Ghislaine Maxwell loses bid to bar psychologist from testifying at sex crimes trial

Ghislaine Maxwell loses bid to bar psychologist from testifying at sex crimes trial
Ghislaine Maxwell sits at the defence table during a hearing to discuss which expert witnesses will be able to testify at Maxwell's upcoming sex crimes trial in New York, US, in this courtroom sketch on Nov 10, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

NEW YORK - Ghislaine Maxwell on Wednesday (Nov 10) lost her bid to exclude a psychologist who has studied the "grooming" of sexual crimes victims from testifying at her upcoming trial.

Prosecutors have said they may call Lisa Rocchio, a psychologist who specializes in treating patients who have suffered sexual abuse, as a witness at the trial.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she groomed underage girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein to abuse.

Jury selection in the case is underway and opening arguments are expected to kick off on Nov 29 in Manhattan federal court.

One of Maxwell's attorneys, Jeffrey Pagliuca, said on Wednesday the defence intends to question the credibility of witnesses based on any prior histories of substance abuse or failures to disclose their accusations against Maxwell promptly.

During a hearing on Wednesday, Rocchio said adolescents were particularly likely to disclose sexual abuse later in life. She said false allegations of sexual abuse can occur, but that they represent a "very small minority" of accusations.

Lawyers for the British socialite had said Rocchio's opinions are inadmissible, arguing they were based mainly on her personal experience as a practitioner and lacked scientific backing.

They said they plan to call their own experts who would argue that the suggestion Maxwell committed "grooming by proxy" - by winning the alleged victims' trust in order to manipulate them into having encounters with Epstein - had no support in the scientific community.

Following questioning, US District Judge Alison Nathan said she would largely allow Rocchio's testimony, in a blow to Maxwell's defence.

Epstein, who counted former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew among his associates, died by suicide in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 at the age of 66 while awaiting his own trial on sex crimes charges.

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