Prosecution Saved Strongest Testimony for Last in Ghislaine Maxwell Trial
The prosecution has rested in the sex-trafficking case against Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of procuring underage girls for sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The state’s last witnesses on Friday were Annie Farmer — the only victim to testify using her full name — followed by her high school boyfriend, and ending with her mother. The defense will present its case starting on Thursday, Dec. 16, following a break due to the judge’s scheduling conflicts. Attorneys estimated it will take two to four days.
Farmer, a therapist who holds a PhD in educational psychology, took the stand shortly before 10 a.m. on Friday to testify about uncomfortable experiences she said she had with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell when she was 16. The judge stipulated to the jury that the events Farmer described would not constitute “illegal sexual activity,” but that didn’t weaken the impact of her testimony about Maxwell giving her an inappropriate massage and Epstein climbing into her bed one morning to “cuddle” her. In her testimony before the lunch break, she also appeared largely unshakable under cross-examination, where defense started by focusing on her memory.
Farmer is already known publicly as one of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims. Along with her older sister, Maria, Farmer has spoken in multiple interviews and appeared in the 2020 Netflix docuseries Filthy Rich telling the same story. She and her sister were infamously cut from Vicky Ward’s 2003 Vanity Fair piece on Epstein’s wealth (either because Epstein spooked Graydon Carter, the magazine’s editor, or because Ward’s reporting did not meet the publication’s legal standards, depending on who you ask).
Punctuated by passages from her adolescent journal, Farmer told jurors that she had first met Epstein when she visited her older sister Maria in New York for a week after Christmas in 1995. At that point, Annie was 16, a diligent student, and knew Epstein as her sister’s boss and as someone who might be able to help her get into college and pay tuition. Maria, 25 at the time of the New York visit, was not called to testify but has spoken publicly on multiple occasions about her own experiences with Epstein, whom she said had promised to help with her painting career.
Reading from the journal she kept at the time, Farmer detailed a teen’s fantasy vacation where Epstein shared champagne with her and Maria before having his personal driver deliver them to a showing of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. They saw the Blue Man Group, The Duchess, visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and went shopping. Farmer wrote about finding a vintage “dream dress” for her junior prom at a thrift store. One government exhibit showed her wearing the prom dress she’d bought on that trip, with a pale pink pink tulle skirt. She wore matching pink gloves that ended at her wrists.
On another occasion during the 1995 New York trip, Farmer said she went to a movie — 12 Monkeys — where Epstein sat between her and her sister. There, Farmer said, Epstein “caressed” her hand and interlocked his fingers with hers to hold hands. He also bumped the bottom of her shoe and rubbed her leg. She said when he spoke to her sister, he would stop touching her, but then resume. Farmer said she was “very surprised” and felt nervous, anxious, and “kind of sick to my stomach.” She said she didn’t tell her sister who, more than nine years her senior, was protective of her. She said she feared it could cause Maria to lose her job.
Most telling were her journal entries about the trip. One shortly after she got home gushed about falling in love with the city. “New York is such an amazing city,” she wrote, saying she “felt really comfortable there” and like she could see herself living there one day. She described Epstein as seeming “down to earth and easy to talk to.” A few weeks later, she made another entry, filling in details like their other outings and shows they saw. She also wrote about the movie theater incident with unmistakable youthful ambivalence. “It was one of those things that just gave me a weird feeling but wasn’t that weird and probably normal,” she wrote, adding that she couldn’t tell Maria because “she worships [Epstein]” and it was “not a big deal.” “I know this sounds like I’m trying to justify him doing something weird, but it isn’t.”
In the spring of 1996, Farmer said Epstein paid for her to visit his New Mexico ranch. She met Maxwell there, whom she described as trim, attractive, well-dressed, well-spoken, articulate, and enthusiastic in greeting her. She said being the only person staying there in a residence with Maxwell and Epstein felt “unusual” but also made her feel special. The three took a shopping trip together, she said, where they bought her cowboy boots and a hair product from a natural foods store.
At the time, Farmer said, she didn’t have much use for cowboy boots. She threw them in the back of her closet when she got home and later retrieved them from storage to use as evidence in a potential FBI case around 2006. That case never panned out. Since then, she says she’s “reclaimed” the boots and started wearing them. “I saw them as a symbol of a hard thing that happened to me,” she said. “But by using the boots, it was a way of changing that.”
Farmer described the three of them going to a movie, Primal Fear, which Farmer said she wasn’t eager to do again but hoped it would be different since Epstein and Maxwell appeared to be a romantic couple and the presence of Maxwell was comforting. Again, Epstein caressed and held her hand, but she says he didn’t stop when he spoke to Maxwell.
On another occasion, Maxwell showed her how to rub Epstein’s feet with Maxwell demonstrating on one foot while Farmer rubbed the other. Farmer said he made “groaning noises” during the massage.
At one point on that trip, she said, Maxwell asked if she’d ever received a professional massage and then told her she wanted her to have that experience. Farmer agreed to undress and lie under a sheet on a massage table. She said Maxwell rubbed her back and legs, making small talk before asking her to flip over, then pulling the sheet down to expose her breasts. She described feeling “frozen” as Maxwell rubbed her chest and “upper breasts.” “I wanted so badly to get off the massage table and for it to be done,” she said. Epstein was not in the immediate vicinity, she recalled, but said she “had a sense that he could see [her].”
One morning, Farmer said she remembers Epstein opening the door and playfully “bounding” into her room, saying he wanted to cuddle. Farmer told the jury he did cuddle her, and again said she felt “frozen” as he wrapped his arms around her and pressed his body against hers. She made an excuse to get away and close herself in the bathroom.
After that happened, Farmer said she just wanted the trip to be over. She’d thought they were interested in her as a student, she said — she’d even brought three-by-five-inch flashcards with talking points on a paper she was working on in school about British authors. She said after the massage, Maxwell seemed “disinterested” in the conversation about her academics. “All these experiences made me feel like they had a very different interest in me,” she said. “I wanted it to be done.”
In cross-examination, defense attorney Laura Menninger began by focusing on Farmer’s memory. She suggested that, lacking a journal entry from the trip to New Mexico (which Farmer said she hadn’t written about because she didn’t want to think about it again), Farmer had “reconstructed” her memory of the second movie outing and made her knowledge match the facts by cross-referencing her recollection with the time Primal Fear was released and checking with her friends on the timing of their prom that spring. Farmer said, “I don’t think I’d say it like that.” Menninger also focused in on the ambivalence in Farmer’s journal entry. “It’s weird, it’s not weird,” she said, describing the sentiments as “back and forth” and pointing out that Farmer had written that she was “in a pretty happy place” and “excited about the future” after the New York visit.
After the lunch break, Menninger questioned supposed inconsistencies in other interviews. She asked Farmer if Maxwell had touched her nipples and Farmer said no. Menninger asked if it had been her pectorals that Maxwell massaged, and Farmer said yes, that this was all part of her breast. Menninger noted Farmer had used the word “groped” in an earlier interview. “Rubbed, groped, massaged,” Farmer said. “I don’t see that as substantially different.”
The defense also tried to characterize the incidents as non-sexual, seeming to suggest that the actions Farmer described did not constitute abuse. “After Thailand you said you were not raped,” Menninger said, citing Farmer’s earlier testimony of what she’d told her mother about her New Mexico experience. “Yes,” Farmer said. “You said you were not sexually abused,” Menninger said. “I said I wasn’t raped,” she said. “ You meant that you were not sexually abused,” Menninger said. “I think those are two different things,” Farmer said. Farmer agreed that neither Epstein nor Maxwell had touched her nipples or genitals. At one point Menninger asked her whether she thought hand-holding was sexual abuse. Farmer said more than hand-holding had happened at the movies, repeating details about Epstein caressing her hand and rubbing her leg.
During a sidebar, Farmer straightened her spine and rolled her shoulders back, and took a few slow deep breaths. True to the defense’s stated themes of “memory, manipulation, and money,” Menninger asked if Farmer knew how much money her lawyers – who have represented Farmer pro bono – make from the Epstein case, broadly speaking. This line of questioning drew a flurry of objections from the state. Menninger also asked if Farmer knew that sharing her own experience with sexual abuse gave her more credibility in her work as a psychologist who has treated other survivors. Farmer said opinions vary on whether her own status as a survivor might be a plus to potential clients.
During re-direct questioning by the prosecution, Farmer said that although Epstein and Maxwell had not touched her genitals or nipples, their behavior was “all a pattern of them working on confusing my boundaries” with the goal of sexually abusing her.
In the afternoon, Farmer’s high school and college boyfriend David Mulligan testified. Mulligan and Farmer are still friends who speak around once a month, he said. He has a masters in special education but currently works as a baker. He said she’d told him over time during their relationship about her experiences with Maxwell and Epstein. The topic had come up when they were starting to become “physically affectionate with each other,” he said. He confirmed that Farmer had expected other students would also be at the weekend trip to New Mexico. “She told me that she felt fearful, and awkward, and helpless,” he said of Maxwell massaging her breasts.
Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim spoke rapidly and loudly during cross examination, hitting Mulligan with a string of questions about his media consumption and the high-profile nature of Farmer’s story that didn’t seem to yield the intended results. “You must have been curious,” Sternheim said, referring to Farmer’s multiple interviews and documentary appearances. “I’m not much of a news-watcher,” he responded, pleasantly. He’d never heard of her $1.5 million settlement from Epstein’s victims compensation fund, either, he said. In an accusatory tone, Sternheim asked him if he’d recently gotten married. He said yes. She asked if Farmer had attended his wedding. He confirmed that she had.
The prosecution’s final witness was Janice Swain, Annie Farmer’s mother. She offered a parent’s perspective on Farmer’s trip to Epstein’s New Mexico ranch. She described speaking to Epstein on the phone, and said he told her 20 to 25 “academically gifted” students would be in attendance that weekend. She recalled asking him if he was sure he had space to house that many students. He told her there were cabins. She pressed him on whether there would be boys as well as girls there, and who would chaperone the girls. She said he’d told her his “wife,” Ghislaine, would. She remembered Farmer seeming quiet, withdrawn, and tired when she got back from New Mexico. Later, she pressed her daughter to talk about the incident. “She always said the same thing: I’m not going to let it ruin my life,” Swain said.
After the prosecution rested its case, Judge Alison Nathan dismissed the jury and the defense moved to have all charges against Maxwell dismissed. Defense attorney Christian Everdell argued there was insufficient evidence that Maxwell had “enticed” the witness known as Jane to travel to New York to engage in illegal sexual activity. Nathan promptly denied the motion.
Court will resume Thursday, Dec. 16th.