Judge rips into Ghislaine Maxwell as sealed Epstein documents begin to emerge
By BEN WIEDER AND KEVIN G. HALL | Miami Herald | Published: July 31, 2020
MIAMI (Tribune News Service) — A much-anticipated batch of newly unsealed documents from a settled defamation suit began trickling out Thursday night over the objections of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of sex trafficking and alleged to be the madam of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
In a 2015 e-mail Epstein advised Maxwell to return to the high-society world the two had inhabited without any shame.
"You have done nothing wrong and i would urge you to start acting like it," Epstein wrote. "(G)o outside, head high, not as an escaping convict. go to parties. deal with it."
Maxwell, awaiting trial in a federal prosecution, had delayed the planned release of the documents from a 2015 civil suit by filing objections at the last minute, provoking the ire of U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska.
The judge ruled last week that the documents should be unsealed.
"The Court is troubled – but not surprised – that Ms. Maxwell has yet again sought to muddy the water as the clock clicks closer to midnight," Preska wrote in a filing denying a request from Maxwell's lawyers for an emergency phone conference. They argued, unsuccessfully, that the documents threaten her defense and complained she had already been convicted by the media.
The judge had allowed two key depositions to be exempt from release while Maxwell filed an appeal Thursday with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. But Preska ordered a second large tranche of documents from the case settled in 2017 unsealed and released Thursday night.
Last August, the court unsealed nearly 2,000 documents in the defamation suit involving Virginia Giuffre, who alleges Maxwell recruited her and others who were underage for sex with Epstein and powerful men. The documents provided a detailed picture of Maxwell's alleged obsessive quest to procure girls to satisfy Epstein's insatiable sexual appetite.
And they provided sordid details of Maxwell's alleged involvement.
In one document, the transcript of Giuffre's deposition, she describes how Maxwell brought her and her father from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club – where they both worked – to the Epstein mansion, gaining their trust. Giuffre recounts that Maxwell even stripped naked with her the first time she was abused as a minor by Epstein.
"So then Ghislaine told me that she wanted me to undress and began to take off my shirt and skirt, my white uniform from Mar-a-Lago, she also took off her shirt and got undressed, and so I was there with just my undies on, and she was completely bare," Giuffre recounted.
She detailed how Maxwell took nude photographs of her for Epstein, and described a secret room with the entire wall covered with photographs of nude underage girls who'd been through the Palm Beach mansion. And she alleged that within nine months Maxwell involved her in efforts to procure other underage girls for Epstein.
That same transcript also names people who traveled with Epstein. While many of the names have been publicly linked to Epstein before, seeing them in the context of the document was jarring. Giuffre tells of celebrities traveling with Epstein like magician David Copperfield, model Naomi Campbell, former Sony Records President Tommy Mottola and Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the famed undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau.
Giuffre also provides a sworn statement about former President Bill Clinton visiting Epstein's Little St. James Island.
"When you say you asked him why is Bill Clinton here, where was he?" Giuffre was asked in her deposition, answering, "On the island."
In the newly released 24-page transcript of "Document 16," Giuffre added that two young girls from New York and Maxwell were on the island at the same time as Clinton, who has denied any improper relations. So have the numerous men she identified.
The earlier documents also included the names of a number of men whom Giuffre said she and other victims were directed to have sex with, including former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Hyatt hotels magnate Tom Pritzker, the late scientist Marvin Minsky, modeling scout Jean-Luc Brunel, and prominent hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin.
Giuffre has said she was directed to have sex with prominent defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, who previously represented Epstein, as well as Prince Andrew. A picture of Giuffre, Maxwell and Prince Andrew, which Giuffre said was taken by Epstein, has been seared into the public consciousness.
All the men have denied the claims, and Giuffre and Dershowitz are suing each other for defamation.
Maxwell was arrested on July 2 at a secluded 156-acre estate in New Hampshire that had been purchased in December in all cash through a shell company. She was charged with four counts of sex trafficking of a minor and two counts of perjury, related to statements she made in connection with the Giuffre lawsuit.
Her lawyers have argued that the perjury charges come from protected depositions in the civil lawsuit, but they have not provided proof that they were shared and not the product of a subpoena.
The criminal sex trafficking charges stemmed from Maxwell's alleged recruitment and grooming of three girls between 1994 and 1997 to be abused by Epstein. In one case, Maxwell allegedly participated in the abuse herself.
"Maxwell's presence as an adult woman helped put the victims at ease as Maxwell and Epstein intended," said Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, in announcing the charges against Maxwell at a news conference in early July.
The charges against Maxwell came almost one year after federal prosecutors in New York had brought new charges against Epstein, driven in part by The Miami Herald's Perversion of Justice series, which detailed Epstein's lenient sentence for sex charges a decade earlier.
In the wake of the new Epstein charges, then-U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who as U.S. attorney for Southern Florida signed off on a lenient plea deal more than a decade earlier in a state case that spared Epstein a federal prison sentence, resigned from the Trump administration.
A 2015 e-mail unsealed Thursday between Epstein and Maxwell appears to suggest that Maxwell was "not part of, nor ... (had) anything do with, JE plea bargain."
Maxwell has been accused by Epstein's victims of recruiting them for sexual exploitation by Epstein when they were girls, sometimes participating in sex acts along with the multimillionaire.
"Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what she did," one of the three alleged victims said in a statement at Maxwell's arraignment. "She was a predator and a monster."
Maxwell's lawyers argued that federal prosecutors had obtained Maxwell's deposition from the Giuffre lawsuit in violation of a protective order barring it, and other confidential materials from the case, from being shared. They suggested that Giuffre's legal team was responsible for sharing the material, but offered no evidence to support the claim.
Legal woes are catching up with Maxwell on numerous fronts. The attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands is pursuing a civil enforcement action against the estate of Epstein, who died last Aug. 11 in a Manhattan jail, alleging the estate was an ongoing criminal enterprise that defrauded the islands of tax money.
Maxwell has filed a claim against the estate, seeking to have it reimburse her for her legal defense and the costs of hiding and security in the year after Epstein's death. It is widely believed that any serious look at Epstein's business would ensnare his longtime associate Maxwell.
A victims compensation fund has recently started operating to help Epstein victims quietly achieve settlements out of court, even as Giuffre and other women seek legal remedies too.
The source of Maxwell's wealth is coming under scrutiny. Prosecutors said there were large sums of unexplained wealth and the cash purchase of the mansion where she was arrested was notable.
Federal prosecutors say that Maxwell toured the property under the pseudonym Jen Marshall, saying she was a journalist looking for privacy, and her name didn't appear on any of the documents connected to the sale, according to someone with knowledge of the transaction.
The Maxwell case also figures in national politics. Not only was she friends with Bill Clinton, but President Donald Trump created a stir earlier this month when from a White House podium he responded to a question about Maxwell by saying, "I wish her well."
Giuffre alleges she was recruited by Maxwell in 2000 at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, where Giuffre was working as a spa assistant. Giuffre was around 17 at the time and she said she was sexually abused by Epstein and several of Epstein and Maxwell's powerful friends over the next several years. She did not allege abuse by Trump or at Mar-a-Lago.
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