Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times
Prosecutors cherry-picked evidence, blindly accepted the shifting accounts of accusers and had not proven its case against Ghislaine Maxwell, a defense lawyer told the jury as Ms. Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial neared its end on Monday.
In a closing argument that was by turns biting, sarcastic and indignant, the lawyer, Laura Menninger, urged jurors to reject the government’s arguments and to be skeptical of evidence she called thin and witness testimony she said was flimsy.
“The government wants you to speculate, over and over,” Ms. Menninger said, later adding: “Ms. Maxwell does not have to prove her innocence to you. You already know it.”
In addition to assailing the government’s case and the motives and memories of Ms. Maxwell’s accusers, Ms. Menninger took aim at Jeffrey Epstein, whom she said the trial had proven to be a “master manipulator.”
“Everyone knew Jeffrey was keeping secrets from Ghislaine, except Ghislaine,” Ms. Menninger said, noting the household staff and pilots had concealed Mr. Epstein’s other girlfriends from Ms. Maxwell.
Near the end of her closing argument, Ms. Menninger said Ms. Maxwell was on trial because of her relationship with Mr. Epstein. “Maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life, but it was not a crime,” she said.
Ms. Menninger spent the bulk of her two hour and 15 minute closing walking the jury through the testimony of the four women who took the stand to accuse Ms. Maxwell of grooming them for sexual abuse when they were teenagers.
She pointed out inconsistencies in their testimony — particularly where it did not align with their previous statements to law enforcement officials, or with their contemporaneous accounts.
She also focused on the financial settlements the witnesses had received from Mr. Epstein’s estate. She described the lawyer of one victim as “no dummy,” saying that after Mr. Epstein was dead the lawyer knew there was a “pile of cash” to pursue for his client.
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