Twelve jurors and six alternates were picked Monday to hear Ghislaine Maxwell’s case.
Maxwell, an associate of the late sex offender and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, is on trial for allegedly helping Epstein procure and abuse young girls.
Hours were spent in the morning choosing the jury, with much of the time devoted to weighing whether two prospective jurors could work throughout the six weeks the trial is projected to last.
One prospective juror was dismissed after he acknowledged he’d had to listen to someone he knew who was “passionate” about the case. Another juror’s employment was in jeopardy until the judge contacted the employer to speed the process of approval for the juror’s service.
During the proceedings, Maxwell, 59, gazed frequently at her sister, who was seated in the front row of a spectator section diminished in space by COVID-19-related restrictions.
After the jury was finalized, opening statements were offered.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told the courtroom in New York City that Epstein and Maxwell, a British socialite, enticed girls as young as age 14 to engage in “so-called massages” by showering them with money and gifts before they were sexually abused.
Pomerantz worked to emphasize that Maxwell was a key part of Epstein’s scheme, which involved residences in the city and multiple other states and spanned as far back as 1994.
“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. Maxwell “was involved in every detail of Epstein’s life,” the prosecutor said, adding, “The defendant was the lady of the house.”
Defense attorneys and Maxwell have said she’s innocent and she has pleaded not guilty.
Maxwell was arrested at a home in Connecticut in the summer of 2020 on six counts, including conspiracy to entice minors to engage in illegal sex acts and perjury.
She has been held since then.
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, an Obama nominee who is presiding over the trial, rejected attempts by the defense to allow Maxwell to go free until the trial, citing the accused’s wealth and vast connections across the world.
Epstein and Maxwell’s circle included Prince Andrew, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and L brands CEO Les Wexner.
Maxwell faces up to 50 years in prison if jurors convict her on all charges.
Women who report being ensnared by Maxwell say she offered them promising positions before pressuring them to perform sexual acts on Epstein.
Teresa Helm, who says she was abused when she was 22, told The Epoch Times she hopes Maxwell is convicted.
“I don’t think for a moment that she deserves to be on the outside of a jail cell,” she said. “I and other girls, we’re on the outside of these bars, and yet we haven’t fully regained our freedom back. So I hope she gets the maximum sentence. She doesn’t deserve any less than that.”
Charlotte Cuthbertson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.