Jury selection to take approximately one hour. There is a total pool of 58 prospective jurors. They will be selected from a group of the first 40 interviewed. Lawyers on both sides can challenge the inclusion of certain people. There is currently a delay in proceedings as missing members of the jury pool are located.
Jurors questioned ahead of final selection. Judge Nathan has asked the jurors if they have read, seen, heard, or researched anything about the case during the holiday recess and if there is any reason that they cannot be a fair and impartial juror.
One juror, number 87, who works for a private equity firm has expressed doubts about being fair and impartial and will be questioned in the main courtroom. Jurors are currently being held in two separate courtrooms and have been addressed remotely.
On Nov. 16, that juror said: "My only concern is, I guess given proximity to private equity and finance, that's my only concern."
Juror 87 elaborated then the concern was the "number of high-profile individuals [...in] finance generally who have been implicated in this case."
Sarah Ransome — one of several women to have accused Ms Maxwell of abuse — was seen arriving at the courthouse on Monday morning. She told reporters: “I never thought this day would come.” Ms Ransome will not be testifying.
Juror 87 has been excused after saying that he had conversations with work contacts who had expressed strong opinions about the case. He said that he had been unable to cut them off.
Ms Maxwell is in court, with Bloomberg reporting that she is wearing a white turtleneck and dark slacks and is seated next to her lawyers, who she embraced on arrival as she usually does. Her sister Isabel is seated behind the defence table in the spectator area.
The jury and alternates have been picked. They have been asked to come to the third-floor courtroom so that opening statements can begin.
The prosecution team will present its opening statement first. This is their opportunity to frame the case as they would like the jury to see it — though nothing they say is evidence.
Opening statements set the tone for the trial and often feature themes that are returned to during closing arguments once the evidence has been presented to the jury.
Prosecutors expect to keep their opening statement to approximately 25 minutes and Ms Maxwell’s lawyers hope to keep their’s under an hour, according to Law & Crime’s Adam Klasfeld.
There is a pause in proceedings as a juror speaks with the judge about financial hardship, claiming their employer may not pay them to be off work for a six-week trial.
Another juror says a spouse has surprised them with a four-day vacation over the holidays from 24-28 December. Judge Nathan is contacting the first juror’s employer.
Judge Nathan says that the juror whose spouse announced a surprise trip doesn't know whether it could be moved. The judge is inclined to move ahead regardless.
Judge Nathan has told the juror with the vacation plans to keep pushing to see if there are options to move the trip as she is inclined for the court to sit that week. She is still gathering information from the other juror regarding their employment situation. Discussions are underway as to what to do if they have to replace either of the jurors.
Judge Nathan: The supervisor for the juror expressing a financial hardship said she'd "check" whether paid leave could be extended. You have 10 minutes, the judge said.
Judge Nathan has returned to the bench as the jurors continue to try and resolve their situations — it is hoped that this can be done within the hour. She raises the possibility of having seven alternates instead of six and then proceed with the opening statements.
Addressing the remaining potential jurors who are still waiting in two other courtrooms in the building, she tells them that they may still be called upon for jury duty. A suggestion of an early lunch break is dismissed as lunch for the jurors will not arrive until 1pm.
Maxwell's lawyer said a "tsunami" of news coverage would make a fair trial impossible, but the jury knew little about the case. One juror, who never heard of her, said of Epstein: “Billionaire who solicited prostitutes and underage girls.” Also, this juror had heard Maxwell was Epstein's "girlfriend." The juror otherwise did not know about the allegations against her.
Note: The "tsunami" comment was made well before voir dire. This is a developing story, based on what the jurors said during voir dire questioning.
The issues with the two jurors have been resolved. They will be sworn in before breaking for lunch. Judge Nathan announced: “We have our 18 jurors.” She has also dismissed the remaining potential jurors, thanking them for their service, patience, and time.
The jury has been sworn in by the courtroom deputy. Law & Crime’s Adam Klasfeld notes that it “appears to be a diverse jury in terms of race, age, and gender”.
This is the first time Ms Maxwell has seen the jury that will hear her case since the wider pool of potential jurors was questioned by the court.
Judge Nathan reminds jurors to avoid all social media and not to discuss the case with anyone — not even family and friends. She also noted the significant media attention surrounding the case.
Calling the jury the “triers of fact” Judge Nathan says that they are to “decide this case solely on the evidence provided in the courtroom”.
Ghislaine Maxwell appeared to be in good spirits at the start of her trial on charges of trafficking underage girls for convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The British socialite seemed relaxed, played with her hair, smiled from behind her mask and waved at her sister as jury selection in the case began, according to press pool reports.
Prosecution Opening Statement
Poised to deliver an opening statement for the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Elizabeth Pomerantz. Opening line by the prosecution: "I want to tell you about a young girl named Jane."
AUSA says this girl was introduced to a man and a woman at camp. The man described himself as a donor there. "What Jane didn't know then is that man and woman were predators."
AUSA: "Who was that woman targeting young girls for sexual abuse? It was the defendant: Ghislaine Maxwell."
"She helped normalize abusive sexual conduct." Prosecutors are expected to talk about "grooming" at trial. AUSA: "She put them at ease [...] all so they could be molested by a middle age man."
"There were times when she was in the room when it happened." About "Jane." That's how three of the four "Minor Victims" of the indictment are anonymized. One is public.
AUSA calls Maxwell and Epstein "partners in crime," often targeting the daughters of single mothers.
They "promised these girls the world," going after girls with "difficult home lives." "They figured out what these girls wanted to do when they grew up and they promised to help."
“They were wealthy and influential people who used that cover to make the girls and their parents feel comfortable and safe,” Ms Pomerantz says.
“What came next was anything but safe. The next stage involved getting the girls comfortable with sexual contact involving Epstein,” she continues describing that massaging Epstein was used as a way of beginning the abuse by getting them to touch him and allowing him to touch them.
"They made these girls feel seen. They made these girls feel special, but that was a cover." The prosecutor describes the "so-called massages" that she says Maxwell arranged for Epstein. "What was happening inside those massage rooms was not a massage; it was sexual abuse."
The prosecutor acknowledges the case may make jurors uncomfortable, before saying: "He directed girls to massage him, while he masturbated. He sometimes received oral sex, and he sometimes penetrated the girls' vaginas with his penis."
She says Maxwell helped Epstein find those girls. "Sometimes, she touched the girls' bodies."
"Even when she was not in the room, make no mistake: She knew exactly what Epstein was going to do to those children when she sent them inside those massage rooms,” Ms Pomerantz returned to the story of Jane describing how they befriended her despite being more than twice her age, taking her shopping and to movies and giving her hundreds of dollars.
The abusive relationship continued for years at both Epstein’s residences in Palm Beach and in New York, says the prosecutor.
"Ladies and gentleman, Jane was not the only one." Maxwell and Epstein "devised" a "Pyramid scheme of abuse," encouraging girls to bring other girls — to be rewarded with cash. "You'll also hear about Epstein's staff," including the pilot for the private planes and employees from his residence, the prosecutor says.
Prosecutor to jury: You'll see FedEx records confirming that Epstein sent a gift to one of his victims when she was 15 years old. "They were exploiting kids," the AUSA says. "They were trafficking kids for sex."
Explaining how the prosecution will prove the counts against Ms Maxwell true, Ms Pomerantz says that Jane herself will take the stand. The jury will also hear from family members of the victims and Epstein’s staff, including his pilots, as well as law enforcement officers who searched his homes. Flights log, courier records, and other hard evidence will also be shown to make the case that the pair were trafficking children for sex, and that this went on for a decade.
Defense Opening Statement
Defense statement from Maxwell's lawyer Bobbi Sternheim. "Ever since eve was accused of tempting Adam for the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men and women are often villainized and punished more than the men ever are."
Ms Sternheim argues that her client is not like Epstein, nor the other powerful men who abused women and that the prosecution will not be able to prove that Ms Maxwell committed the crimes with which she is charged.
“This case is about memory, manipulation, and money.”
Says Ms Sternheim: “As you will see, the accusations that you will hear from the mouths of four accusers — not like the hundreds that the government suggested you would hear from — you will hear from them and they will recount from their memories, memories of a quarter-century ago. Memories that have been corrupted by things that have happened throughout the years. Manipulated by a narcissistic man and self-interested civil lawyers and a desire for a big jackpot of money.”
Sternheim says she's "proud" to represent Maxwell: The government's story relies upon the claims of four accusers. She emphasizes the time period of the indictment dating back decades. "As we all know, memories fade over time, and in this case, we will learn not only have memories faded. But they have been contaminated by outside information, media reports" and other influences, the defense attorney says.
The defense counsel also attacks "civil attorneys" who saw Epstein and Maxwell as "easy targets" for lawsuits and money. "She is a scapegoat for a man—"
Judge Nathan: "As stated, overruled."
Sternheim says "Epstein's death left a gaping hole" for justice for these women. Referring to Maxwell, Sternheim says: "She is a brand name. She is a lightning rod. She is a convenient stand-in for man who—"
The parties confer privately with the judge at sidebar to see whether this is permissible theme for opening statement. After sidebar, Sternheim switches topics, urging jurors not to judge her client on her affluence: "Privileged background, comfortable lifestyle, status, they may be things that easily check the wrong box, but they are not crimes."
[CONTINUED IN COMMENT]