After a three-day hiatus, the Ghislaine Maxwell trial in federal court in lower Manhattan resumed on Dec. 16 with the defense calling its first five witnesses.
On the stand first was Cimberly Espinoza, who began working for Jeffrey Epstein’s legal team in October 1996. She was 28 years old at the time.
Espinoza quickly changed positions and became Maxwell’s executive assistant.
Under direct examination by defense attorney Christian Everdell, Espinoza said, “I highly respected Ghislaine,” and “I looked up to her very much.”
When she first met “Jane,” the alleged victim who testified for the prosecution, she estimated her age at “probably 18.”
She said Jane’s mother referred to Jane as Epstein’s goddaughter, and therefore was treated “a little extra special” at his Madison Avenue office.
Espinoza testified that in later years, Jane stopped coming around the office because she was cast in a soap opera in California.
The series happened to be a favorite of Espinoza, and Jane mailed to her autographed headshots of three of its actors (including Jane), as well as a photo of the cast, signed by the actors as well.
The pictures were temporarily admitted under seal as evidence.
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus was the defense’s first expert witness, with a specialty in false memories.
After reading highlights from her 47-page resume, Loftus gave several examples how one’s memory can be corrupted.
In an example she conducted during her research, participants were shown a simulation of a car accident, where one car runs a stop sign.
In the “misinformation effect,” they were told it was a yield sign, and their memories incorporated the misinformation.
Another is “post event information,” where a person gets new information and then incorporates it into his memory. Loftus testified that, at times, the media can be responsible for this.
There’s also “auto suggestion,” where a person draws inferences and they become memories.
All during her testimony, Loftus turned her gaze from defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim, then to the jury, and then back to Sternheim.
She went on to explain more instances where memory can change due to external input.
Loftus ended her direct testimony by disclosing she’s getting paid $600 per hour for her services to the defense.
Under cross examination, prosecuting attorney Lara Pomerantz ran with that, making Loftus out to be a gun for hire, citing that in the 150 or so criminal trials where she testified, all but one were for the defense.
Loftus wrote a book, “Witness for the Defense,” which was published in 1991.
Pomerantz said, “You haven’t written a book called ′Impartial Witness,′” to which Loftus replied, “I don’t have a book by that title.”
Pomerantz attempted to discredit Loftus’ research and experiments by getting her to admit that people will retain core memories of traumatic events and not peripheral details, and that repetitive, traumatic events are remembered more accurately.
She ended her cross with Loftus admitting she never conducted any experiment or study with teenaged girls experiencing sexual abuse, and never placed a false memory of childhood sexual abuse into a participant in a study.
The three other witnesses were travel agent Raghu Sud, US Customs and Border Protection Agent Michael Aznaran, and Palm Beach School District employee Dominique Hybbolite.
Hybbolite’s direct testimony only lasted a few minutes at the end of the day and will resume Dec. 17.