A U.S. judge has granted British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell permission to call a psychologist who specializes in how memories can become distorted over time to testify at her trial on sex abuse charges.
Lawyers for Maxwell, who is accused by prosecutors of recruiting and grooming underage girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein to abuse, have said they planned to call American psychologist Elizabeth Loftus to testify about “false memories” of sexual abuses that people may describe with confidence without deliberately lying.
Loftus, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, has testified at hundreds of trials, including as a defense witness in real estate heir Robert Durst’s murder trial and former movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s trial on rape and sexual assault charges. Both were convicted.
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan said she would allow Loftus’ testimony in an order released on Monday. Opening statements in the trial begin on Nov. 29.
Federal prosecutors had asked Nathan to restrict Loftus’ testimony, calling some of her opinions “unreliable.”
In particular, they cited her opinion that information people hear about an event can alter their memories of that event.
Nathan said she would admit some testimony from Loftus and Park Dietz, another psychologist the defense has offered as an expert, without saying which testimony was admissible.
Dietz is expected to rebut the testimony of prosecution witness Lisa Rocchio, a psychologist expected to discuss how underage sexual abuse victims are “groomed” by their predators.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes.
Prosecutors have said Maxwell encouraged girls to give Epstein “sexualized massages.”
Epstein died by suicide at 66 in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex abuse allegations.
Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Grant McCool