NEW YORK — She met Ghislaine Maxwell while eating ice cream with her friends at a summer arts camp in Michigan.
At 14, “Jane” had just suffered the loss of her father; her family had also lost their home. They moved into a small pool house in Palm Beach, Florida. They were struggling financially, and Jane’s mother was unavailable, lost in her own mental anguish.
That was when Maxwell introduced Jane that summer to Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier who had built a chalet at the Interlochen Center for Arts, where he had studied music as a kid growing up in Brooklyn.
From that chance meeting two decades ago, Jane’s life would turn into “a nightmare that would last for years,” according to federal prosecutors.
“Jane” — who is using a pseudonym to protect her privacy — took the witness stand Tuesday in Manhattan federal court in Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial, testifying that the British socialite both participated in and facilitated Jane’s sexual abuse, starting when Jane was 14.
Epstein promised to help Jane and her mother, she said. He paid for Jane’s voice lessons and later, sent her to a prestigious performing arts school in New York. He bought her clothes, she added, and told her he would use his connections in the entertainment world to help her become a singer and actress.
“I can make things happen — you just have to be ready for it,” Epstein said one day, as he took her by the hand at his Palm Beach mansion, led her into a poolside cabana, then dropped his pants. He pulled her on top of him as he masturbated, she testified.
“I was frozen in fear,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes with a tissue. “I had never seen a penis before … I was terrified and felt gross and ashamed.”
She testified she was afraid to tell her mother, who suffered from depression and was encouraging Jane to take advantage of Epstein and Maxwell’s generosity.
“She was enamored with the idea that these wealthy, affluent people took an interest in me,’’ she told the jury.
From then on, Maxwell and other Epstein assistants would help arrange Jane’s transportation to his Palm Beach home every 10 days or so, and later Jane made trips on Epstein’s private plane to his other homes in New York and New Mexico.
“I just felt my heart sinking into my stomach,’’ she said, her voice cracking, when recalling how she was summoned into Epstein’s bedroom for sex when she was 15 and staying in a guest room at his New Mexico ranch.
After that particular trip, Jane was scheduled to fly home to return to school on a Monday. But because she was 15 — and had no driver’s license or other identification — she couldn’t get on the plane, she said. She called Maxwell in a panic, and it was Maxwell who helped her get on a plane to fly home, Jane said.
The most painful testimony came when Jane described in excruciating detail how Epstein forced sex upon her, even when it was painful.
The abuse soon devolved into orgies, with Maxwell and other young women, on almost a regular basis, Jane testified. Epstein would have intercourse with her while Maxwell fondled her.
Jane said it happened so often that it became almost routine.
“Where did you touch his body?” prosecutor Alison Moe asked.
“Ev..ver…y…where,’’ Jane said, choking back tears.
Jane finally told a school guidance counselor about the abuse and later, her brothers and sister — but she never told authorities. It continued until she was 18, she said.
“Initially, I felt special. I didn’t have anyone to look out for me,” she said.
But the false sense of security she felt with Epstein and Maxwell gave way to low self-esteem and fear. At one point she contemplated harming herself.
But she escaped after landing a role in a television show and moved to Los Angeles. Epstein continued to call her, and she continued to travel with him from time to time until she was 22, when she fell in love and got engaged.
Jane stopped returning his calls, and Epstein became angry, calling her ungrateful and threatening to cut off her mother, who had been allowed to live in one of his New York apartments.
Moe kept turning Jane’s recollections back to Maxwell in an effort to emphasize her role in facilitating the sexual encounters.
The witness testified that Maxwell would often lead her to the massage room, and that both Maxwell and Epstein would direct her to do sexualized massages.
But Jane couldn’t recall how many times Maxwell participated in the abuse — or how often she helped set it up.
She was foggy on dates, and admitted that there were more times that Epstein abused her than Maxwell did.
Jane — the first of four victims scheduled to testify in the case — also related that she filed a civil lawsuit against Maxwell after Epstein’s death and received a $5 million settlement in exchange for dropping the suit.
Maxwell’s lawyer, Laura Menninger, was far from sympathetic after hearing Jane’s story.
“You waited 20 years before you reported it?” Menninger scoffed.
Jane explained that she never went to authorities because she didn’t want to relive the trauma she experienced and feared it would become public and harm her career. She didn’t talk to the FBI until 2019, when prosecutors in the Southern District of New York began investigating Epstein, and arrested him on sex-trafficking charges in July of that year.
Epstein died a month later; his death in his New York jail cell was ruled a suicide by hanging.
The FBI continued to investigate the case, and Maxwell was indicted on sex charges in July 2020.
Menninger continues her cross-examination Wednesday. Three other victims are scheduled to testify against Maxwell during the trial, which is expected to last as long as six weeks.
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