Jeffrey Epstein engaged in sadomasochistic sexual abuse with a 14-year-old girl who had been left grief-stricken and living in poverty after the death of her father, and Ghislaine Maxwell was often “in the room” when it took place, a jury heard on Tuesday.
The prosecution’s key witness, a successful 41-year-old actor with more than 20 years experience in television, movies and Broadway shows, began her testimony on the second day of Ms Maxwell’s trial for sex trafficking and underage sex abuse in the Manhattan federal courthouse.
It marked the first time that either Epstein’s or Ms Maxwell’s alleged sexual abuse of underage girls has been aired in open criminal court.
Under the pseudonym Jane, the actor described in detail how the sickening abuse continued for years in massage rooms and bedrooms in three of Epstein’s properties in Palm Beach, New York and Santa Fe.
Epstein and Ms Maxwell would sometimes be joined by other older women, Jane said, and he would set out explicitly which sexual acts he wanted her to perform.
Afterwards, Epstein and Ms Maxwell would act like nothing had happened, Jane said.
“It seemed very casual, like it was very normal, like it was no big deal,” she said. “It made me feel confused because that did not feel normal to me.”
The prosecution had earlier signalled that Jane would be their key witness, anchoring their opening arguments around the alleged abuses she suffered.
Jane took to the witness stand dressed in a wraparound grey sweater and black dress, and removed her mask after Judge Alison Nathan reminded court sketchers they were banned from drawing her likeness.
Throughout the harrowing testimony, Ms Maxwell was seemingly unmoved, occasionally scribbling notes and passing them to her attorneys.
On several occasions both sets of lawyers were called into Judge Nathan’s chambers after repeated objections to a line of questioning by the prosecutor Alison Moe. Jane and Ms Maxwell would be left in the courtroom, and seemed to avoid eye contact.
Under questioning from Ms Moe, Jane told how her father, a composer and conductor, had died suddenly of leukemia in 1993, and her mother had had to sell their home and the family moved into a pool house on a friend’s property in Palm Beach.
Jane was attending Interlochen music camp in Michigan for gifted children in 1994 when she first met Epstein and Ms Maxwell.
She and her friends struck up a conversation with Ms Maxwell, who approached them while walking her pet “Yorkie” dog. After her friends returned to class Epstein arrived and sat across a park bench from her and began asking her questions.
“He seemed very interested to know what I thought about the camp, what my favourite classes were.”
Jane said Epstein told her he was a major donor to the camp who gave out scholarships to gifted arts students. They seemed surprised to hear Jane was also from Palm Beach Florida, where Epstein owned a waterfront mansion, and asked for her mother’s phone number.
A few days later Jane’s mother told her she had received a call from this mystery benefactor. He arranged to send a chauffeur to collect them and bring them to his home for tea the next week.
Jane said she was impressed by the “giant house with giant gates”, and Epstein led them out to a back patio where a spread of pastries and tea was waiting.
“He was very inquisitive, what I was doing in school, what my interests were, what I wanted to do with my life.”
Epstein told the 14-year-old he mentored young student artists, and she began going to his house alone about once a week.
They would chitchat, she said, hang out by the pool, go to movies and on shopping trips.
She said Ms Maxwell seemed “a little bit off and quirky”. “She would tease me at times, but she was nice.”
After a few visits Jane recalled Epstein thrusting cash in her hands, and offering to pay for her voice lessons.
On one shopping trip she recalls going to Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie company owned by Epstein’s mentor, billionaire Les Wexner, where he bought her white cotton briefs.
“There was a lot of bragging about how they were friends with everyone, and knew everyone.”
They would name drop about friends such as Donald Trump, Bill Cinton and 60 Minutes journalist Mike Wallace.
Jane said she found it “overwhelming and intimidating”.
Ms Maxwell asked if she had a boyfriend and once told her: “If you f*** them once you can f*** them again because they are grandfathered in.”
The first instance of sexual abuse happened when she was alone with Epstein at his Palm Beach residence, Jane said.
Epstein told her to follow him to a pool house and suddenly pulled his pants down, pulled her on top of him, and proceeded to masturbate.
“I was frozen and in fear, I had never seen a penis let alone something like this… I didn’t tell anyone. I was terrified and felt gross and ashamed.”
On another occasion, Ms Maxwell and Epstein led Jane into his master bedroom and “started to fondle each other casually, giggling about it”.
“He asked me to take my top off and there were hands everywhere,” she said.
As the abuse went on Epstein and Ms Maxwell would instruct Jane to “twist his nipples and rub his feet hard”.
“It seemed very casual, like it was very normal, like it was no big deal. It made me feel confused because that did not feel normal to me.”
Epstein would use sex toys and massage instruments on her, and show her how he liked to be pleasured, Jane testified.
She also described orgies involving Epstein, Ms Maxwell and other “older” women. They would begin by “Ghislaine or Jeffrey… (summoning) everyone to follow them to Jeffrey’s bedroom or massage room”, Jane testified.
She travelled by private jet and commercial plane to Epstein’s home in New York, where she was struck by the “creepy” artwork of naked women and mounted animal heads, she said.
While visiting Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse, she said she was called into his room and told to “straddle his face and squeeze his nipples while he came”.
On another occasion she travelled to Epstein’s ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she was again summoned to his room.
“My heart sank into my stomach because I did not want to go see him,” she said.
Jane testified that she said nothing about the sexual abuse because she was ashamed and thought it was her fault.
Her mother was “enamoured” by these affluent people who were taking an interest in her and told her that she should be grateful for the attention.
“I was afraid that I would be in trouble if I said something,” she says, adding that she didn’t tell her siblings either.
When the prosecutor, Ms Moe, asked how the abuse had affected her, she said: “How do you navigate a healthy relationship with a broken compass? I didn’t even understand what real love is supposed to look like.
“It ruined my self-esteem, ruined my self-worth. I didn’t know how men were supposed to treat me, and how I was supposed to reciploracte that.”
At age 17 she moved to New York City, and Epstein helped her family into an apartment and paid for her tuition at a private school.
When she got her first break as an actor, she said she sent a signed photograph to Epstein with the words: “You rock my world”. Looking back it was cringeworthy, she said, but added her mother had told her to send the picture.
She ceased contact with Epstein in 2002 after falling “madly in love”, and says he began leaving increasingly agitated phone messages for her.
As her acting career advanced Jane relocated to Los Angeles, and said she tried to put it all behind her, partly out of fear of repercussions in Hollywood.
“I have always wanted to put this past me and move on with my life. I’m proud that I have my own career and my own husband and children, and I work in the entertainment industry and victim-shaming is still very present this day,” she said.
“I just wanted it to go away.”
Under cross-examination from Laura Menninger, Jane said she had first reported the abuse to the FBI in 2019, a few months before Epstein’s death by suicide while awaiting trial for underage sexual abuse. She admitted she had attended the interview with two personal injury lawyers.
Ms Meninger asked her several times if she had reported Ms Maxwell’s alleged abuse to the FBI.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
Jane sued Epstein’s estate and Ms Maxwell, and dropped the civil cases after being awarded $5m from a fund set up for his victims, eventually being paid $2.9m after legal costs.
Jane’s cross-examination continues on Wednesday.