Ghislaine Maxwell seeks appeal of judge’s order to unseal documents
Maxwell’s lawyer Laura Menninger immediately notified Preska that she will ask the federal appeals court in Manhattan to review the decision.Updated: Jul 30, 2020 06:30 IST
A US judge rejected Ghislaine Maxwell’s request to delay or reconsider her order unsealing the British socialite’s 2016 testimony in a defamation lawsuit, calling the request “extraordinary” and saying it came at the “eleventh-hour.”
US District Judge Loretta Preska dismissed Maxwell’s arguments that disclosing the British socialite’s sworn testimony, along with other sealed evidence in the civil case, could harm her right to a fair trial on sex-trafficking charges and “inappropriately influence potential witnesses or victims.”
Maxwell’s lawyer Laura Menninger immediately notified Preska that she will ask the federal appeals court in Manhattan to review the decision. Preska’s ruling late Wednesday came almost a week after she ordered the documents unsealed -- including portions of Maxwell’s deposition and emails the socialite exchanged with Epstein.
Earlier Wednesday, Maxwell again argued against the release of the material, prompting Preska to respond that the socialite’s arguments were going over “plowed ground.”
In her four-page ruling, Preska ordered that some evidence collected in the lawsuit can be released as early as Thursday. The judge said the sworn testimony Maxwell gave in 2016, as well as the account of an alleged victim identified only as “Doe 1,” could be unsealed Aug. 3.
Maxwell, 58, is in a federal jail in Brooklyn, New York, after having pleaded not guilty to sex-trafficking charges tied to her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein. She is charged with trafficking girls as young as 14 to be sexually abused by Epstein and also accused of sometimes participating in the abuse.
Her sworn testimony and other evidence were collected as part of a defamation suit filed by Virginia Guiffre, who claims Maxwell and Epstein lured her into becoming the financier’s sex slave when she was 16. She sued Maxwell for calling her account “obvious lies.” The lawsuit was settled out of court.
Maxwell will now take her challenge to the same appeals court that last August ordered the unsealing of at least 2,000 pages of documents filed in the case. Epstein was found dead of an apparent suicide in his Manhattan jail cell a day after the ruling was handed down.
Maxwell earlier argued against further disclosure of the materials, saying one document pertained to Giuffre’s efforts “to compel Ms. Maxwell to answer intrusive questions about her sex life” during her deposition.
The socialite’s testimony in the lawsuit became a crucial matter for the government, which used some of it as the basis for two perjury charges in the new criminal case. Prosecutors say the socialite was lying when she denied having any knowledge about Epstein’s sexual interactions with underage girls or being present when they occurred.
The testimony in the civil case -- which was ordered sealed by a judge under a settlement agreement -- should never have been given to prosecutors, Maxwell’s lawyers argued. They questioned how the government got its hands on the information.
The defense team accused Guiffre’s lawyers of having leaked or “caused someone to leak the evidence” to prosecutors and argued the government and Guiffre set a “perjury trap,” for the socialite.
If not for the promise of confidentiality for her testimony, Maxwell would have invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during the deposition, her lawyers said.
Jim Margolin, a spokesman for acting Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss, didn’t have an immediate comment. Evan Ezray, a spokesman for Guiffre’s lawyers, Sigrid MacCawley and David Boies, didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.
The civil case is Guiffre v. Maxwell, 15-CV-07433, US District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan); The criminal case is US v. Maxwell, 20-CR-330, US District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).