Jeffrey Epstein’s former housekeeper testified that the first accuser in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial was a frequent visitor to his Palm Beach mansion when she was 14 years old.
Juan Patricio Alessi, who worked at Epstein’s Palm Beach property for 12 years, gave evidence on day four of Ms Maxwell’s trial in New York’s federal courthouse.
Mr Alessi said Ms Maxwell was the “lady of the house” and maintained an iron grip over every aspect of life at the Palm Beach mansion.
Mr Alessi said he had picked up the accuser – who testified under the pseudonym Jane – from her school and home and drove her to Epstein’s home beginning in 1994.
Jane initially visited the Palm Beach mansion with her mother, and later came on her own many times, Mr Alessi said.
Earlier in the trial, Jane described in vivid detail how she was subjected to years of sexual abuse by Epstein at properties in Palm Beach, New York and New Mexico between the ages of 14 and 16, and how Ms Maxwell had participated on multiple occasions.
Ms Maxwell faces six charges: one each of enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illegal sex acts, sex trafficking of a minor, and three counts of conspiracy related to the other counts.
She has denied all the charges.
Mr Alessi, who worked as a maintenance worker, cleaner, cook and driver for Epstein from 1990 to 2002, told the jury of the “degrading” working conditions imposed on staff by Ms Maxwell.
She would give staff between a couple of hours to a day’s notice that she and Epstein would be visiting, usually sending them into a panic.
They’d begin the “extensive preparation” of cleaning the house, changing sheets in Epstein’s bedroom and all the guest rooms, shopping, and making sure Epstein’s fleet of luxury vehicles were stocked with “100-dollar bills in every car”.
His relationship with Epstein was initially cordial, then became “professional”, and in the later years more remote, as staff were instructed not to look at his eyes when they spoke to him.
A manual distributed to Epstein’s household staff was produced as evidence at the trial. Under a section titled “Grooming and guest relations”, they were told: “See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, except to answer a question directed to you.”
Mr Alessi said the 58-page booklet was “a kind of warning that I was supposed to be blind, deaf and dumb, to say nothing of their lives”.
The document also contained strict instructions not to divulge Epstein or Ms Maxwell’s whereabouts to anyone who phoned the property in El Brillo Way, Palm Beach.
Prosecutor Maurene Comey also produced a directory – which has become known as Epstein’s “little black book”.
Mr Alessi first saw the directory in 1994, and said that it was updated two times each year with new names and numbers. Jane’s name was listed in the massage section, he said.
He said Epstein received up to three massages a day – in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evenings, often as late as 11pm. Mr Alessi told the court he would sometimes arrange for massage therapists to come to the house.
Jane previously testified that Epstein would use massage as a pretexts for sexual assaults, often involving Ms Maxwell and several other “older women”.
Mr Alessi said he had driven Ms Maxwell to Mar-a-Lago when she first met another of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
Ms Giuffre visited the property “very often” and also travelled by private jet with Epstein and Ms Maxwell, he said.
During his 12 years working for Epstein, Mr Alessi said he saw many women hanging out at a pool on the property, who would be topless “75 per cent to 80 per cent” of the time.
Mr Alessi admitted stealing $6,300 from Epstein’s house, and says he was interviewed by police but never charged.
He left the job and signed a non-disclosure agreement with Epstein and Ms Maxwell.
Mr Alessi will face cross-examination on Friday.
Earlier on Thursday, psychologist Lisa Rocchio testified that child sexual abusers often groom victims by giving them presents, building a sense of trust and gradually introducing more sexualised talk and touching. Victims often don’t come forward right away, she said.
For the defence, lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca suggested that some things she described as grooming – such as giving gifts, taking children to special places or paying them attention – could also be innocuous.
He recalled, for example, his grandfather taking him to the Bronx Zoo as a child.
“I’m assuming he wasn’t taking you there for sexual abuse,” Ms Rocchio said.