Politics

Judge unseals documents about accused Jeffrey Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell, but delays release

Key Points
  • A federal judge unsealed civil court documents related to Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite arrested earlier in the month on charges of aiding the sexual abuse of minor girls by the now-dead investor Jeffrey Epstein.
  • But Judge Loretta Preska postponed the release of the documents in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by up to one week to give attorneys for Maxwell time to file an appeal of her decision.
  • Epstein was a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, as well as of Britain's Prince Andrew.
Ghislaine Maxwell speaks at the Arctic Circle Forum in Reykjavik, Iceland October 2013.
The Arctic Circle via Reuters

A federal judge on Thursday unsealed civil court documents related to Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite arrested earlier this month on charges of aiding the sexual abuse of minor girls by the now-dead investor Jeffrey Epstein.

But Judge Loretta Preska postponed the release of the documents in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by up to one week to give Maxwell's lawyers time to file an appeal of her decision.

Preska reportedly said during a hearing that the public's right to see the documents "far outweighed" Maxwell's right to avoid being embarrassed by their contents.

The documents include a more-than-400-page deposition that Maxwell gave during litigation in the civil case, as well as depositions of several accusers of Epstein.

Maxwell's lawyers reportedly argued during a hearing Thursday that they had "grave concerns about our client's ability to seek and receive an impartial and fair trial and jury due to the intense media scrutiny around anything that is unsealed."

The documents are part of a now-settled civil case filed by Virginia Giuffre, who has accused Maxwell of recruiting her for Epstein's abuse years ago, when she was 17 years old.

At the time, Giuffre was working as an assistant in the spa at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Giuffre has said Maxwell directed her to have sex with Prince Andrew of Britain, a then friend of Epstein's, as well as with Epstein's lawyer, Alan Dershowitz.

Both of those men deny Giuffre's claims.

The Miami Herald, whose investigation of Epstein led to his arrest on federal child sex trafficking charges in July 2019, had sued to win release of the documents.

Epstein, 66, died last August in a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial in what authorities ruled was a suicide by hanging.

Shortly before his death, a federal appeals court ordered the release of more than 2,000 pages of documents from Maxwell's civil case.

Among those documents was a deposition of Giuffre, in which she says that Maxwell directed her to have sex with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, ex-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, hedge funder Glenn Dubin, late MIT scientist Marvin Minsky, modeling company founder Jean Luc-Brunel, the owner of a large hotel chain, and another prince besides Andrew.

All of the living men named by Giuffre have denied her claim.

A former friend of Trump and President Bill Clinton, Epstein was worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and owned luxurious residential properties on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Palm Beach and New Mexico, and he owned a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

VIDEO0:5800:58
NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992

He previously served a 13-month jail term in the late 2000s after pleading guilty to Florida state criminal charges that included paying for sex from an underage girl.

Maxwell, his former girlfriend and property manager, was arrested in early July in New Hampshire.

Prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office said Maxwell in the mid-1990s helped identify and groom underage girls who later were sexually abused by Epstein, and also lied about her conduct under oath during civil litigation. One of the three accusers in the case was just 14 years old at the time of the alleged abuse.

Maxwell, 58, is being held without bail in a Brooklyn, New York, federal jail.

A judge last week said that there was a high risk that Maxwell would flee to avoid prosecution because of her wealth, lack of substantial connections to the United States and citizenship in France, which does not extradite its citizens who are accused of crimes.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty in her case.

On Tuesday, Trump offered encouraging words for Maxwell at a White House news conference.

"I just wish her well, frankly," Trump told reporters, adding that he had "met her numerous times over the years."

VIDEO0:3400:34
Trump on accused Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell: 'I wish her well'

Trump was criticized for that remark by a number of people, including Anthony Scaramucci, the financier who briefly served as Trump's White House communications director in 2017.

"She has the goods on him. He is signaling 'please don't talk,'" Scaramucci wrote in a tweet about Trump and Maxwell.

On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News that, "What the president was noting is that the last person who was charged in this case ended up dead in a jail cell."

"And the president wants justice to be served for victims in this case, and he prefers that to play out in a courtroom," McEnany said.

Correction: Anthony Scaramucci briefly served as Trump's White House communications director in 2017. An earlier version misstated the year.