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Florida

Judge orders release of more Ghislaine Maxwell records — minus salacious details

 

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the unsealing and release of dozens of documents in a now-settled civil suit involving Ghislaine Maxwell, the jailed and accused co-conspirator of the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, but afforded the longtime Epstein associate a measure of privacy by ruling that salacious portions of testimony about her sex life will remain private.

The Tuesday hearing presided over by Judge Loretta A. Preska involved the potential release of 156 new documents in a settled lawsuit between Maxwell and Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, something sought by the Miami Herald, and the biggest point of contention was a July 2016 deposition by Maxwell. That deposition was forced on her after she was deemed unresponsive when she sat before Giuffre’s lawyers in an April 2016 deposition. Much of that grilling, made public in October, had to do with her sexual behavior and that of Epstein. A first batch of documents released in late July featured an email from 2015 in which Epstein scolded Maxwell, telling her she’d “done nothing wrong and i would urge you to start acting like it.”

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Preska acknowledged that the public thirst for “prurient” details about Maxwell might go unquenched, but determined that Maxwell’s sex life was adult consensual behavior that should remain her private business. The judge gave all parties until Jan. 27, absent an appeal by Maxwell’s lawyers over the redacted portions, to unseal and make public a voluminous number of documents.

The documents include the names and testimony of people who until now have been known as Doe 1 and Doe 2, individuals who have talked about their testimony and do not object to it being made public. One of the two Does is believed to be Juan Alessi, who worked for Epstein since the early 1990s and was butler at his Palm Beach mansion. He has publicly acknowledged giving testimony, and in a May 2020 interview with Britain’s The Mirror newspaper called Maxwell “the devil” and said that she “absolutely knew what Epstein was doing.”

Also being made public are Palm Beach County police documents and all references in documents to Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer who represented Epstein and with whom Giuffre alleges she was forced by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex. Dershowitz strongly denies the allegation and also has dueling defamation suits with Giuffre.

The decision to leave redacted some of Maxwell’s testimony was a disappointment to David Boies, Giuffre’s attorney, who felt questions about Maxwell’s sexual behavior are a relevant matter.

“It showed the nature of her relationship with Epstein. It showed her capacity and inclination to engage in exploitative sexual activities. It went to her credibility, including with respect to assertions she made about her sexual activities,” Boies told the Herald.

Attorney Alan Dershowitz speaks outside federal court in New York on Wednesday, March 7, 2019, after a hearing on whether to unseal documents from a civil case involving his friend and former client, Jeffrey Epstein. Julie Brown jbrown@miamiherald.com

The judge held that several other Does — people who gave testimony but may not want it made public — would remain under seal or redacted from the documents being released until their individual determinations are made. A deadline of Jan. 29 was set for objections to the unsealing of a new batch of documents, all of which are being subjected to possible release when Preska ruled over the summer in favor of a public-records lawsuit by the Miami Herald. Among those believed to possibly be other Does are Britain’s Prince Andrew, who Alessi said was a frequent Epstein visitor, former President Bill Clinton, an Epstein friend, and Leslie Wexner, the former owner of Victoria’s Secret who had hired Epstein as his personal wealth manager. These Does wouldn’t have testified necessarily, but might have been mentioned in the testimony of others.

Epstein escaped federal prosecution in 2008 in a controversial sequence of events featured in the Miami Herald series Perversion of Justice. A Justice Department report late last year confirmed irregularities, and given Epstein’s jail-cell death in August 2019, which has been ruled a suicide, many of the remaining answers about his life and aberrant behavior might be found in the prosecution of Maxwell.

The virtual court hearing was interrupted briefly when Preska was notified that a listener was broadcasting the proceedings live to YouTube, something prohibited.

“We have had enough of a lack of rule of law around here, let’s try to observe it,” Preska said, warning that the person could be identified and charged if it didn’t stop.

The fight over the unsealing of Maxwell’s depositions in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York took on greater significance after she was charged last summer with four counts of sexual trafficking of a minor and two counts of perjury related to statements she made in each of the two depositions. Maxwell’s legal team has argued unsuccessfully that federal prosecutors obtained the two depositions in violation of a protective order barring release of materials from the civil suit.

 

Maxwell remains in federal custody as she awaits trial, which is scheduled for July, after she was denied bail last summer over concerns that she would be a flight risk. Her lawyers filed a renewed plea in December for Maxwell to be released on bail, secured by a $28.5 million pledge of money and property from Maxwell and close friends and family. Her request was denied, and Maxwell’s lawyers subsequently indicated that they are considering whether to request her release on bail a third time.

This story was originally published January 19, 2021 12:27 PM.

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