This morning at the Ghislaine Maxwell trial, the government called a woman named Carolyn to the stand. After taking her seat, Carolyn craned her neck, searched the courtroom with her eyes, and then, once she’d spotted Maxwell, took a long, unflinching look at her.
Carolyn—that is her real first name; she’s not using her last name for purposes of anonymity —was 14 years old when an older teen girl she was friends with made an interesting proposition. The friend suggested they take a short drive over to Palm Beach, where they would meet a “wealthy” man and get some money.
When they got there, Carolyn testified, the friend led them through a side door and upstairs to a room with a massage table and a couch in it. The friend got fully naked. Carolyn undressed, too, but left her underwear on. And then a man entered, brushed his teeth, and laid down nude on the table. There was some pro forma massage, but eventually, Carolyn alleges, the friend started having sex with the man atop the table. Carolyn just watched. When it was over, she says, she got $300 in cash. On the way out of the house, an older woman asked Carolyn for her phone number. This was, according to Carolyn, Ghislaine Maxwell.
Carolyn testified that over the next few years, from ages 14-18, she went to Epstein’s house more than 100 times to give “massages.” She would often be called on the phone by Maxwell, who would then send a car to pick her up because Carolyn was too young to drive. Over time, Carolyn says, she began to go alone to the house, to remove all her clothes during the sessions with Epstein, and to engage in sex acts with him. There would be a few hundred dollars left on the vanity by the massage table for her to take when she left, or, on a few occasions, Carolyn claims, Maxwell just handed her cash.
On one occasion, Carolyn alleges, Maxwell came into the massage room while Carolyn was naked and felt her breasts, hips, and buttocks. Maxwell then told her, Carolyn alleges, that Carolyn had a good body type for “Jeffrey and his friends.” Carolyn says she was still 14 when this happened. She also says she told both Maxwell and Epstein her real age. Later, she was asked by Epstein to bring more friends that were “my age or younger.” She complied, and on those days she got paid double as a sort of agent fee, she says.
As the defense began its cross examination of Carolyn in the afternoon, it wasn’t difficult to see what shape it would take. Maxwell’s lawyers will try to discredit Carolyn by questioning her memory and truthfulness, and casting aspersions on her lifestyle. They will bring up the fact that Carolyn received money from a fund established for victims of Epstein, and also ask her about a previous lawsuit she filed against Epstein and another of his associates (she settled this suit for approximately $200,000). The cross examination will no doubt linger on the drug use, mental illness, and history of sex work that Carolyn admitted to during her testimony. (She broke down weeping when the prosecution asked her what she was doing with the money she got from Epstein. “Buying drugs,” she said. As a teenager, she became addicted to cocaine, pain pills and alcohol.)
This is the same playbook the defense used in its cross examinations of “Jane” and “Kate,” two other accusers who testified pseudonymously earlier in the trial. What’s different here is that Carolyn is not the same sort of person those other accusers were. Jane was a professional actress, Kate had been a model. Both had been around wealth in other parts of their lives. Carolyn, it became apparent from her testimony, grew up in more modest circumstances. She dropped out of school in 7th grade. She got pregnant (not by Epstein) as a teenager. She was far less poised and articulate on the witness stand. She covered her face with her hands, crossed her arms tightly and clutched at her elbows, appeared to say a prayer at one point, and repeatedly sassed the defense attorney when she didn’t like a question.
And yet the story she told was the same in so many ways. Just as Jane and Kate had, she alleged that she’d been subjected to sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein, facilitated by Ghislaine Maxwell. One could easily imagine that, in the jury’s eyes, the weight of all this testimony—coming from different kinds of people, in different circumstances—is beginning to gain significant heft.
In one intriguing moment, echoing things Jane said, Carolyn spoke about other adult women who’d participated in group sex sessions Carolyn was a part of. She claimed Epstein once pushed a button on the phone in his massage room that seemed to summon a blonde, adult woman who entered the room naked and proceeded to engage in sex acts with both Epstein and Carolyn. Some of the adult women engaged in abuse whom Jane and Carolyn have spoken of have been identified by name, some only by first names, and some have remained anonymous. Who exactly all these older women are, which will be further Identified or will testify in the case, and what Maxwell had to do with them, is one of the trial’s larger outstanding mysteries.