Follow our live coverage of the Ghislaine Maxwell trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
The images could be from the album of any relatively well-off couple: a grizzled man and a slightly younger woman in relaxed, unrehearsed moments – standing on a wooden catwalk, astride a motorbike, at a table with a drink.
What sets them apart are the people they represent: Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who committed suicide in a federal prison cell in 2019 while being held for sex trafficking, and Ghislaine Maxwell, his former girlfriend, who is currently on trial on sex trafficking and other charges in Manhattan District Federal Court.
More than a dozen photographs were displayed during Ms Maxwell’s trial last week, showing the carefree surface of a relationship that witnesses testified hid much darker depths. They were presented by the government over defense objections, as prosecutors sought to document, through the footage, Ms Maxwell’s long-standing relationship with Mr Epstein.
Now, as the defense prepares to present its case when the trial resumes on Thursday, lawyers for Ms Maxwell will attempt to convince jurors that the woman in the photos is little more than a scapegoat for Mr Epstein, one of the most notorious men in sex. delinquents in recent American history.
Lawyers for Ms Maxwell have not said publicly who they will call to testify, but have said they will be hearing a case that is unlikely to last more than four days. In the documents filed in court, they suggested that they wanted to present at least one expert witness to counter the testimony of an expert called in by the government who described a process known as “grooming” which is used by sexual predators to target victims and accustom them to abuse.
But the timeline implies that Ms Maxwell herself is unlikely to testify, and jurors will not hear directly about her relationship with Mr Epstein, which in many ways is at the center of the case.
Four women testified that when they were teenagers Ms Maxwell helped them prepare them for Mr Epstein’s abuse, two of them claiming that she claimed to be a friend or mentor introducing them to her money life and of glamor. The government maintained that Ms Maxwell was Mr Epstein’s “best friend and right-hand man” even after the end of a “personal intimate relationship”. In an opening statement she was described as his willful accomplice: Ms Maxwell, a prosecutor, said ‘bring the girls into a room where she knew the man would assault them’.
The photographs shown in court are part of a treasure found in 2019, when FBI agents raided Mr. Epstein’s townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where some of the abuse is believed to have taken place. Prosecutors said at the time that authorities seized hundreds of photos of naked or partially nude young women and girls, some of which were stored in a safe.
Defense attorneys last week objected to the photographs of Mr Epstein and Ms Maxwell being shown in court, saying there was no testimony that the footage had not been altered and suggesting that it was not necessary for the government to enter multiple images into evidence.
“You don’t need 20 photographs to say what two might as well say,” argued one of Ms Maxwell’s attorneys, Laura Menninger.
But a prosecutor, Alison Moe, told the judge in charge of the case that the relationship between Ms Maxwell and Mr Epstein “lies at the heart of this case.” Because the defense had “made several attempts to keep Ms Maxwell away from Mr Epstein and his belongings and argued that things were compartmentalized,” she said, a large number of photos were needed to show Ms Maxwell had been more than an official in Mr. Epstein’s World.
“These photographs show their close relationship through time,” Ms. Moe added. “Considering the change in hairstyle, the people in the photographs are clearly aging. “
The judge, Alison J. Nathan, agreed and the next day the images were projected on a screen in the courtroom, visible to jurors and the public and offering a glimpse of some of Ms Maxwell’s private life. and Mr. Epstein together.
Understanding the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell
A confidant of Epstein. Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of a British media mogul and once a fixture on New York’s social scene, was a longtime companion of Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide after his arrest for sex trafficking in 2019.
Numerous photos, presented by FBI analyst Kimberly Meder, show mundane scenes. Some capture moments of affection or intimacy. Ms Maxwell is pictured kissing Mr Epstein near a pier or jetty, kissing him on a sidewalk and massaging his foot aboard a plane.
A few are portraits of privilege, alluding to the wealthy circles in which Mr. Epstein and Mrs. Maxwell have traveled. There, for example, Ms Maxwell wore a blue checked shirt and was lounging on a porch with Mr Epstein in a photograph which the BBC said appeared to have been taken on a royal estate in Scotland.
Another shows Mrs. Maxwell in tartan and Mr. Epstein in black tie, with a paneled wall behind them. A third shows them both wearing what looks like shooting clothes as they sit in a grass field with a dog. Mrs. Maxwell smiles. Mr. Epstein, holding a pair of headphones and wearing a pair of tall green boots, looks more serious.
Just as the photos give little information about the inner lives of Ms Maxwell and Mr Epstein, their potential impact on jurors is difficult to assess.
A photograph that was shown to the jury has been entered into evidence under seal, meaning members of the public may not see it. Ms Meder gave no details of what he was describing.
But a pre-trial motion filed by prosecutors identified the image as a photograph of Mr Epstein and Ms Maxwell “swimming together naked.”
The photo was “relevant to the relationship” between the two, prosecutors wrote, adding: “As the defense at trial argues that the accused was only an employee of Epstein, this photograph is the proof to the contrary “.