The sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell has begun in New York – where the British socialite is set to come face-to-face with her accusers.
The 59-year-old former girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein faces six counts of enticing minors and sex trafficking over a 10-year period.
She could be sentenced to 80 years in prison if found guilty of all counts.
Maxwell attended court on Monday in court wearing a light coloured long-sleeved top, white-coloured mask and was seen chatting with her lawyers.
Twelve jurors and six alternates were selected this morning to hear the case, which is expected to last six weeks.
Opening statements will begin after preliminary jury instructions are given by the judge and after they have been sworn in.
The charges involve four alleged underage victims over multiple locations from 1994 until 2004, with the youngest said to have been 14 years old at the time.
US prosecutors allege that Maxwell – a former employee and romantic partner of Epstein’s – gained the girls’ trust by taking them to the cinema, sending them gifts such as lingerie and discussing sexual topics, according to a 2021 indictment.
Maxwell also faces two counts of perjury which will be tried separately.
She has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and the trial is expected to last for six weeks.
Her lawyers claim that prosecutors are using the daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell as a scapegoat after being unable to convict Epstein.
American financier Epstein died by suicide at 66 in 2019 in a Manhattan prison cell while awaiting trial on sex-abuse allegations.
“Left with no fish to attempt to fry, the government belatedly turned to Ms Maxwell,” her lawyers wrote in a filing from 4 February.
Prosecutors have also said that Maxwell encouraged the girls to massage Epstein while fully or partially nude.
In some cases, Epstein or Maxwell would pay the girls or offer them money for travel or education.
“Victims were made to feel indebted and believed that Maxwell and Epstein were trying to help them,” prosecutors wrote
in the indictment.