MiamiHerald.com | NOVEMBER 13, 2020
Attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell, alleged co-conspirator in disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex crimes, filed an objection late Thursday seeking to block release of a controversial, sexually charged deposition in a settled civil lawsuit.
The objection was filed as part of a broader objection to the proposed timeline for unsealing additional documents as required in a July ruling by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in a records-release lawsuit brought by the Miami Herald.
The Thursday filing seeks to block release of a July 2016 deposition given by Maxwell in a civil lawsuit involving Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre. Preska last month released a long transcript of a Maxwell deposition from April 2016 in which the British socialite with three passports was obstructive and refused to answer questions about her sexual behavior and that of Jeffrey Epstein. Her refusal to answer the questions, which stemmed from allegations of Epstein victims, led a judge to order Maxwell to sit months later for the follow-up deposition.
Maxwell was arrested this summer on federal sex abuse charges in connection to her association with Epstein, a multi-millionaire with palatial homes in Palm Beach, the Virgin Islands, New Mexico and Manhattan. Releasing the second deposition, something that was expected in the next two weeks, would damage Maxwell’s chances at a fair trial, her lawyers said.
“There can be no doubt that matters concerning Ms. Maxwell’s case have been excessively and extensively reported. The press, the government, and plaintiff have made every effort to try Ms. Maxwell as a proxy for the now deceased Mr. Epstein,” said the Thursday filing by Laura A. Menninger. “The prejudice caused by the flood of coverage that comes with every new unsealing event in this case cannot be overstated.”
Those same arguments were made unsuccessfully to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York when Maxwell challenged Preska’s decision to unseal the depositions. Appellate judges held that Preska did not violate any judicial norms in reaching her decision that there was a presumption of public access to court documents. The lawsuit was fueled by public interest in Epstein following the Miami Herald’s Perversion of Justice series.
In another new wrinkle, Maxwell’s lawyers asked Preska not to release depositions from two non-parties, referenced only as Doe 1 and Doe 2. Lawyers for these two non-parties objected to their names being released but did not raise any further objections before a Nov. 4 deadline.
“Although they did not thereafter submit any objection, this Court has already ruled that ‘an objection by Does 1 and 2 to the release of their names is itself an objection to unsealing,’ ” the filing said, seemingly challenging the unsealing orders already settled by Preska and later the appeals court.
Maxwell remains in a New York jail awaiting federal trial. She was arrested on July 2 in New Hampshire on four counts of sexual trafficking of a minor and two counts of perjury, the latter stemming from testimony she gave in the civil lawsuit involving Giuffre, which was settled in 2017. The criminal charges involve alleged recruiting and grooming of underage girls for Epstein from 1994 to 1997. She is alleged to have participated in the abuse of one of the girls.
Maxwell’s attorneys indicated in the Thursday filing that they plan to challenge how federal prosecutors came into possession of the depositions from the civil lawsuit in the first place.
Maxwell’s lawyers previously suggested without any evidence that Giuffre’s attorneys might have turned over the depositions in violation of a protective order in the civil suit. That was disputed by federal prosecutors, who indicated that they obtained the depositions after asking two courts for access — one of which complied.
.Maxwell has sued Epstein’s estate, which is being settled in the U.S. Virgin Islands, claiming Epstein promised to pay her legal bills and did so up until the day he died in August 2019. The estate holds that no such deal was ever made.
Menninger’s filing on behalf of Maxwell also repeated earlier arguments that the information should be kept under seal because it could be relevant to Maxwell’s criminal trial.
“The Sealed Items contain information relevant to the Criminal Action that may or may not later be determined inadmissible in that trial” she said.