Arguments around grooming, consent and memory are likely to be at the heart of Ghislaine Maxwell’s upcoming sex-trafficking trial, evidence at a court hearing suggests.
Delayed disclosure, where an alleged victim of abuse takes a long time to tell others, is also expected to be debated.
On Wednesday, Ms Maxwell’s defence team signalled they plan to attack the credibility of government witnesses on the basis of previous substance abuse and delays in coming forward with abuse allegations.
In the pre-trial hearing, prosecution and defence lawyers questioned expert witness Dr Lisa Rocchio, a clinical psychologist with expertise in traumatic stress.
Judge Alison Nathan rejected a defence attempt to block Dr Rocchio from giving evidence at the trial.
The clinical psychologist told the court that academic studies have concluded there are common strategies in grooming of children: starting with gaining access and isolating a victim, then developing trust, and later desensitising them to physical and sexual contact.
Under cross-examination from Ms Maxwell’s attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca, Dr Rocchio conceded that intent is key in judging whether behaviour can be classed as grooming.
Many grooming tactics, such as giving gifts or showing affection, are also present in non-abusive relationships, Dr Rocchio acknowledged.
The indictment against Ghislaine Maxwell claims she “enticed and groomed multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Jeffrey Epstein” and that Ms Maxwell and Mr Epstein would “build friendships” with alleged victims by taking them to the movies or shopping.
Dr Rocchio also told court she is being paid $450 per hour by the government, up to a maximum of $45,000.
Ghislaine Maxwell appeared in court in a blue prison tunic, baggy trousers and black mask, but without the shackles she wore in previous appearances.
She used reading glasses as she took notes during the hearing. At one point, Ms Maxwell blew a kiss to her sister who was sitting in court.
The British socialite, and former girlfriend of paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is facing charges of sex trafficking, which she denies. Ms Maxwell is accused of procuring teenage girls for Mr Epstein to sexually abuse.
Mr Epstein, a wealthy financier and convicted sex offender, took his own life in jail in 2019. He was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
The opening arguments of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial are expected to begin on 29 November.