NEW YORK – When Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime companion Ghislaine Maxwell goes on trial next week, the accuser who captivated the public most, with claims she was trafficked to Britain’s Prince Andrew and other prominent men, won’t be part of the case.
U.S. prosecutors chose not to bring charges in connection with Virginia Giuffre, who says Epstein and Maxwell flew her around the world when she was 17 and 18 for sexual encounters with billionaires, politicians, royals and heads of state.
She isn't expected to be called as a witness in Maxwell's trial, either.
Prosecutors will focus instead on four other women who say they were recruited by Maxwell as teenagers to be abused by Epstein. None has alleged the type of abuse by powerful international figures that Giuffre has detailed in interviews and court filings.
Bypassing Giuffre's allegations about Andrew will keep the most explosive allegations against Maxwell out of the trial, but it will also allow prosecutors to avoid a big risk.
Records, witnesses and photos back up many parts of Giuffre’s account of her time with Epstein, the financier who died by suicide in 2019 while jailed ahead of his own sex trafficking trial. But Giuffre has acknowledged getting key details wrong in her story over the years, including initially falsely saying in a lawsuit that she had been 15 when Epstein began to abuse her.
The men she's accused have spent years attacking her credibility. Maxwell's lawyers might have tried to have some of them testify.
Besides Andrew, Giuffre has said she was sexually trafficked to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the noted lawyer Alan Dershowitz, the French modeling scout Jean Luc Brunel and the billionaire Glenn Dubin, among others.
All have said her accounts are fabricated.
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who’s not involved in the case, said making Giuffre part of the Maxwell case could have complicated matters unnecessarily.
“There is no reason to give the defense anything to work with that can sow the seeds of reasonable doubt,” Weinstein said.
Giuffre’s lawyers declined an interview request, but she has stood by her allegations and repeatedly shown a willingness to go into civil court to prove them, sitting in depositions and assembling a legal team that includes one of America's most influential lawyers, David Boies.
In a 2019 interview with Dateline NBC, she said inconsistencies in her story were the innocent mistakes of trying to recall events that happened years ago, when she was a traumatized teenager.
“When you are abused, you know your abuser,” she said. “I might not have my dates right. I might not have my times right ... but I know their faces and I know what they've done to me.”
The Epstein scandal burst into public view in 2005 when he was arrested in Florida, and accused of paying a 14-year-old girl for sex.
Police identified underage girls who were paid to perform sex acts, but in 2008 the investigation was cut short. Prosecutors allowed Epstein to plead guilty to a charge of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution. He served 13 months in jail.
Dozens of women sued Epstein, but Giuffre’s 2009 lawsuit was different. In it, she said Epstein pressured her into having sex with numerous men “including royalty, politicians, academicians, businessmen and/or professional and personal acquaintances.”
Giuffre didn’t initially identify the men involved, but in 2011 she took $160,000 from the Daily Mail for an interview in which she described meeting Prince Andrew during a trip to London with Epstein in 2001.
Giuffre provided the newspaper with a photo of herself and Andrew together in Maxwell’s London townhouse, his arm around her bare midriff.
The British tabloid said Giuffre and Andrew danced together at a nightclub, but added there was “no suggestion that there was any sexual contact between Virginia and Andrew, or that Andrew knew that Epstein paid her to have sex with his friends.”
Years later, Giuffre’s lawyers insisted she told the Daily Mail she had sex with Andrew, but the paper's lawyers wouldn't let it publish the claim.
She also said in a deposition that some details in the Daily Mail stories based on her paid interviews were inaccurate, including parts in which she described riding in a helicopter with Bill Clinton and flirting with Donald Trump. Those things hadn’t happened, she said, though she blamed those errors on the reporter.
There is no question that Giuffre was swept up in Epstein's world.
Witnesses, including the pilot who flew Epstein’s plane and household staff, have said in depositions that they saw her regularly with Maxwell and Epstein.
Records show Giuffre got her passport in early 2001 for travel to London and handwritten flight logs list a “Virginia” or a “Virginia Roberts” — Giuffre's unmarried name — as flying regularly on Epstein’s jets. In May of 2001, Giuffre was photographed attending model Naomi Campbell’s birthday party with Epstein in St. Tropez, France.
In 2014, Giuffre joined a new lawsuit by Epstein victims and began identifying men she’d previously accused anonymously. It it, she also claimed publicly for the first time that she’d had sex with Andrew three times: in London during her 2001 trip, at Epstein’s New York mansion when she was 17 and in the Virgin Islands when she was 18.
She said Maxwell facilitated the encounters as a “madam."
Giuffre's account of spending time with Andrew in New York was backed up in part by Johanna Sjoberg, another Epstein accuser. In a deposition and an interview, she described an evening socializing with Giuffre, Maxwell, Epstein and Andrew in which the prince put his hand on her breast while they posed for a photo with a puppet made of him for a TV show.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they decide to tell their stories publicly, as Giuffre and Sjoberg have done.
U.S. authorities have expressed interest in Giuffre's allegations. In 2011, FBI agents flew to Australia, where Giuffre was then living, to interview her about the alleged abuse.
U.S. prosecutors have repeatedly asked Andrew if he would submit to questioning. Weeks before Maxwell’s arrest last year, the then-U.S. attorney for Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, issued a statement blasting Andrew for seeking to “falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to cooperate.”
The prince has promised cooperation, but never made himself available to U.S. authorities.
If prosecutors brought criminal charges against Maxwell, Andrew, or anyone else based on Giuffre's allegations, she would likely be confronted on the stand about inconsistencies in her story.
For instance, in her initial lawsuit, Giuffre wrongly said she was 15 when Maxwell first spotted her working as a spa attendant at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and hired her as Epstein’s masseuse. In a memoir she explored selling to publishers, Giuffre described, in detail, celebrating her 16th birthday at Epstein's estate in the Virgin Islands.
But employment records later showed she hadn't worked at Mar-a-Lago until the summer she turned 17. Giuffre said she simply misremembered.
One of the men Giuffre accused, Dershowitz, is battling her in court, calling her a “sworn liar.” That litigation is ongoing. Richardson and Mitchell have said they never met her. Dubin says he has flight records and other evidence proving her allegations against him are false.
Andrew, the third child of Queen Elizabeth II, has also repeatedly denied Giuffre’s allegations, most notably in a 2019 interview with BBC Newsnight in which he said that while he socialized with Epstein, he couldn’t recall ever meeting Giuffre and never had sex with her.
”I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened,” he said.
Andrew challenged Giuffre's claim that he was sweating profusely as they danced in a nightclub by saying he had a medical condition that made it impossible for him to sweat.
Maxwell, in depositions, has acknowledged knowing Giuffre but said her stories about being sexually trafficked to multiple men are lies.
While Andrew isn't part of Maxwell's criminal case, Giuffre sued him this year, saying her encounters with him amounted to sexual assault.
That case is pending, meaning it is possible Giuffre will get her claims against the prince before a judge yet, even if prosecutors are staying away for now.
Associated Press writers Tom Hays in New York and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.