Ghislaine Maxwell was ‘No 2’ in Jeffrey Epstein’s hierarchy, pilot says

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

As the child sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell entered its second day of testimony in New York City on Tuesday, the prosecution’s first witness put the British socialite in the middle of Jeffrey Epstein’s life – but also said he did not see Epstein engage in wrongdoing with minors on his private planes.

The names of influential men who flew on Epstein’s planes were raised in court, among them Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and Donald Trump.

Epstein killed himself in August 2019 in jail, awaiting trial for the transportation and abuse of minor teenagers. Maxwell, 59, is being tried in federal court in Manhattan. She has pleaded not guilty to six counts arising from allegedly procuring teen girls for Epstein, some as young as 14.

Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr, who worked for Epstein as a pilot from 1991 to 2019, began testimony on Monday. He testified that Maxwell was about 30 when he met her in 1991, and claimed “we interacted quite often. She was on a lot of the flights”.

Visoski testified that Maxwell oversaw Epstein’s households. Questioned about her relationship with Epstein, he said: “I thought it was more personal than business.”

The pair remained close into the 2000s. Visoski said they were not necessarily romantic but were “couple-ish”. He said he did not see them holding hands or kissing.

On Tuesday, Visoski testified that Maxwell was “No 2” in Epstein’s hierarchy, with Epstein being “No 1”.

“She was the one who … handled most of the finance, my expenses in the office,” he said, in response to prosecutors.

Visoski also testified that the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman flew on Epstein’s plane to the high-profile Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan, landing at an airport nearby. Epstein is alleged to have met an underage victim at the camp.

The pilot said Clinton flew on Epstein’s plane “a few times” in the 2000s. Clinton denies any wrongdoing.

Defense lawyers asked: “Are you familiar with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York?”

“I am,” Visoski replied.

“Did he ever fly on Mr Epstein’s planes?”

“Yes, he did.”

Maxwell also faces two counts for allegedly lying under oath, for which she will be tried separately. Those charges stem from claims by longtime Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre, who alleges that Maxwell and Epstein coerced her into sexual activity with Andrew at the age of 17.

Giuffre filed suit against Maxwell, who called her a liar. Maxwell and Andrew insist on their innocence.

Visoski said he did not recall if Robert Kennedy Jr flew on Epstein’s plane.

“What about Senator John Glenn?” the defense asked, of the former astronaut who represented Ohio as a Democrat from 1974 to 1999.

“I do remember John Glenn, yes.”

“The actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker?”

“Yes, I remember them as well.”

Donald Trump also flew on Epstein’s plane before he was president, Visoski said.

In cross-examination, Maxwell’s legal team sought to chip away at the possibility that Visoski saw Epstein engage in sexual misconduct, which is integral to establishing that Maxwell facilitated abuse.

Visoski said he did not see underage-looking girls, or even women who appeared younger than 20, flying on Epstein’s planes without close relations. He did not check female passengers’ ages, he said, but repeatedly said the unaccompanied ones looked above age.

He was asked if he ever saw Epstein engage in sex acts.

“No,” he said.

“You never saw sex acts with underage girls?”

“Absolutely not.”

While the cockpit doors were closed during flight, Visoski was able to leave the front of the plane if he needed the bathroom. The defense suggested he could have left the cockpit freely at any point, and therefore could have seen Epstein engaging in misconduct.

The first half of the day’s proceedings was characterized by moments of strangeness and levity. Around 9.30am, Maxwell’s sister was spotted sketching her sibling in a lined notepad.

Visoski spoke matter-of-factly and was even jolly at some junctures. He did not seem nervous at all. During questioning about how he was permitted to leave his cockpit to use the restroom, he said: “There’s times when you have to use the restroom – like now.”

“That’s for me,” Judge Alison Nathan remarked.

“I was hoping for a break,” Visoski said, spurring laughter throughout the court.

Although he sported a conventional dark suit, white shirt and red striped tie, Visoski also wore black velvet slippers with a red monogram of what appeared to be his initials.

On cross-examination, Visoski said Maxwell was Epstein’s “No 2” in a non-business context, managing his properties.

She “was his go-to person to handle everything else that wasn’t business related”, he said.

Maxwell had other hands-on tasks, he said, such as decorating and shopping. At Epstein’s New Mexico ranch, Visoski said, “she took care of the horses” and other animals.

After the pilot’s testimony ended, the government called its first accuser, who was identified as “Jane”.

In opening remarks on Monday, Maxwell’s lead attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, cast Maxwell as a patsy for Epstein’s crimes – and went so far as to invoke the Bible.

“Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam for the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men and women are often villainized and punished more than the men ever are,” Sternheim argued. “The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did.

“But she is not Jeffrey Epstein. She is not like Jeffrey Epstein – and she is not like any of the other men, powerful men, moguls, media giants, who abuse women.”

The prosecutor Lara Pomerantz argued that Maxwell was complicit in Epstein’s crimes, arguing: “She knew what was going to happen to those girls.”

Maxwell “preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused”, she said.

“The defendant was trafficking kids for sex.”

Pomerantz continued: “Maxwell was Epstein’s best friend and right hand. She was involved in every detail of Epstein’s life. The defendant and Epstein were partners in crime.”

  • In the US, call or text the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. In the UK, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adult survivors on 0808 801 0331. In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, and adult survivors can contact Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380. Other sources of help can be found at Child Helplines International