NEW YORK — The first woman to say she was assaulted by Jeffrey Epstein is bracing for a moment she’s long dreaded: the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell.
Opening arguments begin Monday in the closely watched trial of Maxwell, the Oxford-educated British socialite accused of serving as Epstein’s chief recruiter. But Maria Farmer, who in 1996 became the first woman to contact law enforcement about Epstein’s sex abuse, said she feels no relief as Maxwell faces justice.
Instead, Farmer worries what will happen to her sister, Annie Farmer, who is expected to be a crucial witness for the government.
“I have dreaded this,” Maria Farmer, 52, told the Daily News. “I wish they would just lock her up so my sister wouldn’t have to be there in danger.”
While Maria is not expected to testify, her alleged experience with Maxwell and Epstein mirrors those of the victims at the center of the trial in Manhattan federal court.
Maria said she met Maxwell, 59, and Epstein after graduating from the New York Academy of Art. The pair allegedly offered her a job, pledging to support her artistic career. The couple then violently sexually assaulted Maria at the Ohio estate of Victoria’s Secret founder Les Wexner in 1996, according to a lawsuit Maria filed last year.
Maria fled. Maxwell warned her not to speak out.
“We’re going to burn all your art. And I just want you to know that anything you ever make will be burned. Your career is burned,” Maxwell said, according to the suit.
Meanwhile, Epstein and Maxwell had lured Annie into their orbit by offering to help get her into a prestigious college, the suit states.
Annie Farmer is expected to testify that Maxwell started grooming her for illegal sex with Epstein when she was a teenager. Maxwell and Epstein sexually assaulted Annie at the age of 16 at his New Mexico ranch, according to a lawsuit.
“Drawing on my personal experience with Maxwell and what I have learned of how she has lived since that time, I believe that she is a psychopath,” Annie Farmer wrote in a December 2020 letter to the judge overseeing Maxwell’s criminal case.
The trial will likely provide the most detailed account yet of Maxwell’s alleged role delivering Epstein sex assault victims through an elaborate pyramid trafficking scheme. Victims were incentivized to bring in additional victims, prosecutors say. Testimony could be explosive. Maxwell and Epstein once counted Prince Andrew and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump among their friends.
Annie and three other alleged victims are expected to testify that Maxwell groomed them for Epstein’s depraved lifestyle through shopping trips and movie outings, befriending the girls on a deep level.
Federal prosecutors say Maxwell manipulated the girls to believe that Epstein’s routines of abuse, which usually began as massages, were normal. Maxwell allegedly participated in some of the abuse and directed girls to perform sex acts on Epstein. Maxwell is also accused of lying under oath. She could go to prison for the rest of her life if convicted.
The accusers will face withering scrutiny from Maxwell’s defense team. Maxwell has denied all charges and maintains her accusers came to Epstein’s properties and had sex of their own free will. Her lawyers have argued that the accusers were not legally minors in all of the cities where the sex occurred.
Maria Farmer told The Daily News she fears that Maxwell could use her wealth and connections to harm Annie, even though the socialite is behind bars at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. Law enforcement’s failure for decades to stop Epstein destroyed Maria’s faith in the government. She says the financier made it clear he had powerful friends protecting him.
“You have to understand that I have no faith in the justice system after 26 years. There’s no reason I should have faith, I would have to be an idiot to believe in it,” she said. “But I have an incredible amount of faith in these girls, and I know they’re telling the truth.”
A onetime fixture in London and New York’s social scenes, Maxwell is believed to have started dating Epstein in the early 1990s.
She’s testified that she began working for Epstein in 1992 as a property manager of sorts, hiring architects, decorators, pool attendants, workout instructors, gardeners, cooks, chefs and cleaning staff for the multimillionaire’s many homes.
She remained close to Epstein — even after he pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in 2008 — because he’d been kind after the death of her father, Maxwell said. She stopped working for Epstein in 2009, but they remained in touch as allegations mounted about Maxwell’s role facilitating his lifestyle.
“You have done nothing wrong and I would urge you to start acting like it,” Epstein wrote Maxwell in January 2015, as allegations about Epstein mounted.
“Go outside, head high, not as an escaping convict. Go to parties, deal with it.”
Since her July 2020 arrest at a $1 million opulent timber mansion in New Hampshire, Maxwell repeatedly tried and failed to put up more than $20 million to secure bail. She’s argued that prosecutors, embarrassed by Epstein’s suicide in August 2019 while awaiting trial for underage sex trafficking, have unfairly substituted her for the notorious sex offender.
“Sometimes the simplest point is the most critical one: Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein,” her attorney Mark Cohen wrote.