him if he ever saw sexual activity when he went for coffee or found sex toys when he cleaned up.
“Never,” the pilot answered to both questions. He said he never saw used condoms either.
And when he was asked if he ever saw sex acts with underage females, he answered: “Absolutely not.”
The pilot said Epstein never warned him to stay in the cockpit during flights and also encouraged him to use a bathroom near the rear of the plane that would require him to walk past the plane’s couches.
He said he never saw any children on his planes who were not accompanied by their parents.
When Everdell asked him about a teenager who prosecutors say was sexually abused by Epstein before she became an adult, Visoski said he believed she was “mature” when he was introduced to her.
Pilot identifies well-known passengers
He also acknowledged that Clinton was a passenger on a few flights in the 2000s and he had piloted planes with Britain’s Prince Andrew, the late U.S. Sen. John Glenn of Ohio — the first American to orbit Earth — and former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, “more than once.”
Visoski said Epstein gave him 40 acres of land to build a house on the financier’s New Mexico property and paid for his daughters’ college education.
Epstein’s plane was derisively nicknamed “The Lolita Express” by some in the media after allegations emerged that he had used it to fly teenage girls to his private island, his New Mexico ranch and his New York City townhouse.
Maxwell, 59, traveled for decades in circles that put her in contact with accomplished and wealthy people before her July 2020 arrest.
Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey where Maxwell stood in the hierarchy of Epstein’s world, Visoski said Maxwell “was the Number 2.” He added that “Epstein was the big Number 1.”
The testimony supports what Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors in her opening statement Monday when she said Epstein and Maxwell were “partners in crime.”
Pomerantz said Maxwell recruited and groomed girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to at least 2004.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and 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 August 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.
Visoski testified briefly on Monday before beginning Tuesday on the witness stand.