Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers: You know who's really the victim in all of this, right?

Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers: You know who's really the victim in all of this, right?
AP Photo/John Minchillo, File

The beginning of the trial of Jeffrey Epstein’s “associate,” Ghislaine Maxwell didn’t do much to dispel the overall weird and unsavory nature of this case. The number of accusers who have come forward, combined with her attempts to flee and evade justice has made for a reasonable suspicion that she’s guilty, at a minimum. But her attorneys delivered opening remarks that seemed to attempt to totally flip the script. Rather than being someone who allegedly procured young women for Epstein’s purposes and occasionally took part in abusing them, they described Maxwell as being one of Epstein’s many victims herself. They also claimed that the entire trial is misguided and an attempt to force her to take responsibility for the “bad behavior of men.”

Ghislaine Maxwell’s defense attorneys on Monday portrayed her as a scapegoat being accused because of “the bad behavior of men,” — one in particular — since prosecutors never had a chance to put late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein on trial.

Her lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, invoked the Bible at the start of her opening statement, arguing that women have been condemned for crimes committed by men since the beginning of time.

“Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam with the apple,” said Sternheim. “Women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men.”

I understand that Maxwell’s attorneys are obligated to put on the best defense possible for their client, so clearly they had to try something. But comparing her to the biblical figure of Eve seems like a bit of a stretch, doesn’t it? And even if it weren’t, while I am in no way a biblical scholar, I’m pretty sure Eve was at least partly at fault for picking the apple from the tree of knowledge.

Sternheim’s second argument was also designed to undermine the entire scope of the trial and create doubt in the minds of the jurors. He claimed that the attempts to prosecute his client were a form of retaliation over society’s inability to bring Epstein himself to justice because of his inconvenient state of no longer being among the living. He described her as a “convenient stand-in” for the deceased sex offender.

Then, just to complete the hat-trick, Sternheim went on to accuse Maxwell’s accusers of dishonesty and acting in bad faith, or at least he made it sound that way. He described the four women as being unwitting dupes of “aggressive civil defense attorneys.” He further suggested that some of them were only going after his client as a way of “searching for a payday.”

Of all of the lines of attack on display, blaming the victims has traditionally been one of the least successful tactics for criminal defense attorneys. You’re usually not going to win a lot of sympathy for your client by doing that.

The claim about some of the victims “seeking a payday” might potentially carry a bit more weight. The defense does apparently have records showing that one of the women had been in the process of seeking a payment from a victims’ fund that had been set up for Epstein’s targets. She allegedly only accused Epstein of wrongdoing initially and only turned her accusations on Ghislaine Maxwell after her former boss’s inconvenient “suicide.” But even then, if she actually was assaulted and trafficked, why wouldn’t she try to take advantage of that avenue of compensation?

The defense will also claim that one of the victims was above the legal age of consent when she had her sole encounter with Epstein. She was sixteen at the time which was above the legal age in Texas, where the assault is alleged to have taken place. I’m not sure how the jury will feel about that fact (if it can be established) but it might force the prosecutors to drop that specific charge.

The trial is continuing this week. Based on how it’s starting, you can expect plenty of lurid headlines to come out of these proceedings before it’s finally given to the jury.

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