Ghislaine Maxwell’s Prosecutors Have Rested Their Case. What Now?


The government’s case against Ghislaine Maxwell ended on Friday with the testimony of Annie Farmer, the fourth accuser to testify in the British heiress’s federal sex-trafficking trial and the only to do so using her full real name, and two corroborating witnesses. Maxwell has been charged with recruiting and grooming underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse, and Farmer has been one of the pair’s foremost and most vocal accusers in recent years. The story she told on the witness stand was disturbing in its familiarity. First, it echoed previous testimony from Maxwell’s accusers in the trial about how the socialite allegedly primed minors for sexual exploitation. But Farmer’s story is also well known to those with even a passing interest in the case. As part of the ongoing effort to shed light on Epstein’s crimes, Farmer has publicly recounted her experiences with him and Maxwell on several occasions prior.

During both direct examination by the prosecution and cross examination by Maxwell’s attorney Laura Menninger on Friday, Farmer maintained a firm and even tone as she answered questions about how she claimed Maxwell and Epstein preyed on her.

“I’m here to be a part of holding Ghislaine Maxwell accountable for the harm that she’s caused,” Farmer said.

After Farmer testified—and her mother and a man she dated in high school corroborated some of the details of her account—the prosecution rested its case as it signaled it was ready to do earlier this week. The timing has come as something of a shock to even veteran court observers. Maxwell’s trial was originally expected to last up to six weeks, but prosecutors said on Tuesday that they expected to rest their case as early as Thursday—only for an attorney involved in the trial to fall ill that day, pushing back the proceedings to Friday. The announcement compounded the growing sense that the prosecution’s case was thinner than expected for such a high-profile affair, and it evidently surprised Maxwell’s attorneys too. On Wednesday, defense lawyer Christian Everdell told Judge Alison Nathan, “given that they have now trimmed their case significantly in the last day, we are trying to hustle witnesses,” and that Maxwell’s team needed some time to prepare their case. Nathan agreed to let the defense begin its case Thursday next week, and said that the court wouldn’t sit Monday through Wednesday.

In the meantime, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from the evidence that Maxwell’s counsel will present over the two or three days that it said its case will last. The defense has indicated that it will call the prominent psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who acquired considerable notoriety during Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape trial for testifying about her research into the pliability of human memory. Maxwell herself is not generally expected to testify—several prominent lawyers and legal experts explained to The New York Times the possible perils she would open herself up to upon cross examination. With a black box defense case now closer to sight, the resumption of the trial on Thursday promises to bring some answers to how this nth stage of the Epstein saga will end.

This article has been updated.

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