Just as Eve was blamed for the original sin, Ghislaine Maxwell has been blamed for Jeffrey Epstein's sick sex abuse of children, an attorney for the British socialite told a jury Monday.
The unexpected Bible lesson came during defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim's opening arguments in Manhattan Federal Court. Maxwell is accused of grooming Epstein's victims for his perverse abuse from the mid-1990s to early 2000s.
"Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam with the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men," Sternheim said in the Oxford-educated socialite's highly anticipated sex trafficking trial..
"The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did. But she is not Jeffrey Epstein. She is not like Jeffrey Epstein. And she is not like any of the other men - powerful men, moguls, media giants - who abuse women."
Prosecutors, meanwhile, described Maxwell as a key enabler of Epstein's lifestyle, which revolved around defiling young women and girls.
Maxwell was Epstein's "best friend and right hand," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz said. Maxwell allegedly lured minors, many of them from broken homes, into Epstein's dangerous orbit through false promises to change their lives.
"The defendant walked the girls into a room where she knew that a man would molest them, and there were times when she was in the room when it happened, making it all feel normal and casual," Pomerantz said in her first remarks to the jury.
"The defendant sexually exploited young girls. She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them, and served them up to be sexually abused. The defendant was trafficking kids for sex. That is what this trial is all about."
Whether he was sleeping in his Upper East Side townhouse, a New Mexico ranch, or hosting luxury events on his private Caribbean island, Maxwell made sure a steady flow of minors was available to the now-deceased financier, Pomerantz said.
"The defendant and Epstein were partners in crime, they had a playbook - first they got access to young girls, then they gained their trust. They learned about each girl's hopes and dreams," the prosecutor said.
"They learned about each girl's family. They often targeted girls of single mothers."
She coerced the girls through luxury shopping outings, trips to the movies and an interest in the minutiae of their lives, Pomerantz said.
The prosecutor said four victims will tell jurors about how Maxwell initially served as a buffer to Epstein's abuse, waiting for him to pounce before she dropped her friendly facade.
"When the defendant sent a 14-year-old girl into a massage room with an adult man, she knew exactly what was going to happen," said Pomerantz.
"She was dangerous. She was setting young girls up to be molested by a predator."
Sternheim, meanwhile, said Epstein was the "elephant in the room." His suicide in August 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking resulted in prosecutors blaming Maxwell for his crimes, she argued.
"She is a target - a bullseye of anger for women who were or otherwise believed they were victimized by Epstein. Epstein's death left a gaping hole in the pursuit of justice for many of these women," Sternheim said.
"Ghislaine is on trial here, and you heard about the conduct of Jeffrey Epstein. She is filling that hole and filling an empty chair. She is a brand name, she is a lightning rod, she is a convenient stand-in for the man who can't be here."
Describing Epstein as "a mysterious man without attachment," Sternheim said he manipulated Maxwell and others around him, keeping "parts of his life locked from others," and always hiding the shadiest parts of his persona from his influential friends.
"He had no wife. He had no children. He had no boss. Yet, he attracted attention from these rich, powerful, famous people before and after his fall from grace back in 2008," she said.
"In many regards, he was like a 21st-century James Bond. His mystery had stirred interest, and his accusers have shaken the money tree, and millions of dollars have fallen their way."
Seeing the jury who will decide her fate for the first time Monday, the 59-year-old Maxwell appeared energetic. She wore a beige cashmere sweater and black slacks to opening arguments.
Maxwell's lead attorney told the jury they would be tasked with deciding the fate of a woman who graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in the world, speaks multiple languages, and once counted the world's most influential people among her friends. "And she can pilot a helicopter," Sternheim added.
The daughter of British media mogul Robert Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to six counts alleging she trafficked children for illegal sex. She faces separate counts for allegedly lying under oath.