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1st of 4 accusers takes stand at Ghislaine Maxwell trial

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Jeffrey Epstein pilot says he never saw sex acts on flights

By LARRY NEUMEISTER and TOM HAYS

NEW YORK (AP) — A woman testified on Tuesday that British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was sometimes present when the witness, then just 14, had sexual interactions with the financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The witness, using the pseudonym “Jane,” was the first of four alleged victims expected to testify against Maxwell at a New York City trial where she is charged with recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to at least 2004.

A prosecutor began by asking the woman how old she was when she had “sexual contact” with Epstein.

“Fourteen years old,” she responded in a quiet voice.

She also was asked if there was ever anyone else in the room when there was sexual contact.

“Ghislaine Maxwell,” she replied.

The testimony was expected to continue throughout the day and into Wednesday.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty. One of her lawyers said in an opening statement Monday that she’s being made a scapegoat for Epstein, who killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell at age 66 in 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.

Earlier Tuesday, a former pilot for Epstein testified that he never saw evidence of sexual activity on planes as he flew his boss and others — including a prince and ex-presidents — for nearly three decades.

Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr., the trial’s first witness, was responding to questions by a defense lawyer when he acknowledged that he never encountered sexual activity aboard two jets he piloted for roughly 1,000 trips between 1991 and 2019.

He said he stayed in the cockpit for the majority of flights, but would sometimes emerge to go to the bathroom or get coffee.

Although he was called as a witness by the government, Visoski’s testimony seemed to aid the defense of Maxwell as he answered questions posed by Maxwell attorney Christian Everdell about what he saw when he straightened up the aircraft after a flight.

Visoski didn’t hesitate when Everdell asked him if he ever saw sexual activity when he went for coffee or found sex toys when he cleaned up.

“Never,” the pilot answered to both questions. He said he never saw used condoms either.

And when he was asked if he ever saw sex acts with underage females, he answered: “Absolutely not.”

The pilot said Epstein never warned him to stay in the cockpit during flights and also encouraged him to use a bathroom near the rear of the plane that would require him to walk past the plane’s couches.

He said he never saw any children on his planes who were not accompanied by their parents.

When Everdell asked him about a teenager who prosecutors say was sexually abused by Epstein before she became an adult, Visoski said he believed she was “mature” when he was introduced to her.

He also acknowledged that Clinton was a passenger on a few flights in the 2000s and he had piloted planes with Britain’s Prince Andrew, the late U.S. Sen. John Glenn of Ohio — the first American to orbit Earth — and former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, “more than once.”

Visoski said Epstein gave him 40 acres of land to build a house on the financier’s New Mexico property and paid for his daughters’ college education.

Epstein’s plane was derisively nicknamed “The Lolita Express” by some in the media after allegations emerged that he had used it to fly teenage girls to his private island, his New Mexico ranch and his New York City townhouse.

Maxwell, 59, traveled for decades in circles that put her in contact with accomplished and wealthy people before her July 2020 arrest.

Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey where Maxwell stood in the hierarchy of Epstein’s world, Visoski said Maxwell “was the Number 2.” He added that “Epstein was the big Number 1.”

The testimony supports what Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors in her opening statement Monday when she said Epstein and Maxwell were “partners in crime.”

Pomerantz said Maxwell recruited and groomed girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to at least 2004.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and one of her lawyers said in an opening statement Monday that she’s being made a scapegoat for Epstein, who killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell at age 66 in August 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.

Visoski testified briefly on Monday before beginning Tuesday on the witness stand.

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Timberwolves are kings of the first quarter

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Timberwolves are kings of the first quarter

The Timberwolves remain the kings of the first quarter. They outscored Brooklyn 37-36 over the first 12 minutes on Sunday at Target Center, marking the 10th straight first quarter in which they’ve outscored their opponent.

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said early in the season the team identified the value of getting off to strong starts in games. It’s been a focus ever since.

That’s why it made sense for Minnesota to put all of its eggs into the starting basket. That included pairing Patrick Beverley and D’Angelo Russell — the team’s two primary point guards — in the starting lineup to open contests. At times, finding a third point guard to fill the minutes where both guards are then off the floor has proven challenging, but the Wolves deemed that a problem worth having given the upside of the starters.

The five-man unit of Russell, Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns remains one of the best in basketball, statistically speaking. Yet the same group that starts the game so well has struggled at recent points to open third quarters. That suggests there’s something about the way the group starts that leads to early success.

For the season, the Timberwolves owned the second-best first quarter net rating in the entire NBA entering Sunday’s contest. They outscored opponents by 10.6 points per 100 possessions over the first 12 minutes.

Now the key is for Minnesota to sustain that success over 48 minutes.

BEVERLEY OUT

Beverley missed Sunday’s contest with a right ankle sprain suffered in Thursday’s loss to Atlanta. That marked the 14th game the veteran guard has missed this season due to a combination of injuries and illness.

VANTERPOOL RETURNS

Former Timberwolves assistant coach and defensive coordinator David Vanterpool returned to Target Center as a member of Brooklyn’s bench Sunday after spending the previous two years in Minnesota.

That tenure included the end of last season, in which Vanterpool worked under Chris Finch, who was tabbed as Minnesota’s new head coach over Vanterpool after the firing of Ryan Saunders.

Finch said he “enjoyed working with him very much.” The two sides parted ways at the end of the season.

“Obviously I came in in rough circumstances for everybody,” Finch said. “He was nothing but welcoming and very professional. … I didn’t have any prior relationship with DV, and through the remainder of that season, I really enjoyed working with him. We made some tweaks to our defense along the way, and he was instrumental helping implement those with an open mind.”

Finch told Vanterpool he is going to be an NBA head coach at some point.

“When you have that type of acumen and that type of experience, it’s only a matter of time,” Finch said. “Getting your opportunity is the hardest thing.”

WOLVES OWNER, PACKERS FAN?

Yes, that was new Timberwolves’ owner Alex Rodriguez at Lambeau Field on Saturday for the Packers’ divisional round loss to San Francisco. Rodriguez, who attends a number of big national events throughout the year as an avid sports fan, was sporting a Green Bay hat, which rubbed a few Minnesota sports fans the wrong way on social media.

Rodriguez was back on the Target Center sidelines Sunday, supporting the Timberwolves.

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St. Paul liquor store employee shot while trying to stop shoplifter

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Police say man in red stole from St. Paul church offering plate, then asked for money

An employee at a St. Paul liquor store who confronted a shoplifter Sunday afternoon was shot twice and is in stable condition, police said.

Officers responded about 3:45 p.m. to reports of a shooting in the parking lot of liquor store at 140 Snelling Avenue North, according to Steve Linders, a St. Paul Police Department spokesman.

When they arrived they found a man in his twenties had been shot twice in the abdomen, Linders said. Officers provided first aid until medics arrived and took the man to Regions Hospital where he is listed in stable condition.

Witnesses told police the man confronted a shoplifter who had just left the liquor store. The shoplifter pulled out a gun and shot the employee.

The shooting remains under investigation, and no suspects had been arrested as of 6 p.m. Sunday.

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Police: 1 dead after shooting on Amtrak train in Missouri

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Police: 1 dead after shooting on Amtrak train in Missouri

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified the victim of a fatal shooting on an Amtrak train as a 30-year-old man from Independence, Missouri.

Police were called around 9:15 p.m. Friday to the Amtrak station in Independence where they found that Richie T. Aaron Jr. had been shot while the train had been stopped earlier at the Lee’s Summit station.

Sgt. Chris Depue of the Lee’s Summit Police Department says police are looking for the suspect, who was also riding the train and fled in Lee’s Summit.

The Kansas City Star reports that police say people on the train did not immediately recognize that a person had been shot.”

The train traveled north to Independence where life-saving efforts were attempted before Aaron was pronounced dead.

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