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Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre testifies against modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel

PARIS — One of Jeffrey Epstein’s most prominent accusers testified against French modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel in a Paris court this week and is calling on other witnesses to come forward in the high-profile sexual assault case.

The closed-door testimony from Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 37, is the latest turn in the international investigation into Epstein and people accused of being his co-conspirators.

It is not clear what Giuffre told the closed-door hearing, but her court appearance comes after years of accusations against Brunel. Giuffre said in a 2016 deposition, made public in 2019, that Epstein and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell had directed her to provide sexual services for Brunel. And speaking to NBC’s “Dateline” in a special that aired in 2019, Giuffre said Epstein told her that he had slept with “over a thousand women that Brunel brought in.”

In an interview after her daylong testimony, Giuffre said she appeared in court to be a voice for the victims and to make sure Brunel is brought to justice.

“I wanted Brunel to know that he no longer has the power over me, that I am a grown woman now and I’ve decided to hold him accountable for what he did to me and so many others,” Giuffre said.

In 2019, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation into charges of rape, aggravated sexual aggression and criminal conspiracy related to offenses of a sexual nature likely committed by Epstein and other possible accomplices on French victims or on French territory.

Brunel was detained at Charles de Gaulle Airport in December last year as he was preparing to take a flight to Senegal and was taken into custody for questioning as part of the investigation, according to a statement released by Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz.

He was formally charged with the rape of at least one minor over the age of 15 and sexual harassment. A statement from Brunel’s attorneys denied any wrongdoing. The Paris prosecutor’s office declined to specify how many alleged victims of rape there were over the age of 15.

He was also “placed under the status of assisted witness of aggravated human trafficking to the prejudice of underage victims for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” according to the statement.

Élodie Tuaillon-Hibon, a French lawyer who specializes in sexual assault cases, said the status of assisted witness meant that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to charge Brunel with the offense of human trafficking but that it did not exclude him from being charged in the future.

“I’m urging more witnesses — even if it is outside of the statute of limitations — to come forward,” Giuffre said. “The judge is listening, the authorities are listening, I’m listening.”

“We want to help put this monster away where he belongs,” she said. “We can’t do that unless we all work together.”

Giuffre emphasized that French prosecutors are eager to speak to anyone who might have information about Brunel, and have recently set up a special email address to receive tips from the public.

“Whether you are a witness of Jean-Luc Brunel at one place or another — and it doesn’t even have to be him doing something illegal, it can just be placing him somewhere, and by doing so it can help place together another victim’s story, corroborate,” she said.

In an emailed statement, Brunel’s attorneys said they could not comment in detail on the case but strongly denied that Brunel had any sexual relationship with Giuffre or participating in sex trafficking.

“When confronted with her own contradictions and evidence from the proceedings, Mrs. Virginia Roberts admitted that she had made mistakes regarding the places, dates and persons would allegedly assaulted her,” the statement said.

Brunel has denied wrongdoing in a 2015 lawsuit against Epstein, in which he alleged that “false stories” linking him to Epstein caused him and his modeling agency a “tremendous loss of business.”

In the suit, Brunel alleged that several photographers would no longer work with his agency because of the “adverse publicity” surrounding Epstein and his illegal activities and the publicity “falsely linking” Brunel and his agency with those activities, “namely, sex trafficking.”

Brunel and Epstein had known each other for years, according to the 2015 lawsuit.

Sigrid McCawley, Giuffre’s Florida-based attorney, said the French authorities had been working hard to bring justice to Brunel’s alleged victims and that the process takes time.

“Virginia’s incredible courage in stepping forward and assisting with the French investigation will pave the way for more to come forward,” she said.

In her 2016 deposition, Giuffre said she was working as a locker room attendant at Mar-a-Lago, the private club owned by former President Donald Trump, at age 16 when Maxwell recruited her to train as a masseuse. She says Epstein and Maxwell then preyed on her for years.

The account was in 2,000 pages of documents released in 2019 by a federal appeals court relating to a 2015 defamation lawsuit Giuffre filed against Maxwell. The suit was settled out of court in 2017.

Epstein, 66, died by suicide in a federal jail cell in New York City in August 2019 while he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. He faced up to 45 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors in New York alleged that from at least 2002 through 2005, Epstein had paid girls as young as 14 for sex at his Manhattan townhouse or his estate in Florida. He had pleaded not guilty.

He had previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution. He served 13 months and was registered as a sex offender in Florida under a non-prosecution agreement he signed with the office of the U.S. attorney for Miami.

Maxwell, his longtime confidante, was arrested in July and remains in custody in New York. She has pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiracy to entice minors, conspiracy to transport minors, sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor.

Prosecutors accused her of playing a key role in Epstein’s abuse of underage girls, helping to groom the victims and encouraging them to accept his offers of financial assistance. The original indictment alleges that Maxwell sometimes joined in the abuse.

Sources close to the federal investigation of Epstein and his associates said it is still an active investigation.

Maxwell’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

Source:

www.nbcnews.com

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