By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell plans at her criminal trial to challenge prosecution claims that she “groomed” underage girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse, and to offer testimony that her accusers might have faulty memories.
According to a letter from Maxwell’s lawyers made public on Monday, a former president of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law would testify that Maxwell’s alleged effort to win her accusers’ trust did not automatically reflect an intent they be abused.
The letter said the former president, Park Dietz, would testify that the suggestion Maxwell committed “grooming-by-proxy” – by recruiting underage girls to give sexualized massages to Epstein – had no support in the scientific community.
It also said Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist specializing in memory issues, would testify about “false memories” of sexual abuses that people could describe on the witness stand with “confidence, detail, and emotion,” without deliberately lying.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan, whose office is prosecuting Maxwell, declined to comment.
The letter from Maxwell’s lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca outlines possible defenses to charges the British socialite helped recruit and groom four underage girls for Epstein to abuse from 1994 to 2004, and engaged in sex trafficking of the fourth girl.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty. A hearing on admitting expert testimony is scheduled for Wednesday. The trial begins on Nov. 29 and may last six weeks.
Epstein, a convicted sex offender, killed himself at age 66 in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. A medical examiner called the death a suicide.
Pagliuca said Dietz could also testify about how Epstein, like others with “great power and wealth,” might have radiated a “Halo effect” that let him surround himself with people who served his needs.
“The materials reviewed reflect that Jeffrey Epstein was a brilliant man who was flawed by enduring personality traits … found among those with antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, and histrionic personality disorders,” the letter said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Angus MacSwan)