Good morning. We’ll look at the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, which begins today. We’ll also update the story on the “Fearless Girl” statue. The statue’s permit from the city expires today.
Credit…Rick Bajornas/Unted Nations, via Associated Press
Even in death, the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein could easily overshadow the sex-trafficking trial of his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell.
The jurors are expected to be selected this morning. Then the prosecutors will begin outlining their case against Maxwell.
As my colleagues Benjamin Weiser and Rebecca Davis O’Brien write, the trial is widely seen as a proxy for holding Epstein himself to account — something that never happened. He hanged himself in his jail cell in August 2019, according to the medical examiner, a month after his arrest on sex-trafficking charges.
Maxwell, the daughter of a British media baron, was a cosmopolitan globe-trotter who turned up regularly on the Manhattan social scene in the early 2000s. The prosecutors say she “assisted, facilitated and contributed to” the sexual exploitation of underage girls by Epstein, who socialized with celebrities, presidents and princes. His orbit included Bill Clinton and Donald Trump; billionaires like Bill Gates and the retail magnate Leslie Wexner; and Prince Andrew.
For Maxwell’s lawyers, the goal will probably be to distance her from Epstein — even perhaps portraying her as his victim, some legal experts said. But here, too, the prosecutors will need to avoid “making the trial too much about Epstein and his conduct, and not enough about Maxwell,” said Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former federal corruption prosecutor in Manhattan.
Maxwell has denied wrongdoing. But as the two sides prepared for the trial, the fallout has continued for others with connections to Epstein.
Those connections cost the chief executive of one of Britain’s biggest banks his job on Nov. 1. The reason: an inquiry by British regulators into how the official, James Staley, had described his relationship with Epstein.
As my colleagues Michael de la Merced and Matthew Goldstein explained, Epstein had played an important role earlier in Staley’s career. They had apparently known each other as far back as the late 1990s, when Staley was the head of private banking at JPMorgan Chase and Epstein referred clients who helped strengthen Staley’s portfolio. Emails that JPMorgan provided to the British regulators indicated that Epstein and Staley were friendlier than Staley had acknowledged. He said he had cut ties with Epstein by the time he took over at Barclays in 2015, though he had visited Epstein’s Caribbean island earlier that year.
Barclays noted in announcing Staley’s departure that there had been no findings that he “saw, or was aware of, any of Mr. Epstein’s alleged crimes.”
The announcement by Barclays that Staley was leaving came a day after Prince Andrew issued an attack in court papers on a woman who sued him in federal court in Manhattan in August, accusing him of sexual abuse when she was 17 and he was a guest of Epstein.
Andrew, the Duke of York, had said he had “no recollection” of meeting her. Andrew said in 2019 that he was withdrawing from public life after Britain was appalled by a television interview that subjected him to polite but relentless grilling about his relationship with Epstein.
As for the Maxwell trial, her lawyers have not discussed their strategy publicly. But shortly after her arrest, when she was unsuccessfully seeking bail, they wrote to Judge Alison Nathan, who is presiding over the case: “Sometimes, the simplest point is the most critical one: Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein.”
It’s a mostly sunny day, New York, with wind gusts and temps in the high 30s. In the evening, temps will drop to the low 30s.
In effect until Dec. 8 (Immaculate Conception).
The top New York news
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Fearless, and after today, permitless
After today, the statue famous for defiantly staring down the New York Stock Exchange will be illegal — technically, anyway.
The city’s temporary permit for the statue known as “Fearless Girl” is expiring. Permanent status appears to depend on a bureaucratic two-step that the artist says has left the statue in limbo.
“The idea of ‘Fearless Girl’ not being given permanence in the city is disserving because New York City is well-positioned with ‘Fearless Girl’ there to be a leader in diversity,” the artist, Kristen Visbal, told me. “If you remove her, what does that say about New York City and equality?”
As with driving on an expired license, the lack of a valid permit for “Fearless Girl” would matter only if a violation were written up. The Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city agency that could issue the equivalent of a ticket for “Fearless Girl,” says it will not do so while a permit renewal is going on.
The statue was an immediate sensation when the financial firm State Street Global Advisers installed it in Bowling Green, a small park in Lower Manhattan, saying it wanted to promote “greater gender diversity on corporate boards.” That was shortly before International Women’s Day in March 2017. Several months later, the Labor Department accused State Street of underpaying more than 300 female employees. The firm, which had denied the allegations, agreed to cover about $4.5 million in back pay.
The landmarks commission was involved because the statue occupied a site within a landmark — specifically, the “Street Plan of New Amsterdam and Colonial New York,” which covers a chunk of the financial district in Lower Manhattan. “Fearless Girl,” initially installed on a one-week permit, remained within the landmark area when it was moved opposite the Stock Exchange on Wall Street in 2018.
Zodet Negrón, a spokeswoman for the landmarks commission, said that State Street had applied for a longer-term permit after receiving three temporary permits, the most the landmarks commission will issue.
But the landmarks commission is not the only branch of city government that will have a say. The Public Design Commission will review the matter, as Negrón said it does with proposals for art installations that are to remain in place longer than a year. The landmarks commission will send the design commission an advisory report, but it is not clear how soon that will happen.
Visbal, the artist, has tangled with State Street over copyright and licensing agreements. State Street sued her in 2019, claiming she had broken those agreements and had caused “substantial and irreparable harm” to “Fearless Girl” by selling copies of the statue. She filed a counterclaim that State Street had unfairly prevented her from spreading the statue’s message of gender equality.
Todd Fine, a preservation activist in Lower Manhattan and a supporter of Visbal, said the artist had produced the statue “thinking it was about women.”
“She didn’t conceive of this as something about finance,” he said. “This was conceived as being about women’s equality.”
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The sculptor’s hand
It was 1985 and the first day of my internship at the Metropolitan Museum. I entered at the employee entrance as instructed and was then guided to an elevator.
When the elevator stopped at the first floor, a museum worker pushed a wheelchair and in it was Louise Nevelson. I knew it was her by her mink eyelashes.
I could not believe my eyes. Like Ms. Nevelson, I am a sculptor, and she was someone I had read books about, studied and admired.
“I have always admired your artwork,” I said.
“Thank you,” she replied, and then slowly and carefully lifted her hand for me to shake.
— Pamela C. Tippman
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Rick Martinez and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].