NEW YORK (AP) – A green folding massage table used by financier Jeffrey Epstein was brought to a Manhattan courtroom and set up in front of a jury on Friday to bolster claims he had partnered with the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell for sexually exploiting underage victims.
The theatrical blossoming in Manhattan federal court, courtesy of an investigator wearing rubber gloves, was intended to corroborate the testimony of a key accuser during Maxwell’s ongoing sexual abuse trial, alleging that massages were used as a pretext for sexual encounters with Epstein which sometimes included Maxwell.
A witness who said the abuse began when he was 14 described seeing a massage table in a “massage room” which police said was in the same place where they recovered one in Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida in 2005.
A police officer testified that investigators also seized files, computers and sex toys – a photo of which was shown to the jury – from the residence.
Prosecutors showed jurors a videotape of police from the residence which captured footage of nude photos on the walls – a setting which federal prosecutors say is evidence of a sexualized atmosphere encouraged by Maxwell to pressure the victims.
The evidence was presented over defense objections, calling it prejudicial. Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim accused prosecutors of trying to unfairly portray Epstein’s house as a “home of debauchery.”
Prosecutors alleged the British socialite treated teenage girls by taking them shopping and going to the movies, telling them about their lives and encouraging them to accept Epstein’s financial aid. The government also says she helped create a sexually charged atmosphere by talking about sex with the girls and telling them about Epstein’s alleged sexualized massages.
Maxwell, 59, denies the allegations against her and her lawyers say prosecutors are prosecuting her because they cannot try Epstein, who committed suicide in prison before he can be tried. She was Epstein’s former girlfriend and, later, his employee.
The accuser, using the pseudonym “Jane” to protect her privacy, said earlier this week that on her first visit to Epstein’s home, she was disturbed by “certain paintings of, like, nude women or half-naked women “. In the massage room in a master bedroom shared by Epstein and Maxwell, the couple were “showing me, you know, what they like, what – you know, what men like, what women like.”
Also on Friday, Epstein’s former housekeeper Juan Patricio Alessi returned to the witness stand to face cross-examination on her testimony that “Jane” and another woman who accused Epstein of having her. sexually assaulted as a teenager were repeat visitors to the Palm Beach mansion, where Maxwell was “the hostess.”
A lawyer for Maxwell sought to discredit Alessi – who worked for Epstein from 1990 to 2002 – by confronting him with testimony from a civil case that the defense said was inconsistent with his testimony at trial.
Alessi said Friday that none of the many young women who visited the Florida home alerted him to any misconduct.
“I wish they had done it because I would have done something,” he said.
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