A prosecutor called Ghislaine Maxwell and deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein "partners in crime" as Maxwell's sex trafficking trial began in New York on Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz, who delivered the prosecution's opening statement, said that Maxwell and Epstein worked together to lure in girls as young as 14 to "so-called massages," The Associated Press reported. The victims were given money and gifts as Maxwell "helped normalize abusive sexual conduct" by befriending them, taking them shopping and asking about their personal lives in an effort to put them at ease, the prosecution added.
"She was in on it from the start. The defendant and Epstein lured their victims with a promise of a bright future, only to sexually exploit them," Pomerantz said, per the AP.
"The defendant was the lady of the house," she added, saying that Maxwell "was involved in every detail of Epstein's life."
Bobbi Sternheim, Maxwell's attorney, argued that she is being made a "scapegoat for a man who behaved badly," according to the AP.
"The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did, but she is not Jeffrey Epstein," Sternheim argued, Reuters reported.
Four accusers, in addition to family members of victims and former Epstein employees are set to testify in the trial, which is expected to last until at least January, Reuters added.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to six counts of sex trafficking as well as other crimes committed between 1994 and 2004.
Epstein died in jail in August 2019 while awaiting his own trial.