N.Y. Today: Maxwell’s Case Goes to Jury

What you need to know for Tuesday.

It's Tuesday. We'll get an update on the Ghislaine Maxwell case, which is now in the hands of the jury. We'll also get the latest on the coronavirus in New York and look at how the city is relying on a landlord who once made the "worst landlords" list.

Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

One of Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers said the case was flimsy and had trivialized her client as Cruella de Vil and a character in "The Devil Wears Prada" — "all wrapped up into one."

One of the prosecutors said it was "crystal clear that Maxwell knew about and was deeply involved in Epstein's sexual abuse of children."

"Maxwell was key to the whole operation," Alison Moe, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the jury on Monday.

Epstein, of course, was the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who hanged himself in his jail cell more than two years ago. Maxwell, the daughter of a British media baron, was his former companion, a well-traveled socialite who the government said had "assisted, facilitated and contributed to" Epstein's sexual exploitation of underage girls.

The jury spent most of the day on Monday listening to closing arguments from the two sides. Laura Menninger, the Maxwell lawyer who made the references to Cruella de Vil and "The Devil Wears Prada," acknowledged that the government had "certainly proved" that Epstein was a "master manipulator."


But she attempted to distance Maxwell from Epstein, saying that "we are not here to defend Jeffrey Epstein."

Three of my colleagues — Benjamin Weiser, Rebecca Davis O'Brien and Colin Moynihan — write that Menninger's presentation was by turns biting, sarcastic and indignant. At one point, Menninger said Maxwell was on trial simply because of her relationship with Epstein. "Maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life," she said, "but it was not a crime."

Maxwell herself did not testify. Her British-accented voice was heard only on Friday when the judge asked if she wanted to take the stand. "Your honor," she said, "the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and so there is no reason for me to testify." The judge, Alison Nathan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, asked if that meant she would, in fact, not take the stand. Maxwell answered that the judge was "correct."


On Monday, the government's closing argument methodically pieced together the case against Ms. Maxwell, while Menninger said the government had constructed the case from "erroneous memories" that prosecutors took at face value.

"You need to keep your eye on the thing that the government hasn't — how these stories have changed dramatically over time," Menninger told the jury. She said that the victims' interviews with federal investigators were about Epstein at first but that the focus eventually shifted to Maxwell.

With that, she said, "suddenly the women recovered memories, years later — they recovered memories that Ghislaine was there." But the government's meetings with the women were not recorded, she said. "That was by design, so that none of us had a transcript of what took place in these interviews with the F.B.I.," Menninger said.

Moe, the prosecutor, recalled the defense's opening statement, which she said had suggested that Maxwell was being blamed for something she didn't do. Moe said the evidence at trial showed that Ms. Maxwell "made her own choices."


It was an argument that prosecutors had touched on briefly at the beginning of the trial last month, but never so directly as during Moe's two-hour summation. Citing bank records that Epstein had given Maxwell $30.7 million between 1999 and 2007, Moe offered the jury a rationale for why Maxwell did what the government said she did: money.

"Your common sense tells you, you don't give someone $30 million unless they are giving you exactly what you want," Moe told jurors, "and what Epstein wanted was to touch underage girls."


Enjoy the mostly sunny day, New York, with temps in the mid-40s. Then, a mostly cloudy evening with a chance of showers late at night and temps in the mid-30s.


In effect until Friday (Christmas Eve).


'It is going straight up'

With the Omicron variant washing over New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul called the surge in cases "a vertical increase" — "it is going straight up," she said at a briefing. The state health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, did not attend: She had tested positive with a rapid test several hours earlier. Hochul said Basset was vaccinated and boosted and would take a P.C.R. test to confirm the diagnosis.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city must "move faster" in responding to the latest round of cases. But he maintained that another lockdown "would have horrible impacts on the people of this city."

But remake plans. The sold-out Broadway production of "Hamilton" canceled all its performances until after Christmas, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the seat of the Episcopal Diocese in New York, moved its services online. "Hamilton" cited breakthrough cases in its company. The cathedral's announcement applied to services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a concert on New Year's Eve and regular weekday and weekend services "until further notices," Isadora Wilkenfeld, the director of Cathedral programming and communications, said in an email.

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A shelter landlord with a past

Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to revamp the homeless shelter system four years ago by turning to new shelters managed by nonprofit organizations. But some things did not change, like reliance on landlords with checkered pasts — like the one who owns nearly a third of the shelters opened so far.

David Levitan's company was listed as one of the city's worst landlords in 2015. The problems then included rat infestations, peeling lead paint, elevators that did not run for days at a time — and at one building in Queens, heat and hot water that sometimes seemed sporadic.

As my colleague Amy Julia Harris explained, many nonprofit shelter operators do not have their own spaces and must rent from private landlords. Together, these building owners have forged a lucrative industry from a housing crisis of record proportions, because a sizable chunk of the money that the city pays the nonprofits ends up in their hands.

Levitan not only owns the buildings; he also operates a maintenance company to service the properties, generating millions of dollars in additional revenue. In two instances, The New York Times found, Levitan required the nonprofit groups renting his buildings to hire the maintenance company, an apparent violation of city bidding rules.

Shimmie Horn, whose family was long involved in renting hotel rooms to the city to house the homeless and who operates luxury hotels in Manhattan, and Daniel Rabinowitz, a real estate developer, also own a significant number of the buildings occupied by the new shelters.

But Levitan, known as Didi, owns the most: 14 of 49 new shelters that have opened during de Blasio's tenure. Levitan purchased the buildings through limited liability companies, often with business associates. He said in an interview that he had renovated the ones he bought for new shelters and had corrected violations in buildings he already owned. "We're the Cadillac of all shelters, and we're proud of it," he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Social Services, the city agency that oversees shelters, said that the nonprofits — not city officials — chose Levitan's buildings, although their choices were ultimately approved by the department. The spokesman, Isaac McGinn, said that the de Blasio administration had expanded the number of landlords providing shelter space. He also said that conditions in Levitan's newer buildings were better than in his older ones.

What we're reading



Dear Diary:

My father asked whether I'd like to go to lunch in my neighborhood. He didn't leave his apartment much, so I was really excited that he was coming down to West 72nd Street to take me out.

After he arrived, we walked up Broadway.

"Where shall we go?" I asked him.

He led me into Fairway, where he bought some bread and cold cuts.

"I thought we were going out to eat," I said.

"We are," he said. I followed him as he crossed the street and plopped down on a bench in the median at Broadway and 75th Street. "We are dining alfresco!"

He made us sandwiches and we ate them there in the middle of the street. I was horrified: This was our outing?

These days, though, whenever I pass the Beacon Theater and cross Broadway, I think to myself, "How I wish I could be dining alfresco with him now."

— Pam McCool

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

Melissa Guerrero and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday@nytimes.com.

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