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Readington, N.J.: A Farm Community Intent on Preserving Its Charm

Recently married and looking to move out of their rental townhouse in Woodbridge, N.J., Shaun and MaryJo Spiller set their sights on Readington, N.J., the Hunterdon County town where Mr. Spiller was raised. The couple looked at several homes last fall, putting in one bid that fell through over problems with the house’s septic system. Around Christmas, Mr. Spiller’s father told him about another house newly on the market: the one the younger Mr. Spiller grew up in.

“Everything was exactly the same,” said Mr. Spiller, a 28-year-old data engineer for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, describing the couple’s tour of his childhood home. “Even my old bedroom was the same electric-blue color.”

The house, which has three bedrooms, was in their price range and in the desirable Whitehouse Station area of Readington. But demand was high, as the post-Covid housing market had heated up in rural areas, and more than a dozen people lined up for the first open house. With an offer on the table, which they later increased, the Spillars hoped to improve their chances by sending a letter to the family who bought the house in 2004 from Shaun’s parents, who had moved elsewhere in Readington. In it, Mr. Spiller thanked them for taking such good care of the house and asked if they could buy it back.

“We offered a fair price, but I’d like to think the letter made the difference,” he said. The Spillers bought the house, which was built in 1940 and has a covered porch, for $403,000 in February, and have since built an addition and painted the blue bedroom beige, using it as a home office.

With its deep roots in farming, open space has long been a defining element of this 48-square-mile town, home to about 16,000 people, 93 percent of them white, according to census data. In 1978, seeking to avoid the kind of overdevelopment that occurred in neighboring Somerset County, Readington became the first municipality in New Jersey to put an open-space referendum on the ballot, asking residents to vote for a $1 million bond to preserve farmland and check development. The referendum was approved, and since then Readington has preserved 9,000 acres — nearly a third of the town — through a combination of land acquisition, the purchase of farmers’ development rights and cluster zoning.

“It was a grass-roots effort by those who moved here in the 1970s looking to get away from the hustle and bustle and suburban sprawl,” said Mayor John Albanese, who moved to Readington two years after the referendum passed. “They didn’t want to see the whole town turn into the place they had moved away from. There was definitely an element of ‘I’m pulling up the ladder as I’m getting in the door here.’ But either you do that, or you don’t do anything and it becomes fully developed.”

As the easternmost town in Hunterdon County, Readington is accessible to urban areas and business corridors but is a bit more affordable than counties closer to New York City, which is about 55 miles east of Readington.

“People start out in Basking Ridge or Bernardsville, then they come to Readington and find they get more for their money,” said Patricia Deseno, an agent with Coldwell Banker who moved to Readington in 1975. “The further west you go, the more you get.”

That’s what Terra and Brian Kremer learned during their Readington home search in March of 2018, when they flew in from Utah and spent a weekend with Ms. Deseno looking at 19 houses within a 20-minute radius of Raritan, where Ms. Kremer, an employee of Johnson & Johnson, was being relocated. A microbiologist currently working on her Ph.D., Ms. Kremer, 40, said they wanted a house with a finished basement for their two young sons, room for a home office and “a lot of space, to feel like we were living in the country.”

They found all that in a 1994 four-bedroom house on three acres that backs up to preserved green space, which they bought that spring for $540,000.

“We live on a quiet road with lots of space, and lots of good friends,” Ms. Kremer said. “Oddly enough, I tell people we moved to New Jersey for peace and quiet.”

Spread out at the base of Cushetunk Mountain, Readington’s rolling hills, wooded preserves and vast farmlands offer a bucolic setting for residents. With large swaths of the town set aside for open-space preservation, the residential neighborhoods are mostly either newer developments built on former farmland, or village hamlets like Stanton, Whitehouse, Whitehouse Station and Three Bridges.

The Whitehouse area occupies a stretch of Old Highway 28, just north of Route 22, which is lined with quaint Victorian and colonial-style homes, as well as the famed Ryland Inn restaurant. Whitehouse Station (a name some use interchangeably with Readington) is south of Route 22, with the town’s main commercial area running along Route 523, home to the historic Whitehouse Station train station as well as several restaurants and stores. Three Bridges, in the southern end of town, is another historic area. It is named for the three bridges that cross the South Branch Raritan River.

Most of Readington’s newer homes sit on two or more acres, and have been built in the past 20 to 30 years. As part of its efforts to curtail development, the town has established cluster zoning that requires developers to leave 80 percent of an acquired property undeveloped, while limiting the number of houses that can be built on the remaining 20 percent. No applications have been submitted for such developments in the past five years, Mayor Albanese said.

There are two townhouse developments and two 55+ communities in town. About 90 percent of the homes in Readington have their own wells and septic systems, with only the commercial and village areas connected to the town’s sewage and water systems.

Older farm properties rarely come on the market, but when they do, the town’s historic board often gets involved, according to Tara Stone, an agent with eXp Realty. “They take a lot of pride and are very passionate about these properties,” Ms. Stone said. “It makes for a beautiful town, and it keeps the integrity of what Hunterdon County was built upon: the farm system.”

One of those historic farms — a five-bedroom eight-bath house, built in 1845 on 13.5 acres — has a pool and tennis court and is listed for $1.649 million, the most expensive Readington home currently on the market. At the low end is a one-bedroom, one-bath house on Route 523, listed for $250,000.

The median sale price of houses in Readington from January to mid-November of this year was $518,000, a 5 percent increase over the same period in 2020, when the median was $492,000, according to the Garden State Multiple Listing Service.

Townhouse condominiums range from $200,000 to the mid-$300,000s. The 55+ communities are more expensive, ranging from the mid-$400,000s at Four Seasons, a 98-unit community completed in 2002; to about $700,000 at The Regency, a 209-unit development completed in 2014.

The beauty of the area draws weekend tourists, though locals also frequent the working farms that are open to the public, including Readington River Buffalo Farm, which sells bison meat harvested from the herds raised there. Schaefer Farms has a year-round farm stand, plus pumpkin picking and spooky horror trails in the fall.

For the sportier set, there are hiking trails throughout the 380-acre Cushetunk Mountain Preserve, boating and swimming in the Round Valley Reservoir within that mountain preserve, and golfing at the Stanton Ridge Golf & Country Club. Horseback riding is another popular pastime, and there are more than 20 miles of trails throughout Readington, some of which cut through private property where the residents have provided a right of way.

Readington’s biggest draw comes in July, when the country’s largest hot-air-balloon festival takes flight at Solberg Airport, with more than 100 balloons floating above the town’s fields and homes. Some residents get out of town for this busy three-day weekend, Ms. Deseno said, but others wait for a balloon to accidentally touch down on their property, earning them a complimentary bottle of champagne from the balloon’s errant navigator.

The Readington Township School District serves about 1,500 students in four schools. Students in prekindergarten through third grade attend either the Three Bridges School or the Whitehouse School. Holland Brook School serves fourth and fifth graders, and Readington Middle School covers sixth through eighth grades.

From there students move on to Hunterdon Central Regional High School, in neighboring Flemington, where they are joined by students from four other towns. The school serves 2,644 students, with four magnet programs, a top-rated YouTube television station and 75 advanced placement or honors courses, 18 of which accrue college credits. Average SAT scores at the regional high school this year were 593 in reading and writing, and 598 in math, compared with statewide averages of 562 and 563.

Private schools in the area are limited, but include Acorn Montessori School in Lebanon, for prekindergarten through seventh grade.

The drive from Readington to New York City, going east along Route 78, takes an hour to 75 minutes or more, depending on traffic. New Jersey Transit offers train service from Whitehouse Station to Penn Station, requiring a transfer in Newark. The whole trip takes about an hour and 40 minutes, and costs $16 one way or $451 for a monthly pass. Bus service on New Jersey Transit is available between neighboring Raritan Township to the Port Authority, with the trip taking just over two hours and costing $13 one way and $303 monthly.

Now serving as the headquarters for the Readington Museums, the Bouman-Stickney Farmstead dates to 1741, when the Dutch farmer Thomas Bouman built a Dutch farmhouse and barns on 68 acres. In 1935, the Broadway playwright and producer Howard Lindsay bought the property for his wife, the actress Dorothy Stickney. The couple used the house as a weekend retreat, entertaining Broadway luminaries such as Julie Andrews, Shelley Winters and Oscar Hammerstein, who is said to have written the score to “The Sound of Music” there.

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Live Updates: Accuser Says Maxwell Was Like an Older Sister Before Epstein’s Abuse Began

ImageA protester writes on the ground on Monday outside the courthouse in Manhattan where Ghislaine Maxwell is being tried on federal sex-trafficking charges. 
Credit…Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The 14-year-old girl from Florida was away at summer camp in Michigan in 1994, she said, when a “tall thin woman” with a “cute little Yorkie” walked by.

The woman stopped at the bench where the girl and her friends were eating ice cream, and the girls asked if they could pet the dog. After a while the friends left.

But the 14-year-old stayed, and soon a man joined her and the woman at the bench. He asked about her favorite classes in school and said he was a benefactor who liked to help people. Then he asked for her phone number.

Testifying on Tuesday in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the 14-year-old from Florida, now an adult identified in court only as “Jane,” told jurors how what seemed like a chance encounter with Ms. Maxwell — the woman with the Yorkie — and Jeffrey Epstein led to years of sexual abuse.

That abuse sometimes involved groups of people, she said: “Kissing, oral sex on each other, oral sex on Jeffrey, full on intercourse.” Sometimes, she said, Ms. Maxwell took part in the sex acts.

Weeks after the initial meeting, Jane said she was back at home in Palm Beach when she got an invitation to visit Mr. Epstein at his house for tea. The home was impressive, she said, and so were Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell, even as their conduct was sometimes confusing or overwhelming.

“From the very beginning there was a lot of bragging about how they were friends with everyone,” Jane said, adding that Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein would engage in “name dropping.” The effect was to suggest that “they were very well connected and affluent.”

Ms. Maxwell often came across like a big sister figure — “odd,” Jane said, “but nice.” But soon, Ms. Maxwell began talking to her about sex, Jane said.

She began going to Mr. Epstein’s house on average once every week or two, she said, and Ms. Maxwell was a steady presence. On one day, she was among a group of women who were topless beside Mr. Epstein’s pool. On another, she took Jane shopping to Victoria’s Secret for underwear: “white cotton briefs, basic looking ones.”

One day when she was still 14, Jane testified, Mr. Epstein told her he could introduce her to talent agents. Then he “abruptly” ended a conversation about her interests and her future and guided her into a pool house, taking her hand and saying “follow me.”

Inside the pool house, Jane said Mr. Epstein led her to a couch or futon and took off his pants. He then pulled her on top of him and “proceeded to masturbate,” she said, speaking in a slow halting voice. After he was done, she added, he went into a bathroom to clean up, then “acted like nothing had happened.”

“I was frozen in fear,” Jane said. She testified that she did not tell anyone about what had happened inside the pool house, adding: “I was terrified and felt gross and felt ashamed.”

Similar incidents followed, Jane said. While she was still 14, she said, Mr. Epstein “would touch my breasts, he would touch my vagina.”

She said she touched him “everywhere” including his feet, nipples and penis.

Sometimes Ms. Maxwell would take part in the abuse. And, she said, sometimes multiple people would be involved. Those incidents, like her first experience inside the pool house, would often begin abruptly, Jane said.

A group of people would be socializing when Mr. Epstein or Ms. Maxwell would “summon” them into his bedroom or to a massage room. There, Jane said Ms. Maxwell and others would disrobe and Mr. Epstein would lie down. That, Jane said, would “turn into this orgy.”

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

One day in 1994, a 14-year-old girl identified only as Jane was seated with friends at a picnic table at a Michigan summer camp for talented children when a man and a woman walked by, a federal prosecutor told a Manhattan jury on Monday.

The man and woman were Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, the prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, said. He introduced himself as a donor who gave scholarships to young people at the camp; and after more conversation, the couple and Jane discovered they all lived in Palm Beach, Fla. They asked for Jane’s number.

“What Jane didn’t know then was that this meeting at summer camp was the beginning of a nightmare that would last for years,” Ms. Pomerantz told the jury. “What she didn’t know then was that this man and woman were predators.”

Jane took the witness stand on Tuesday in Federal District Court, the first of four women whom prosecutors have described as underage victims of Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein, and who, now adults, are expected to testify under pseudonyms or partial names in Ms. Maxwell’s trial. Ms. Maxwell has been charged with grooming the four girls to be abused by Mr. Epstein between 1994 and 2004, when they were underage. She has pleaded not guilty.

Testifying on Tuesday, Jane said she was 14 when she met Ms. Maxwell, who came across like a big sister figure — “odd,” Jane said, “but nice.”

But soon, Ms. Maxwell began talking to her about sex, Jane said. She began going to Mr. Epstein’s house on average once every week or two, she said, and soon, she had her first sexual encounter with Mr. Epstein. She said the two were having a conversation about her future.

After Mr. Epstein told her he could introduce her to talent agents, she said, he led her from his office to the pool house. She said he sat down on a couch, pulled his sweatpants down, and then pulled her on top of him while masturbating.

“I was frozen in fear, I had never seen a penis before,” Jane said. “I was terrified and felt gross and like I felt ashamed.”

In opening statements to the jury on Monday, Ms. Pomerantz portrayed Jane as a child victim of abuse, while Ms. Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi C. Sternheim, focused on her as an adult. She described Jane as an actress and singer who had performed in commercials, sitcoms, and movies, and who today is in a soap opera.

“She is a pro at playing roles,” Ms. Sternheim said, asserting that Jane had changed her story in order to obtain millions of dollars in compensation from a fund established for Mr. Epstein’s victims.

By the government’s account, after Jane returned from the camp to her Florida home, Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein befriended her — part of what the government has said was a process of “grooming,” to lower her defenses. They took her to the movies and on shopping trips, and Mr. Epstein regularly gave her hundreds of dollars, knowing her family needed money, Ms. Pomerantz said.

Mr. Epstein started sexually abusing Jane when she was still 14, Ms. Pomerantz told the jury. The lawyer said that Ms. Maxwell was sometimes in the room during the abuse, including when Mr. Epstein engaged in sex acts with Jane. The abuse went on for years, she said.

But Ms. Sternheim said that when Jane visited Mr. Epstein’s Palm Beach home, they talked about music and the arts. “Nothing amiss happened,” the defense lawyer said. “That’s it.”

Ms. Sternheim said that Jane had not initially wanted to be involved in any criminal case involving Mr. Epstein. But that changed, she said, after Mr. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, and the medical examiner ruled he hanged himself. Jane then hired a lawyer and decided to assist the government, Ms. Sternheim said, believing it would help her secure a claim with the Epstein victim fund.

“When money was on the line, she changed her mind,” the defense lawyer said.

“She is a consummate actress,” Ms. Sternheim added, “and as her script and characters change, so has her story that you will hear in this courtroom.”

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

When Jeffrey Epstein traveled on one of his private jets, the cockpit door was always closed during flight, one of his longtime pilots testified Tuesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, making it impossible to see what was going on in the passenger area.

Larry Visoski, who worked for Mr. Epstein for nearly 30 years, was the first witness called by prosecutors in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Mr. Epstein’s longtime companion.

Federal prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office used Mr. Visoski’s testimony, which began late Monday afternoon, to introduce photographs and descriptions of Mr. Epstein’s many residences and his private planes. The planes have long been a source of public fascination and lore, as Mr. Epstein was known to travel with prominent politicians and Hollywood celebrities as well as young women — and girls, some accusers have said — to entertain guests on board.

The names of some high-profile passengers came out under cross-examination on Tuesday, as a lawyer for Ms. Maxwell, Christian Everdell, asked Mr. Visoski if he remembered flying “pretty important people,” naming Bill Clinton, Donald J. Trump, Prince Andrew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the actor Kevin Spacey. Mr. Visoski said that he remembered traveling with all but Mr. Kennedy and that he did not recall whether he ever flew the family of Mr. Trump, who traveled on the plane before his presidency.

When Mr. Visoski first came to work for Mr. Epstein, in 1991, the financier had a Gulfstream plane, he testified, outfitted with leather chairs and a burgundy carpet. The cockpit was separated by a door that was always closed, Mr. Visoski said.

In around 2001, Mr. Epstein bought a Boeing 727, a larger aircraft whose interior, Mr. Visoski said, had multiple compartments, including a full kitchen and what he called “the Round Room,” which had a doughnut-shaped couch.

There, too, the cockpit door was always closed, Mr. Visoski said.

Mr. Epstein sometimes introduced him to guests as they boarded the plane. That included a young woman, a singer identified in court as Jane, whom Mr. Epstein brought into the cockpit. Mr. Visoski described her as “a mature woman, with piercing, powder blue eyes.”

Prosecutors have introduced Jane as one of Mr. Maxwell’s underage accusers. She is likely to testify at the trial, and jurors were shown a copy of her birth certificate.

Under cross-examination by Mr. Everdell, Mr. Visoski confirmed that he could watch the passengers boarding the planes. He said that sometimes, they included young girls traveling with their families, but that he did not see any unaccompanied young women who looked younger than 20.

Mr. Visoski told Mr. Everdell that he “never saw any sexual activity” on the flights. Asked if he ever saw sex acts with underage girls, Mr. Visoski said, “I certainly did not.”

He also said that Mr. Epstein did not mandate that the cockpit door be closed, and that he had invited them to walk to the back of the aircraft if, for example, they had to use the restroom.

“Like right now,” Mr. Visoski said, drawing laughs from the courtroom.

During his cross-examination, Mr. Visoski was asked what kind of advance notice he might have about Mr. Epstein’s passengers, particularly if they had privacy and security concerns. Mr. Everdell asked specifically about Mr. Clinton. “If he were going to be on the flight, you might be told that information in advance,” Mr. Everdell said. “You’d want to make sure the plane looked nice.”

“Yes,” Mr. Visoski said.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

More than two years after Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in a jail cell a month after his arrest on sex-trafficking charges, Ghislaine Maxwell — the woman who prosecutors say helped him to recruit, groom and abuse young girls — went on trial on Monday in Manhattan.

Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein were “partners in crime,” a federal prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, told the jury. Ms. Maxwell sexually exploited young girls by developing their trust, helped to normalize abusive sexual conduct and then “served them up” to Mr. Epstein in a decade-long scheme, the prosecutor said.

“The defendant and Epstein made young girls believe that their dreams could come true,” Ms. Pomerantz said in Federal District Court. “They made them feel special, but that was a cover.”

“Behind closed doors,” Ms. Pomerantz said, “the defendant and Epstein were committing heinous crimes. They were sexually abusing teenage girls.”

The trial of Ms. Maxwell, 59, the daughter of a British media mogul and a longtime fixture on the New York social scene, has been widely seen as the courtroom reckoning that Mr. Epstein avoided when he took his own life in prison.

Mr. Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on charges that he recruited dozens of girls to engage in sex acts with him at his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., and his mansion in Manhattan, paying them hundreds of dollars in cash after each encounter, a federal indictment said. He died the following month.

Ms. Maxwell, who was arrested in July 2020, faces charges that include sex trafficking of a minor, enticing and transporting minors to engage in illegal sex acts and three conspiracy counts. She could face up to 70 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

She has steadfastly maintained her innocence, and her lawyer, Bobbi C. Sternheim, told the jury that the evidence would not support the charges against her client. She suggested the memories of the Ms. Maxwell’s accusers were unreliable and tainted by “constant media reports.”

She also described Ms. Maxwell as a “scapegoat” for Mr. Epstein’s actions, adding, “Ever since Eve was accused of tempting Adam with the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men.”

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

The sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former romantic partner and employee, got underway in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday with opening statements and testimony from one of the pilots who flew Mr. Epstein’s private planes.

In the coming weeks, jurors are expected to hear testimony from four women who prosecutors said were abused as teenagers by Mr. Epstein.

Ms. Maxwell, the daughter of a British media mogul, faces six counts, stemming from what prosecutors say was her role in the sexual exploitation of the women. The charges include enticing a minor to travel to engage in criminal sexual activity and transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Here are some takeaways from the first day of the trial:

The jury will hear the story of Jane, who was 14 when she met Mr. Epstein.

In describing how evidence would show that Ms. Maxwell helped Mr. Epstein traffic and sexually abuse teenage girls, a prosecutor sketched out the story of one accuser referred to only by a first name, Jane.

Jane met Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell in 1994, the prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, told jurors: a seemingly innocent encounter that began at a picnic table with the realization that the two adults and the teenage girl all lived in Palm Beach, Fla. It ended with Jane providing her phone number.

That was the “beginning of a nightmare that would last for years,” Ms. Pomerantz said. She said that Ms. Maxwell helped win Jane’s trust with shopping trips and “helped normalize abusive sexual conduct” at the hands of Mr. Epstein.

The jury would hear directly from Jane and from three other women who had similar experiences as teenage girls, the prosecutor said.

The defense will try to show that the four accusers’ memories are unreliable.

A few minutes later, however, a defense lawyer, Bobbi C. Sternheim, told jurors that recollections from witnesses like Jane, who are expected to testify under oath about Mr. Epstein’s abuse, were not to be trusted.

She suggested the accusers had “unreliable and suspect” memories that could have been “corrupted” over the years or “contaminated” by “constant media reports.” She also suggested the accusers were motivated by a desire to win “a big jackpot of money” from a possible civil action against Mr. Epstein’s estate.

“Each accuser’s story is thin,” she told jurors. “They have been impacted by lawyers, by media, by things they have read and things they have heard and by money, big bucks.”

Another defense strategy will be to shift blame to Mr. Epstein.

Ms. Sternheim painted Ms. Maxwell as a “scapegoat” who is on trial only because Mr. Epstein had killed himself in a federal jail. That suicide, she told jurors, left “a gaping hole in the pursuit of justice” for many people. Ms. Maxwell is “filling that hole,” Ms. Sternheim added. “Filling that empty chair.”

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

The prosecution used one of Mr. Epstein’s pilots to set the scene for jurors.

The first witness for the prosecution was not one of the accusers but a private pilot: Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr., who had worked for Mr. Epstein from 1991 to 2019.

Mr. Visoski described, in broad strokes, the role Ms. Maxwell played in managing Mr. Epstein’s households and properties, describing their relationship as “couple-ish.” Guided by photographs presented as evidence, Mr. Visoski also described ferrying Mr. Epstein and his guests to various luxury residences in New York City; Paris; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Santa Fe, N.M.

“Pretty much every four days we were on the road flying somewhere,” he said. Mr. Visoski said he did not always know precisely who was flying on Mr. Epstein’s planes with him.

Credit…Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, a former girlfriend and longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, is set to begin Monday. Here are some of the events that led to the highly anticipated trial:

July 7, 2019

Mr. Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

Federal prosecutors accused Mr. Epstein of engaging in criminal sex acts with minors and women, some as young as 14.

Aug. 10, 2019

Mr. Epstein killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell.

Mr. Epstein hanged himself in his jail cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center; he was not under suicide watch at the time of his death. He had just been denied bail on federal sex trafficking charges.

March 2020

Ms. Maxwell sued Mr. Epstein’s estate.

Ms. Maxwell said in the lawsuit that Mr. Epstein and Darren Indyke, a longtime lawyer for Mr. Epstein and the executor of his estate, both promised to pay her legal fees, but she said they hadn’t. Her legal fees mounted as more women claimed she helped Mr. Epstein recruit them for sexual activity when they were underage.

July 2020

Ms. Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire.

The indictment listed three minor victims who say they were recruited by Ms. Maxwell from 1994 to 1997 for criminal sexual activity.

July 2020

Ms. Maxwell asks for release on $5 million bond.

Her lawyers asked a federal judge in Manhattan to release her from jail on $5 million bond. Judge Alison J. Nathan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan denied the request after prosecutors argued that Ms. Maxwell posed a high risk of fleeing before her trial.

December 2020

Ms. Maxwell calls jail “oppressive.”

Ms. Maxwell asked again to be released, this time on $28.5 million bond, arguing that the conditions of her Brooklyn jail were “oppressive.” But once again the request was denied, after prosecutors said the probability she would flee was extremely high. Prosecutors also said the conditions in jail were reasonable, pointing to her personal shower, phone and two computers.

March 2021

Ms. Maxwell is charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old.

A new indictment accuses Ms. Maxwell of grooming an additional minor. She is charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl who engaged in sexual acts with Mr. Epstein at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate.

November 2021

Ms. Maxwell goes on trial.

Opening arguments are set for Monday.

Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ghislaine Maxwell faces six counts in her federal trial, which relate to accusations that she facilitated the sexual exploitation of girls for her longtime companion, the disgraced financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The six counts center on the accounts of four accusers. The charges include:

  • One count of enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, in which Ms. Maxwell is accused of coercing one girl — identified as Minor Victim 1 in charging documents — to travel from Florida to New York, between 1994 and 1997, to engage in sex acts with Mr. Epstein.

  • One count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illegal sex acts, which accuses Ms. Maxwell of bringing the same girl from Florida to New York on numerous occasions.

  • One count of sex trafficking of a minor, which charges that between 2001 and 2004, Ms. Maxwell recruited, enticed and transported another girl — identified in the charges as Minor Victim 4 — to engage in at least one commercial sex act with Mr. Epstein.

  • And three counts of conspiracy, which are related to the other counts. The conspiracy counts in the indictment are more expansive, involving all four accusers and homes in the United States and in London. These charges involve accusations that Ms. Maxwell worked with Mr. Epstein to secure underage girls for sex acts, for example, by encouraging one to give Mr. Epstein massages in London between 1994 and 1995.

Ms. Maxwell, 59, could face a lengthy prison term if convicted. Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40 year sentence; the other charges have maximum penalties of five or 10 years.

When Ms. Maxwell was arrested in July 2020, she was also charged with two counts of perjury, accusing her of lying under oath in 2016 during depositions for a lawsuit related to Mr. Epstein. In April, Judge Alison J. Nathan granted the defense’s request to sever the perjury counts, which will be tried separately.

Credit…U.S. District Court For The Southern District Of New York, via Reuters

During a pretrial conference a week before the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was set to begin in earnest, a prosecutor indicated that the government and defense still were at odds over some issues.

A defense lawyer began to respond, but Judge Alison J. Nathan cut him off.

“I don’t want a speech,” she said, directing that the parties have a “mature, reasonable discussion and come to some agreement where agreement can be had.” If good-faith disputes remained, she said, they could be put in writing, adding, “I’ll be happy to resolve it.”

The moment came and went quickly, but it underscored an observable fact about Judge Nathan, 49, now in her 10th year as a member of Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York: She has firm command of her courtroom.

“She is known for her intellect and independence,” said Daniel C. Richman, a professor of criminal law at Columbia Law School. “She has a crisp, no-nonsense attitude toward legal issues and how they get presented and resolved.”

In the Maxwell case, Judge Nathan has already dispensed with an array of pretrial disputes — some as narrow as whether prosecutors could refer to her accusers as “victims” (the judge ruled they could when describing the four women whose accounts are at the center of the indictment); and more weighty questions, like whether Ms. Maxwell, 59, should be granted bail. (The judge has repeatedly denied her requests, most recently three weeks ago.)

But when Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers complained on Nov. 1 that their client was awakened at 3:45 a.m. for a court hearing and then had to wait for hours in a cold cellblock with little food, Judge Nathan ordered that Ms. Maxwell be transported to and from the courthouse “in a way that is humane, proper and consistent with security protocols.”

Just two weeks ago, President Biden nominated Judge Nathan to the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. The White House noted at the time that she would be the second openly gay woman to serve on any federal circuit court if she was confirmed by the Senate.

In at least two cases in recent years, Judge Nathan, who was appointed in 2011 to the District Court by President Barack Obama, sharply criticized the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan after it was accused of failing to turn over potentially favorable evidence to the defense before trial.

On Nov. 17, after taking the bench before another day of questioning prospective jurors, Judge Nathan briefly acknowledged the news of her potential elevation.

“Needless to say I am honored,” she said, adding that if she were nominated, she would continue to do her “day job, which means presiding over this trial through completion and handling the literally hundreds of other civil and criminal matters on my docket.”

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Here we go again.

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Regionales

Pilot Recalls Celebrity Passengers on Epstein’s Jets

When Jeffrey Epstein traveled on one of his private jets, the cockpit door was always closed during flight, one of his longtime pilots testified Tuesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, making it impossible to see what was going on in the passenger area.

Larry Visoski, who worked for Mr. Epstein for nearly 30 years, was the first witness called by prosecutors in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Mr. Epstein’s longtime companion.

Federal prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office used Mr. Visoski’s testimony, which began late Monday afternoon, to introduce photographs and descriptions of Mr. Epstein’s many residences and his private planes. The planes have long been a source of public fascination and lore, as Mr. Epstein was known to travel with prominent politicians and Hollywood celebrities as well as young women — and girls, some accusers have said — to entertain guests on board.

The names of some high-profile passengers came out under cross-examination on Tuesday, as a lawyer for Ms. Maxwell, Christian Everdell, asked Mr. Visoski if he remembered flying “pretty important people,” naming Bill Clinton, Donald J. Trump, Prince Andrew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the actor Kevin Spacey. Mr. Visoski said that he remembered traveling with all but Mr. Kennedy and that he did not recall whether he ever flew the family of Mr. Trump, who traveled on the plane before his presidency.

When Mr. Visoski first came to work for Mr. Epstein, in 1991, the financier had a Gulfstream plane, he testified, outfitted with leather chairs and a burgundy carpet. The cockpit was separated by a door that was always closed, Mr. Visoski said.

In around 2001, Mr. Epstein bought a Boeing 727, a larger aircraft whose interior, Mr. Visoski said, had multiple compartments, including a full kitchen and what he called “the Round Room,” which had a doughnut-shaped couch.

There, too, the cockpit door was always closed, Mr. Visoski said.

Mr. Epstein sometimes introduced him to guests as they boarded the plane. That included a young woman, a singer identified in court as Jane, whom Mr. Epstein brought into the cockpit. Mr. Visoski described her as “a mature woman, with piercing, powder blue eyes.”

Prosecutors have introduced Jane as one of Mr. Maxwell’s underage accusers. She is likely to testify at the trial, and jurors were shown a copy of her birth certificate.

Under cross-examination by Mr. Everdell, Mr. Visoski confirmed that he could watch the passengers boarding the planes. He said that sometimes, they included young girls traveling with their families, but that he did not see any unaccompanied young women who looked younger than 20.

Mr. Visoski told Mr. Everdell that he “never saw any sexual activity” on the flights. Asked if he ever saw sex acts with underage girls, Mr. Visoski said, “I certainly did not.”

He also said that Mr. Epstein did not mandate that the cockpit door be closed, and that he had invited them to walk to the back of the aircraft if, for example, they had to use the restroom.

“Like right now,” Mr. Visoski said, drawing laughs from the courtroom.

During his cross-examination, Mr. Visoski was asked what kind of advance notice he might have about Mr. Epstein’s passengers, particularly if they had privacy and security concerns. Mr. Everdell asked specifically about Mr. Clinton. “If he were going to be on the flight, you might be told that information in advance,” Mr. Everdell said. “You’d want to make sure the plane looked nice.”

“Yes,” Mr. Visoski said.

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