On Friday, the prosecution in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial called to the stand a fourth, and final, accuser. Annie Farmer described, among other disquieting incidents, a supremely creepy 1996 weekend she spent visiting Jeffrey Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico. After being lured there under the guise of some sort of vague student enrichment workshop (to be led, apparently, by Epstein), the then 16 year-old Farmer unexpectedly found that she was the ranch’s lone guest. Isolated in the middle of the desert, Farmer says she was subjected to disturbing, unwanted attention from both Epstein and Maxwell.
Farmer testified that one morning, Epstein, then 43, flung open the door to the bedroom where Farmer was sleeping, leapt into bed with her, and gave her a big bearhug while pressing himself against her. She escaped him by claiming that she needed to use the bathroom. On another occasion, Farmer testified, Maxwell, then 34, encouraged Farmer to undress and get on a massage table; Maxwell then proceeded to rub the upper parts of Farmer’s bare breasts.
In many ways, Farmer’s testimony echoed that of the other accusers. It cast Maxwell in an essential role—pushing at a teen girl’s sexual boundaries, prepping her for abuse, serving as a sort of henchwoman for Epstein. One of the events Farmer described was nearly identical to an incident we heard about from “Kate,” an earlier, pseudonymous accuser: Each alleged that their initial physical contact with Epstein came when Maxwell urged them to give him a vigorous foot rub.
But a few things set Farmer apart. For one, she was the only accuser who testified using her full, real name. Because her anonymity wasn’t protected, courtroom observers could view all the photos of her that the government introduced as evidence. In one photo taken around the time of the alleged ranch incidents, we saw a smiling, teenage face, framed by long, blonde hair, looking like the literal picture of innocence.
Farmer was also the only accuser who brought contemporaneous receipts. One of the prosecution’s exhibits was Farmer’s teenage diary—including an entry she wrote shortly after the first time she met Epstein (a few months before the ranch visit). Epstein had taken Farmer to a movie theater and, once the lights were down, caressed her hand and leg in the dark. Farmer wrote in her diary that “it was a little weird” but ”I think he is just a relaxed guy and likes to flirt.” As the adult Farmer read aloud this passage from the witness stand, you could hear her teen self desperately grasping for some way to rationalize Epstein’s behavior.
Maybe the most important difference between Farmer’s story and those of the other three accusers was the way it resolved. After that gothic horror weekend at the ranch, Farmer never saw Epstein or Maxwell again. She got away from them—not exactly unscathed, but at least intact—and, perhaps as a result, seemed much less damaged on the stand, much less haunted, than the other accusers did. This somehow made those other women’s claims all the more upsetting, with a living counterpoint illustrating how their lives could have unfolded had they managed to detach from Maxwell and Epstein sooner.
When Farmer was done testifying—and after her mother and her high school boyfriend took the stand to corroborate her story, confirming she’d spoken to them about elements of these incidents back in the ’90s—the prosecution rested its case. Maxwell’s attorneys will begin presenting theirs on Thursday. They’ll try to convince the jury that Maxwell deserves no punishment. I doubt they’ll succeed.
The portrait of Maxwell that’s emerged thus far is fantastically ugly. Even setting aside the charges that are central to the trial, some colorful details that the prosecution was able to introduce will not garner a jury’s sympathy. For instance, a 2001 email from Maxwell bitterly complaining (“I am at a loss”) that household staff had failed to keep one of Epstein’s Mercedes stocked with bottled water and pens. The prosecution also strongly suggested that greed fueled Maxwell’s whole relationship with Epstein: Bank statements evidenced her receiving gifts from him that included $23.5 million in cash and a $7.4 million dollar helicopter.
I cannot imagine that Maxwell will take the stand in her own defense. A 2016 deposition Maxwell gave in a different, Epstein-related case does not suggest she’d be an appealing advocate for herself: The transcript makes her sound dismissive, entitled, high-handed, and, at certain points, furiously angry. Her posh British accent and Oxford manner would be unlikely to play well if she tries to explain why she was befriending poor Florida teenagers. As a 59 year-old female accused of molestation-adjacent crimes (no matter that the alleged incidents occurred many years ago), Maxwell also has a demographic strike against her—society seems especially unsympathetic when it comes to anything involving sex and older women.
But all this is tangential to the heart of the matter. The testimony of the four accusers is what the prosecution’s case is built on, and—barring some spectacular forthcoming revelation from the defense—what the jury will base its decision on. Those four accusers were extremely credible. Their emotions were palpable. And there was hard evidence to back up the broad outlines of their claims: flight logs, FedEx bills, phone messages taken by Epstein’s staff.
Defense attorneys ran the standard playbook that gets hauled out for any sexual abuse accusation: They questioned the women’s memories, cast aspersions on their lifestyles, and hinted that they’re gold diggers—intimating that they only came forward with their claims because they thought they could profit from them. None of these tactics drew much blood, as best I could tell.
The defense’s strongest argument isn’t that these four women were unharmed. It’s that the harm was done by Jeffrey Epstein, and that Ghislaine Maxwell was an innocent bystander—that Maxwell was just one of many Epstein employees who, to one degree or another, turned a blind eye to Epstein’s behavior without, precisely, encouraging or aiding it. It’s true that Maxwell’s name isn’t on all those flight logs and FedEx receipts, and that Epstein was very clearly capable of destroying teenage girls even without Maxwell’s help. But then there are those vivid testimonial scenes of Maxwell coaxing girls into rubbing Epstein’s feet, and leading them to the door of Epstein’s massage room, and sending a car to pick them up because they were too young to drive themselves.
No doubt, Maxwell’s lawyers will argue that she was a victim here, too. That, to the extent she did anything wrong, Jeffrey Epstein manipulated her into doing it. There may be some truth to this, around the edges. But, short of evidence that Epstein threatened or extorted Maxwell, this isn’t really a defense. Maxwell wasn’t a teenage girl, she was an adult woman. She had resources. She was old enough and smart enough to know better. If she did these things she’s accused of—and my strong feeling, based on what I’ve seen and heard in the trial so far, is that she did—she needs to answer for them.
Eventually, the jurors will sit down in a room to deliberate, at which point they’ll need to decide how they feel. Yes, they will weigh the evidence and pour over the text of the charges, but in the end it will come down to a vibe. Will they feel fondness for Ghislaine Maxwell? Will they be looking for ways to grant her mercy? Or will they long to punish her? To show her that—as one accuser said, while sobbing—“what she did was wrong”?
To read previous dispatches from the Maxwell trial, click here.