On day four of the Ghislaine Maxwell trial, Government Exhibit 52 made its much-anticipated debut. This is Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book”—the telephone directory containing names and numbers for a huge roster of Epstein’s wealthy and powerful friends and also, presumably, some of the people who’ve accused him of crimes.
The book was introduced as the prosecution’s witness Juan Alessi was on the stand. Alessi was the butler/driver/gofer at Epstein’s Palm Beach, Florida, house from around 1991 until 2002. He described the decadent atmosphere around the mansion, which he said was run “like a five-star hotel.” He was expected to keep wads of hundred-dollar bills stocked in each of Epstein’s cars at all times. He said there were many women who hung around Epstein’s pool and that they were topless “75 to 80 percent of the time.” He said Maxwell, whom he called the “lady of the house,” took many photos of these topless women, and displayed them in frames on her desk there. He also said it was obvious that Maxwell was in charge of running the household. And she slept in Epstein’s bedroom, with Epstein.
Earlier this week, “Jane”—the pseudonymous accuser who alleges that Epstein and Maxwell sexually abused her over a period of years starting when she was 14—spoke about a “sweet, Latin American man” who’d chauffeured her between her house and Epstein’s. Today it became clear this was Alessi. He said he drove Jane to the house both with her mother and alone. He said he drove Jane to the movies with Epstein and Maxwell. And he said he drove Jane, with her luggage, onto the tarmac at the Palm Beach airport, where he saw her board Epstein’s private plane along with Epstein and Maxwell (and, he was careful to note, Maxwell’s dog—a little Yorkie named Max).
Alessi described the many people who would come to the house to give massages to Epstein, saying that 98 percent of them were women. After some of these massages, when he came in to clean up, Alessi would find “a large dildo—like a man’s penis, with two heads” near the massage table. He would wash it off and put it in a basket in Maxwell’s bathroom (there were his and hers off the master bedroom) because he knew that’s where it was kept.
A lot of these details were vital to the prosecution’s case. But for the story beyond the story—the curiosity around Jeffrey Epstein, how he got his wealth, what he knew about his famous friends—the little black book was the real object of interest. A prosecutor took it out of its own dedicated accordion file, handed it around for the defense team and judge to inspect, and then brought it up to Alessi on the witness stand. He identified it as the kind of address book that would be at Epstein’s house, and he said he recognized many of the entries.
Before the start of the trial, NPR reported that prosecutors say the information in the book “will help establish who and what Maxwell knew—including ‘an inference that the defendant knew that at least some of these individuals were minors.’ ” But we got no juicy details from the little black book today. No boldface names. It’s possible we never will. The prosecution seems to want to put a heavily redacted version of it into evidence. There were long sidebar arguments about what could be admitted and why. As the lawyers jawed at each other, Alessi, still on the stand, just casually flipped through the book’s pages, perusing them with interest.
Near the end of the day, Alessi spoke about the end of his employment with Epstein. It seemed he’d become fed up—and, reading between the lines, it was mainly Maxwell who bothered him. He hated the detailed, exhaustive checklist of tasks she made him perform around the house, and the way she ordered him to supplicate himself around her and Epstein. At one point she told him never to make eye contact with Epstein, and to “look at a different part of the room” when Epstein spoke with him.
A few years after Alessi quit the job because he was “very, very tired of it,” his marriage fell apart and he ran into financial difficulty. At that point he “committed the gravest mistake I’ve ever made in my life.” He snuck through an unlocked sliding door at Epstein’s house and stole $6,300 from Epstein’s desk. Epstein soon called him and, having seen Alessi on security footage, confronted him about the theft. Epstein decided not to press charges, and Alessi paid the full sum back. Alessi still seemed grateful, even today, for Epstein’s mercy.
He extended no such fondness to Maxwell. He said the massive “household manual” she gave him demanded enough work for many times more people than were on staff. And he found many of the chores “degrading.”
The prosecution entered pages from this manual into evidence. We could see them on the closed-circuit screen. The manual instructed Alessi to warm a creamer full of half-and-half for Epstein’s coffee in the microwave for precisely 25 seconds. It insisted he replace tissue boxes once they were one-third full. It said he must “NEVER”—all caps—disclose Epstein’s or Maxwell’s “whereabouts or activities” to anyone who inquired.
I also noticed an entry directing Alessi to place an eye mask on Maxwell’s bedside table each night. This stood out to me because one of Maxwell’s many complaints about her treatment in jail is that she’s not allowed to wear an eye mask at night. She has also complained that guards shine flashlights on her face while she’s sleeping, and closely observe her when she’s using the toilet. Perhaps she should prepare a household manual for them?