Objections Abound During Day Four of Ghislaine Maxwell Trial

Objections Abound During Day Four of Ghislaine Maxwell Trial
In this courtroom sketch, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell appears during her arraignment hearing on a new indictment at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, on April 23, 2021. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)
Dave Paone

NEW YORK—The morning began with testimony from Paul Kane, the director of finance at Professional Children’s School in New York City.

Prosecuting attorney Andrew Rohrbach questioned Kane about student files. Each student at the school has a file that includes financial aid, transcripts, college applications, and recommendations.

The prosecution’s witness from Dec. 2, an alleged victim referred to only as “Jane,” attended this school.

This was quickly objected to by defense attorney, Laura Menninger, as hearsay. It was overruled.

Menninger also argued to the court that there is third-party handwriting on the application and its accuracy is not verified.

The evidence was offered again, and objected to again, leading to a sidebar.

Ultimately, it was admitted under seal.

Written on the application, under “financial responsibility,” was “Mr. Jeffery Epstein.”

Under cross-examination by Menninger, Kane testified he was not sure if Epstein did indeed pay for the tuition.

The prosecution called its first expert witness, Dr. Lisa Rocchio, a clinical and forensic psychologist.

She rattled off her list of qualifications, including treatment and evaluation of children who’ve suffered sexual abuse.

Rocchio disclosed that she’s being paid for her services by the prosecution.

She spoke in great detail about “grooming,” which is a series of deceptive practices to engage children in sexual activities.

Rocchio explained the five stages of grooming.

The first is the selection and identification of a victim, usually from a vulnerable population.

The second is access and isolation, usually a location where children are regularly present.

Lies and deception to gain trust are third. The perpetrator will meet the needs of the potential victim, making him or her “feel unique, or special in some way,” accompanied by money and access to things they don’t have.

Fourthly, the perpetrator will desensitize the victim to touch, “slowly and gradually moving the line” of what’s appropriate. Hugs may escalate.

The perpetrator will also normalize sex, possibly with dirty jokes at first, then risque movies that evolve into pornography, and then actual sexual abuse.

And lastly, by maintaining a relationship through control over the victim, the perpetrator has less of a chance of being exposed.

Rocchio added victims are often from families with financial difficulties, or single parents.

She spoke of “delayed disclosure,” where the younger the victim, the less likely he, or she, will disclose the abuse, but will eventually do so in adulthood.

The five stages of grooming, as well as Rochhio’s additional testimony, corroborated Jane’s testimony from Dec. 2, mirroring it on just about every aspect.

During Rocchio’s direct testimony, there were several objections from defense attorney Jeffery Pagliuca.

Judge Alison Nathan referred to two of them as “conflicting objections.”

Under cross-examination, Pagliuca attempted to discredit the five stages of grooming, starting by saying there are scientific disagreements about the subject, specifically her version of it.

He had her admit she hasn’t given any of the witnesses a physiological evaluation and she’s being paid up to $45,000 for her services to the prosecution.

Pagliuca moved on to how delays in disclosure are sometimes reliant on unreliable memory.

There were three objections to this line of questioning from prosecuting attorney Lara Pomerantz. All were sustained.

Pagliuca asked Rocchio about “confabulation,” where the brain connects the dots of events, and blanks that are filled in aren’t accurate.

This was followed by another objection that was sustained. There were two more objections to the next two questions. Both sustained.

Pagliuca objected to an answer to a question he asked.

He went on to argue that behavior that fits into Rocchio’s definition of grooming could be perfectly normal. Rocchio replied that only if it’s not intended to lead to sexual abuse.

Pagliuca ended with a study about grooming presented to nearly 400 students. The study had five vignettes that included grooming and one that didn’t. Many of the students could not identify which were the grooming behaviors and which one was not.

The prosecution’s final witness of the day was Juan P. Alessi, who first started working for Epstein as a subcontractor at his Palm Beach, Florida, residence in 1990.

In 1991, he was hired full-time. He testified his job responsibilities “changed gradually over the years.” Ultimately, he oversaw much of the Palm Beach staff, including cleaners, maintenance, and gardening.

His wife was also employed by Epstein.

Alessi testified that he reported directly to the defendant, Ghislaine Maxwell.

Just as the prosecution did with Epstein’s pilot, Lawrence P. Visoski, Jr., who testified earlier this week, attorney Maurene Comey spent a lot of time having Alessi describe each room in the house, even going over diagrams of the interior and exterior.

Alessi testified there were “many, many, many females” he saw “hundreds of times” by the pool, and 75-80 percent of them were topless. They interacted with Maxwell.

After several years on the job, said Alessi, he and his staff were required to perform “extensive preparation,” of the house, sometimes with only a few hours’ notice.

Alessi said he was given “a tremendous amount of instruction” from Maxwell, which was mostly verbal. However, in 2001 or 2002, he received a printed booklet, entitled “Household Manual.”

He stated it included 30, or more, pages of checklists for proper presentation of the house.

Alessi reviewed the booklet while on the witness stand. Since the edition of the manual was dated after he had left the job, he went through it, page by page, stating which pages, or portion of pages, he recognized.

He recognized a majority of the booklet.

During cross-examination, Pagliuca argued since Alessi had left Epstein’s employment after this booklet was printed, this edition was not the one submitted as evidence.

Alessi discarded his copy after his employment ended in 2002.

Under redirect, Comey went over specific entries in the manual.

They included, “Do not discuss personal problems with guests,” “Remember that you see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing except to answer a question directed to you,” and “NEVER [in both bold and uppercase] discuss Mr. Epstein’s, or Ms. Maxwell’s, activities or whereabouts. Respect their privacy.”

Alessi testified that he saw what appeared to be two underage girls at the Palm Beach residence. One he remembered as Jane, and the other as Virginia Roberts.

He estimated both their ages as 14 or 15.

He met Jane in 1994 and saw her at the house with her mother at least three times, but then without her mother four or five times.

Since Alessi also worked as a driver, he had driven Epstein, Maxwell, Jane, and Maxwell’s Yorkie, Max, to the airport and witnessed all of them boarding the plane.

He related the same story with Roberts.

Comey presented Alessi with one of the several address books—referred to as “directories”—which Epstein and Maxwell used regularly.

Alessi reviewed it Wednesday night.

He believed it was from after his employment, because his name wasn’t in it, and it was thinner, and with a smaller font than the ones he remembered.

Alessi identified Jane’s real name and contact information in it.

Pagliuca asked Alessi to take note of the boxes, circles, and arrows that were handwritten in the directory, as well as the Post-It notes protruding from the pages.

Alessi confirmed he did not know who wrote the notations or added the Post-Its.

Pagliuca hypothesized that someone could have photocopied an original directory, bound the pages, possibly removing some, and that Alessi has no personal knowledge of how it was produced and kept for the past 19 years.

Comey had Alessi review a phone message book, which kept a carbon copy of each handwritten message. Alessi was often the one who answered the phone.

Alessi stated which messages were in his handwriting, which were in his wife’s, and which were unknown to him.

Once again, the dates of some messages were after Alessi’s employment.

Pagliuca argued no one knew where the completed books went after they were placed in a closet and objected to the evidence being admitted because the handwritings weren’t authenticated.

The evidence was admitted.

Since it was not ready for viewing, the prosecution will circle back to it when it is.

Part of Alessi’s job was to clean the room after Epstein had a massage. Alessi testified earlier that Epstein often had three massages a day, by professional masseuses.

Once, while cleaning after a massage, he found a sex toy, which he rinsed off—while wearing gloves—and placed in Maxwell’s wicker basket.

The basket included pornographic tapes and a black, leather “costume.”

As Visoski testified, the house in Palm Beach was decorated with many photos of topless women, which appeared to be taken poolside at the house. He believes they were shot by Maxwell.

In 2004, two years after his employment for Epstein ended, Alessi was having both financial and marital problems.

He returned to the Palm Beach estate and snuck in through a sliding door.

“I made the biggest mistake of my life,” he said. Alessi stole $6,300 in $100 bills.

According to Alessi, Epstein rang him up and said, “We need to talk.”

Alessi met with Epstein, who had a photo of the crime in progress. They came to an agreement: Epstein considered the money a loan, which Alessi paid back.

While Alessi spoke to the police, there were no charges filed.