MANHATTAN (CN) — A year after a dam of secrecy burst over the sex-trafficking case of the now-deceased Jeffrey Epstein, a federal judge Thursday ordered the release of another torrent of files.
The soon-to-be-public documents come from a 2015 lawsuit against Epstein’s accused accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell, whose depositions in that case form the basis of two now-pending perjury charges against her.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska tore through a bid to have the files kept sealed because Maxwell considers them either untrustworthy, embarrassing or an interference with her criminal investigation.
“Ms. Maxwell proffers little more than her ipsi dixit,” U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska said, using the Latin phrase meaning her say-so. “She provides no specifics as to these conclusions.”
The public may soon have a chance to see Maxwell’s deposition that prosecutors contend show her lying under oath.
“In her first deposition, which is among the documents being considered on this motion, Ms. Maxwell refused to testify as to any consensual adult behavior and generally disclaimed any knowledge of underage activity,” Preska noted, describing what appears to be the same testimony quoted in her federal indictment.
“In the context of this case, especially its allegations of sex trafficking of young girls, the court finds that any minor embarrassment or annoyance resulting from disclosure of Ms. Maxwell’s mostly non-testimony about behavior that has been widely reported in the press is far outweighed by the presumption of public access,” the judge added.
Other eyebrow-raising documents slated for release include Epstein’s correspondence with Maxwell and the deposition of one of their most prominent accusers: Virginia Roberts Giuffre, whose lawsuit five years ago alleged that Maxwell groomed her to be Epstein’s “sex slave.”
Giuffre claims that Epstein passed her off to his rich and powerful friends, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, financier Glenn Dubin, model scout Jean-Luc Brunel and former Senator George Mitchell. The men have denied the allegations, and prosecutors formally began the process seeking the British government’s help to question the prince.
The day began with U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, who is presiding over Maxwell’s criminal case, denying a gag order requested by Maxwell’s attorneys against prosecutors and attorneys for the witnesses in her criminal case.
Rejecting the argument that Maxwell’s right to a fair trial was at risk, Judge Nathan reminded all of the attorneys that the court’s rules already prohibit anybody from making statements that could prejudice a jury.
“The court will ensure strict compliance with those rules and will ensure that the defendant’s right to a fair trial will be safeguarded,” Nathan wrote in a 1-page order.
Later that morning in a telephone conference, Preska unsealed dozens of files from the Giuffre v. Maxwell docket.
The Epstein conspiracy has been described as a pyramid scheme of sexual abuse, where underage girls were recruited to find others for the disgraced financier’s predation. The scale of the alleged crimes are reflected in references to documents related to “Doe #67” and “Doe # 151.”
Now mostly sealed or heavily redacted, those files largely concern briefings, depositions by Giuffre, Maxwell and others, and other court records to investigate the truth of those allegations. The documents were originally made secret following a settlement in 2017.
The Miami Herald’s exposé “Perversion of Justice” renewed interest in them, spurring an open-records battle that went to the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
That New York-based court ordered sunlight one year ago for nearly 2,000 pages of files related to Epstein, Maxwell and their dozens of accusers. It took another year, and another criminal indictment, for the other shoe to drop.
Giving the parties a week to file the documents on the public record, Preska also allowed for a brief pause for Maxwell’s attorney Laura Menninger to seek a stay from the Second Circuit. Menninger plans to argue that Maxwell’s indictment since the open-records battle weighs against the presumption of public access.
The judge allowed the names of nonparties to remain sealed until those people have the opportunity to oppose disclosure.
Giuffre’s attorney Sigrid McCawley urged the judge to hold to her plan for quick transparency.
“We obviously believe that the material should be unsealed as quickly as possible,” she said.
Menninger noted that much has changed for her client Maxwell since this open-records case had begun.
“Since that time, Ms. Maxwell has been indicted and a trial has been scheduled for next July in another courtroom in the Southern District,” Menninger said.
“So, while we were not able to provide specifics necessarily with regard to what witnesses might be relevant to any such criminal trial, now we are in a vastly different position and certainly have great concerns about our client’s ability to seek and receive an impartial and fair trial and jury given the intense media scrutiny around anything that is unsealed or anything that happens in this or any of the related cases,” she added.
The attorneys have a week to put the files on the public record, barring any intervention on Maxwell’s behalf on appeal.