By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A green massage table seized from Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach estate was carried into a Manhattan federal courtroom on Friday, where British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell is on trial for her alleged role in the sex abuse of underage girls.
Prosecutors have said many of Epstein’s encounters with teenagers began as massages before escalating, calling the term “massage” a “ruse” to get girls to touch Epstein.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes for allegedly recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to abuse.
Her attorneys argue she is being scapegoated because Epstein cannot be prosecuted, after killing himself in a Manhattan jail in 2019 at age 66 while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges. Maxwell is a former Epstein girlfriend.
Jeffrey Parkinson, a retired police officer involved in the 2005 search as part of an investigation into Epstein’s conduct, testified on the fifth day of Maxwell’s trial that he carried the massage table from Epstein’s estate.
Prosecutor Maurene Comey also showed jurors a photo of a box labeled “Twin Torpedos” that a colleague of Parkinson’s, Michael Dawson, said contained sex toys taken from an upstairs closet.
“We were looking for massage tables, we were looking for massage oils, we were looking for sex toys, we were looking for correspondence,” Dawson testified on Friday afternoon.
The demonstrations came after Epstein’s former house manager, Juan Alessi, completed his own testimony.
Alessi had testified on Thursday that Epstein was receiving about three massages every day by the time he left his job in 2002.
He said he sometimes found sex toys while cleaning the massage room and stored them in Maxwell’s bathroom.
Alessi called Maxwell the “lady of the house” at the Palm Beach property, saying she often directed him to schedule Epstein’s massages, and that he sometimes drove her on scouting missions to spas to find new therapists for Epstein.
A woman who identified herself as Jane testified this week that she frequently massaged Epstein at the Palm Beach home while she was a teenager in the mid-1990s.
She said Epstein often touched her sexually during their encounters, in which Maxwell sometimes participated. Epstein sometimes paid her, she added.
Alessi testified that Jane’s real name was in a directory he kept of Epstein’s masseusses. He also said that before Epstein and Maxwell arrived in Florida for the weekend, the house staff was instructed to place several $100 bills in Epstein’s cars.
Maxwell’s attorneys on Friday sought to challenge Jane’s recollection of the events when cross-examining Alessi.
They questioned his recollection of having met Jane in 1994, when she said she was first abused at 14, pointing to an earlier statement he made that he met her years later, when she might have been of legal age.
Alessi replied that he did not remember the precise year he met Jane.
Maxwell’s trial is expected to resume on Monday and last into January.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Sandra Maler and Alistair Bell)