MANHATTAN (CN) – The Second Circuit appeared inclined on Wednesday to unseal an enormous tranche of documents that would shed light on the case of wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, whose case a federal court recently decided trampled on the rights of dozens of underage victims.
“There is a presumption of openness with virtually every document,” declared the Miami Herald’s attorney Sanford Bohrer, urging for the release of 167 files that neither he nor his client are allowed to see.
Deeply skeptical of the secrecy demands of Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell, a British-born socialite accused of organizing his underage sex parties, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit appeared to agree with the need for transparency.
“Is there anything that can be unsealed in this case?” U.S. Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes asked Maxwell’s attorney Ty Gee.
Before Gee could finished answering no, Cabranes interjected: “You can’t possibly be serious.”
The other judges on the panel, U.S. Circuit Judges Rosemary Pooler and Christopher Droney, appeared equally dubious about that proposition.
Referring to the federal ruling that brought them to court, Judge Droney suggested that there was no justification for the wholesale secrecy.
“Where are the specific findings for the 167 documents?” the judge asked.
The case journeyed to the Second Circuit from a lawsuit filed by one of Epstein’s accusers Virginia Giuffre, now Virginia Roberts.
Describing herself as a former Epstein “sex slave,” Giuffre sued in 2015 before the case settled with a largely sealed record two years later. Giuffre later agreed to appear in a video interview for The Herald’s award-winning investigative series “Perversion of Justice,” which reported that President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta helped Epstein’s star-studded defense team land their client a non-prosecution agreement. The plea deal protected Epstein’s co-conspirators, kept him out of federal prison, and hid the details of the agreement from dozens of alleged victims.
Pursuing the story, The Herald tried to pry open the record in the Giuffre’s case before U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet, who this past August rejected the request to unseal documents “given the highly sensitive nature of the underlying allegations.”
“Documents designated confidential included a range of allegations of sexual acts involving plaintiff and non-parties to this litigation, some famous, some not,” Sweet wrote in a 41-page.
Before entering into a settlement, Giuffre had claimed that Maxwell trafficked her to Epstein’s associates, including his high-profile attorney Alan Dershowitz.
Dershowitz vehemently denies the allegations and now joins The Herald and Giuffre in broadly unsealing the files.
“If you put the whole record out, his name is cleared,” Bohrer said, summarizing Dershowitz’s position. “If you don’t, he’s smeared.”
Giuffre’s attorney Paul Cassell, a law professor and former federal judge, disputed that narrative and said that the full record would show his client was “trafficked” to Dershowitz.
Also thrown into the mix of the litigation is Mike Cernovich, a conspiracy theorist and blogger known for peddling Pizzagate, a theory that high-ranking Democratic party operatives participated in child-sex ring operated in a Washington pizzeria.
Judge Pooler asked Cernovich’s attorney Marc Randazza whether his client needed to prove his journalistic credibility to gain access to the documents.
Seizing the opportunity to bash the mainstream press, Randazza said that showing would eliminate The New York Times after Judith Miller’s inaccurate reporting led to the Iraq War.
“Journalism is a thing you do rather than a thing you are,” Randazza said.
Guiffre’s attorney Cassell accused Cernovich of being a professional “slut shamer” who acted as little more than a “proxy” and “cat’s paw” for Dershowitz, whose attorney Andrew Celli disputed that characterization.
Insisting that the men had no relationship, Celli said Dershowitz and Cernovich independently want the record to be open.
“He believes in the marketplace of ideas,” Celli said, referring to his client.
The judges ended the hearing without a ruling, the second major development in the decade-old case in the past month.
In February, a federal judge in Florida ruled that Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement violated the rights of Epstein’s more than 30 underage victim rights under federal law. The judge’s ruling increased the pressure on Labor Secretary Acosta to resign from Trump’s cabinet, where he heads an agency that monitors human trafficking.