The fourth day of testimony in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial began with an expert witness describing how sexual abusers groom or “groom” their potential victims, and concluded with an insider’s view of life at Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach home.
This perspective was provided by Juan Alessi, 71, who said he was a property manager at the Palm Beach home from about 1990 until 2002.
On the podium, Mr. Alessi read from a 58-page document titled “Family Guide” which included the ground rules for the staff. Among other things, the guide asked the workers to “try to anticipate the needs of Mr. Epstein and Mrs. Maxwell and their guests,” forbidding them to discuss their personal problems with the guests and instructing them: “Remember, you see nothing, you hear nothing say nothing except to answer a direct question to you. Respect. their privacy.”
Mr. Alessi testified that he believed the evidence section constituted “a kind of warning”.
“I was supposed to be blind and dumber,” he said. “To say nothing of their lives.”
Here are some points from the experience.
A proof witness described how abusers “take care” of children.
Dr. Lisa Rocchio, a clinical psychologist, testified that adults who sexually abuse children typically engage in a process that can be viewed as having five basic steps: (1) victim selection, (2) access to and isolation of the victim, (3) use of “lies, deception, and manipulation” To build “trust and attachment,” (4) desensitize the victim to physical and sexual touch, and (5) maintain control over the victim’s compulsion to accept ongoing abuse.
Dr. Rocchio said the process of “grooming” could include giving gifts, building a relationship by expressing concern, bringing up sexual topics in conversation, and slowly escalating physical and sexual interactions with potential victims.
The testimony provided jurors with a way to link Maxwell to Epstein’s abuses.
Dr. Rocchio’s testimony was intended to advance the government’s cause by proving that Mrs. Maxwell played a major role in making the girls vulnerable to Mr. Epstein.
The testimony aligns with the prosecution’s description of Ms. Maxwell in her opening statement: “The defendant took these girls on shopping trips, asked them about their lives, schools, and families. She won their trust. She discussed sexual issues with them. She helped normalize abusive sexual behavior. She made them feel comfortable and made them feel safe. All of them until a middle-aged man can molest them.”
A former employee of the Epstein Palm Beach home detailed Maxwell’s rampant takeover.
Mr. Alessi, who has worked on the Palm Beach property for 12 years, has testified about the strict rules Ms Maxwell set there, from placing phone directories (always to the right of the phone) to strict restrictions on employees’ behaviour.
Mr Alessi said the staff never looked Epstein in the eye, even while answering a question from him. However, they had to watch for any holes in the property fence from which Maxwell, a Yorkie, Mrs. Maxwell might escape. (Max went everywhere with Mrs. Maxwell, even on Mr. Epstein’s private plane. Mr. Alessi, who is from Ecuador, testified, “Poor dog shivering like crazy. Because she didn’t like to be in the plane.”)
The employee summoned several young, topless women into the estate.
Mr. Alessi said it was common for young women to visit Mr. Epstein in Palm Beach. In his testimony, he said “many, many females” had turned up in the house, adding that most of them appeared to be in their twenties.
Mr. Alessi said women have arrived to lie by Mr. Epstein’s pool on hundreds of occasions. He estimated that they were topless about 80 percent of the time.
Among those who visited the house were two girls who Mr. Alessi said appeared to be minors. One of them, now an adult, appeared on the catwalk earlier this week and was identified only as “Jane.” She testified that Mr. Epstein sexually abused her for years, starting when she was fourteen years old.
Mr. Alessi Jane clearly remembered. He said on the catwalk that she was, “a stunningly beautiful girl, beautiful eyes, long hair, long brown hair, tall, very interesting.”