The Dominion Post
Allegations of abuse by big names set to be revealed
In Room 270, the records management unit, on the second floor of an imposing granite and marble courthouse in lower Manhattan, 167 documents totalling more than 2,000 pages are kept under lock and key.
But they are about to be unsealed, and made public – making important people around the world, including celebrities, politicians and royals, very nervous.
The files contain explosive allegations in the case of Giuffre v Maxwell, in which Virginia Giuffre, a woman who claims to have been Jeffrey Epstein’s teenage ‘‘sex slave’’, sued Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and the billionaire’s former girlfriend, for defamation.
The case was settled in May 2017 on the eve of the trial but the details were not disclosed and the final judgment and supporting documents were sealed, with the court noting the ‘‘highly sensitive nature of the underlying allegations.’’
According to other court documents that have been published, Giuffre has made allegations of sexual abuse against ‘‘numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister, and other world leaders’’ in her reports. An appeal to unseal the rest of the documents was made by the Miami Herald newspaper, which has run investigations into Epstein. It was rejected three times.
But last month the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered their release, ruling that the public’s right to know outweighed the privacy rights of the individuals named.
In what may be an indication of the fame of those individuals, the judges made a striking plea to the media to ‘‘exercise restraint’’ in reporting the allegations about to come to light. They also allowed parties involved to apply for minor redactions, delaying the release.
Another delay is possible as Maxwell has launched an appeal to keep the documents sealed, her lawyers arguing that a full release would trigger a ‘‘furious feeding frenzy’’.
They wrote: ‘‘Plaintiff Giuffre made numerous allegations of sexual, if not criminal, conduct against a wide range of third parties. Because of the media no reference to anyone in this case is benign: a reference to any person is toxic and lethal to that person’s reputation. Facts and truth are all but irrelevant.’’
The legal battle between Giuffre and Maxwell began in 2014 when Giuffre claimed that Epstein sexually abused her starting in 2000 when she was 16, with the ‘‘assistance and participation’’ of Maxwell.
She also made allegations against the Duke of York, which were categorically denied by Buckingham Palace.
Maxwell described the claims as ‘‘obvious lies,’’ and Giuffre then sued her for defamation.
In a recent statement Josh Schiller, a lawyer for Giuffre, said the appeal court was unlikely to overturn an unsealing decision, and he believed Maxwell’s appeal would cause only a ‘‘short delay’’ in releasing the documents. He added: ‘‘There is an overwhelming public interest.’’
The appeal court’s decision to release the documents came just three days before Epstein was arrested last month, charged with sex trafficking.
Prosecutors in New York have accused him of assaulting girls as young as 14.
The case has thrown the Marlborough College and Oxfordeducated Maxwell, 57, back into the spotlight. She moved to New York in 1991, the year her father – disgraced newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell – died. In New York, she and Epstein became a fixture on the social scene.