Crime & Justice

Judge Releases Trove Of Sealed Records Related To Case Against Ghislaine Maxwell

A 1991 photo of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend who now faces multiple counts of sex trafficking.
A 1991 photo of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend who now faces multiple counts of sex trafficking.
Jim James/AP

A federal judge has unsealed hundreds of pages of transcripts and other documents related to a now-settled defamation suit brought against Ghislaine Maxwell, who is accused of helping the late Jeffrey Epstein run a sex trafficking operation that catered to rich and powerful men.

The documents include a deposition given by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, the draft of a memoir she was writing about her experiences inside the sex-trafficking ring, and email exchanges between Maxwell and Epstein.

Maxwell, Epstein's ex-girlfriend, was charged earlier this month on several counts related to sex trafficking of minors and perjury. She has pleaded not guilty in that case. The 2015 defamation suit was brought by Giuffre after the British socialite accused her of lying when she alleged Epstein and Maxwell had sexually abused and exploited her.

Among other things, the documents included an email exchange in which Epstein protested his innocence and appeared to provide Maxwell with a statement to the media or set of talking points that she might use in defending herself against the allegations.

Maxwell had been the "target of outright lies, innuendo, slander, defamation and salacious gossip and harassment," the email said in language that pushed back against "false allegations of impropriety and offensive behavior that I abhor and have never ever been party to."

A few days later, responding to an email from Maxwell, Epstein wrote: "You have done nothing wrong and I (would) urge you to start acting like it." He urged her to "go outside, head high, not as an (escaping) convict. go to parties. deal with it."

U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ordered the documents unsealed last week after Maxwell's lawyer Laura Menninger made a last-minute appeal to keep them from going public, arguing that they could damage her defense.

Preska ordered "many" of the case's documents to be released last week, but she gave Menninger one week to file an emergency appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. As she granted that delay, Preska also ordered both sides in the case to prepare for the records to be unsealed — including making any necessary redactions.

Even so, Preska criticized Maxwell's defense team, saying the court was "troubled—but not surprised—that Ms. Maxwell has yet again sought to muddy the waters as the clock ticks closer to midnight."

The defamation case generated more than 1,200 court docket entries, but many important documents have never been exposed. The case's docket report described more than 50 records as "SEALED DOCUMENT placed in vault."

Giuffre has said Epstein arranged for her to have sex with powerful men, including Britain's Prince Andrew. The abuse took place at Epstein's many properties, she said, including in Florida, New York and on his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The prince has denied the allegation. In recent months, federal prosecutors in New York have repeatedly said they would like to speak to the prince, who is seen in a widely circulated photograph with his arm around Giuffre's waist, with Maxwell smiling in the background.

Epstein's social life also included ties with President Trump and former President Bill Clinton, who has distanced himself from Epstein.

Giuffre's case against Maxwell was settled in 2017, but Giuffre had insisted many of the records should be made public. The Miami Herald and investigative reporter Julie K. Brown — whose work has helped substantiate the accusations against Epstein — also sought the records' release.

The two sides wrestled over a central argument: Giuffre said it would serve the public interest to open access to the records. Maxwell claimed that to do so would unfairly harm people whose names appear in the documents. And with Maxwell now facing criminal charges, her attorney, said releasing the records would jeopardize her client's right to a fair trial.

As of today, many of those records are finally coming to light.

Maxwell, 58, is currently in a federal jail in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Maxwell was among Epstein's closest associates and helped him exploit girls who were as young as 14 years old," Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said after Maxwell was arrested early this month.

Maxwell has denied allegations linking her to Epstein's exploitation of girls and young women, including under sworn testimony. But federal authorities now accuse her of committing perjury during depositions.

In legal records about Epstein, Giuffre was once known only as "Jane Doe No. 102." But she decided to speak out publicly "in hopes of helping others who had also suffered from sexual trafficking and abuse," according to her lawsuit against Maxwell.

Giuffre has said she fell under Maxwell and Epstein's influence in 1999, when she was 15 years old and working at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach, Fla., resort owned by Trump. She says Maxwell recruited her to give Epstein a massage – and that years of sexual abuse followed, including instructions for Giuffre to have sex with Epstein's friends.

Epstein never faced a federal trial for the crimes he was accused of. Roughly a month after his arrest on sex trafficking charges last summer, he died after being found unresponsive in his jail cell in Manhattan. His death at age 66 was ruled a suicide.

Accusations against Epstein have long been obscured by legal maneuvers — such as a controversial non-prosecution agreement he reached in 2007 with federal prosecutors in Florida. That plea deal with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta exposed Epstein to state charges but prevented him and any co-conspirators from being prosecuted for federal sex crimes in southern Florida.

Under the deal, Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to two counts of solicitation of prostitution — one with a minor under the age of 18 — and was sentenced to 18 months in a county jail. He was also required to register as a sex offender. But the wealthy hedge fund manager was allowed to leave incarceration for work five days a week and was released five months early.

As part of the 2007 deal, Acosta agreed to a "confidentiality" provision, in which his office agreed not to tell Epstein's victims about the non-prosecution agreement until after it won a judge's approval. Last year, a federal judge ruled that the arrangement had violated the Crime Victims' Rights Act.

Several women who have accused Epstein and Maxwell of serial sexual abuse nearly got a chance to tell their stories in court for the first time in late 2018, as part of a separate defamation case. But Epstein settled that dispute at the last minute, blocking the women's bid to testify against him.

Weeks after Epstein's death, around 20 of his accusers got a chance to speak out against him in court, telling their stories before a judge ruled on prosecutors' request to dismiss the case. One of the women, Teala Davies, called it "a day of power and strength."

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