The high-profile trial of Ghislaine Maxwell started with a bang this week, as her defense lawyers portrayed her as a persecuted woman, a modern-day Eve blamed for Jeffrey Epstein’s sins. In opening statements, Maxwell’s attorneys attacked the credibility of the alleged victims, their lawyers, and government lawyers. One of the victims, whose testimony is crucial to the government’s case, testified that Maxwell had lured her into Epstein’s web of vice.

The government countered this narrative with testimony from some of the employees closest to Epstein in an effort to show that Maxwell was an integral part...

The high-profile trial of Ghislaine Maxwell started with a bang this week, as her defense lawyers portrayed her as a persecuted woman, a modern-day Eve blamed for Jeffrey Epstein’s sins. In opening statements, Maxwell’s attorneys attacked the credibility of the alleged victims, their lawyers, and government lawyers. One of the victims, whose testimony is crucial to the government’s case, testified that Maxwell had lured her into Epstein’s web of vice.

The government countered this narrative with testimony from some of the employees closest to Epstein in an effort to show that Maxwell was an integral part of his trafficking ring. The jury heard from Epstein’s pilot, Larry Visoski, who described Maxwell as the manager of Epstein’s properties. Visoski also rattled off the names of male celebrity guests on Epstein’s plane, including Prince Andrew, Kevin Spacey, and President Bill Clinton.

Epstein’s housekeeper, Juan Alessi, said Maxwell had told him she was the lady of the house and issued a rulebook of nearly 60 pages for house staff to obey. Alessi also confirmed that the house was filled with young women, often semi-nude, and at least two of whom appeared quite obviously to be minors. Defense lawyers confronted Alessi with evidence that he’d stolen from Epstein. They also elicited an acknowledgement from Visoski that he’d never observed any sexual conduct aboard Epstein’s plane.

The government put on the first of many alleged victims to describe her treatment at the hands of Epstein and Maxwell. Victim “Jane,” allowed to testify under a pseudonym because she was a minor at the time of the alleged abuse, stated that initially both she and her mother had felt flattered that Epstein had offered to “mentor” her. Over a three-year period, Epstein at first had purported to befriend her and then began to engage in sexual conduct with her when she just fourteen.

Jane testified that Epstein had used massages, sex toys, and “sex orgies” to abuse her, with Maxwell sometimes joining in the sexual touching. She asserted the abuse had involved “kissing, oral sex on each other, oral sex on Jeffrey, full-on intercourse.” Jane also stated that she’d flown on Epstein’s private jet with Prince Andrew, who is currently refusing to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation.

Maxwell’s defense attorney questioned why Jane had waited two decades to report her abuse, why her testimony seemed clearer on the stand than when she’d reported her abuse, and what financial renumeration she’d received from a victim fund, which held about $5 million that had been paid in by Epstein.

Although Jane spoke with certainty regarding the graphic details of Epstein’s abuse and Maxwell’s involvement, the defense counsel highlighted certain discrepancies in details of her testimony. At one point, she walked back from FBI notes of her victim statement, noting that her interviews with law enforcement were not recorded and the FBI notes of her interview were “not correct” in their entirety. She also described the shame and fear that had left her feeling “frozen” with terror at the time of the abuse and thereafter.

Dr. Lisa Rocchio, a clinical and forensic psychologist, testified as an expert witness for the government. Dr. Rocchio interpreted the gifts Epstein had given as well as the sexualized massages in which both Epstein and Maxwell participated as part of the process of grooming sexual abuse victims. Epstein’s presents, she said, were designed to a make a vulnerable child feel “special” and his escalating physical contact was meant to desensitize his victims to the eventual abuse.

Law enforcement officers testified about incriminating items retrieved from a search of Epstein’s mansion, including sex toys, a massage table, and sexual photos of minors.

The trial continues next week in New York.

Rachel K. Paulose is a 1997 graduate of Yale Law School and former US Attorney for the District of Minnesota (2006-08).