In Depth

What ‘secrets’ could be revealed in Ghislaine Maxwell’s unsealed documents?

New York court rules ‘explosive’ evidence can be made public within a week

A collection of “extremely personal” documents relating to British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell can be unsealed, a New York judge has ruled.

The documents are related to the charges against Maxwell over her alleged involvement with Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minors. Maxwell pleaded not guilty on 14 July, and remains in jail while awaiting trial.

Why are the documents being released?

Maxwell’s lawyers had fought to keep the documents secret, claiming that “this series of pleadings concerns [attempts] to compel Ms Maxwell to answer intrusive questions about her sex life” that are “extremely personal, confidential and subject to considerable abuse by the media”.

But a Manhattan federal court judge ruled on Thursday the documents could be unsealed, reports The Guardian.

“The court finds that the countervailing interests identified fail to rebut the presumption of public access,” judge Loretta Preska said during telephone proceedings. “Accordingly, those papers shall be unsealed.” 

Preska added that the public’s right to have access to the information was more significant than the “annoyance or embarrassment” to Maxwell.

“In the context of this case, especially its allegations of sex trafficking of young girls, the court finds any minor embarrassment or annoyance resulting from Ms. Maxwell's mostly non-testimony… is far outweighed by the presumption of public access,” she said.

Maxwell’s lawyers plan to appeal the decision, with Preska giving the attorneys one week to file an appeal motion.

What is in the documents?

The documents include correspondence with Epstein in 2015, relating to Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre’s 2015 civil lawsuit against Maxwell. Giuffre has alleged that Maxwell recruited her to work as Epstein’s masseuse when she was 15 years old.

In the papers, Giuffre said she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew three times when she was just 17 at Epstein’s command, reports the Daily Mail.

The contents of the new documents could be equally “explosive” and could contain fresh evidence against the wealthy elite who socialised with Epstein, says the paper.

Before his death, Epstein had links to a “coterie of high-profile business leaders, scientists, royalty and politicians, including former President Bill Clinton and current President Donald Trump,” says ABC News.

Following Epstein’s arrest last July, a spokesperson for Clinton, Angel Urena, said the former president “knows nothing” about Epstein’s crimes. “He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade,” the statement added, “and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein's ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida.”

Trump, meanwhile, told reporters this week that he had met Maxwell “numerous times”, adding “I wish her well”. His comments followed the publication of footage dating from 2015 in which the future president described Epstein’s Little St. James Island as “an absolute cesspool” before adding: “Just ask Prince Andrew.” 

Included in the now unsealed documents is the evidence Maxwell gave in 2016, in which she denies knowing of Epstein’s scheme to recruit underage girls for sex, says CNN. Other documents include emails and depositions from others who claim to have been abused by Epstein.

Medical records included in the court documents will remain sealed, as will the identity of Epstein’s accusers who have decided not to reveal their identities publicly.

Giuffre’s lawyer, Sigrid McCawley, said last month that attempts to keep the documents sealed were “especially jarring in light of the public’s interest in this litigation”.

McCawley added that the documents include “testimony about Jeffrey Epstein's transcontinental sex-trafficking operation and documents concerning various public agencies’s utter failure to protect and bring justice to his victims”.

In unsealed excerpts from depositions previously released in the case, Maxwell described Giuffre as an “absolute liar”. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against her and has denied any wrongdoing.

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