Court Battles

Judge orders release of sealed documents in Jeffrey Epstein case

Judges use a small wooden mallet to signal for attention or order.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ordered the release of sealed court documents in a lawsuit against a woman accused of running a sex trafficking ring with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

The court Wednesday ruled that some records in a defamation lawsuit filed by Virginia Roberts Giuffre against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s alleged associate, be made public, vacating a Manhattan judge’s prior ruling to keep the documents private.

The court also asked a district court to conduct a review of the remaining sealed documents. 

{mosads}The court said in its ruling that “upon reviewing the summary judgment materials in connection with this appeal, we find that there is no countervailing privacy interest sufficient to justify their continued sealing,” according to a copy seen by The Hill.

There is no set timeline for when the summary judgment record would be unsealed.

“We applaud the Second Circuit’s decision to unseal the materials in the Guiffre v. Maxwell case,” Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for Giuffre, said in a statement to the Daily Beast. “This ruling is a watershed moment that helps victims of sexual abuse. It unequivocally stands for the proposition that information cannot be hidden in court filings and that the public has the right to know about the abuse of victims.”

Guiffre has claimed that Maxwell recruited her to be a “masseuse” for Epstein, who has been linked to both President Trump and former President Clinton, saying that from 1999-2002 she was used to perform sexual acts as part of the ring. She was 16 years old at the time and said other underage girls were used for sex as well.

Epstein was not part of Maxwell’s suit, according to the Miami Herald. He has denied ever running a sex trafficking ring, while his lawyers have maintained that the media has exaggerated the number of alleged victims, according to the newspaper. 

The lawsuit is an outgrowth of a decade-old criminal proceeding against Epstein, who in 2008 pleaded guilty to charges in Florida of soliciting and procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution.

The plea deal, in which Epstein received limited jail‐time, registered as a sex offender and agreed to pay compensation to his victims, allowed him to avoid federal charges. 

Two of Epstein’s alleged victims filed a suit to nullify the plea deal shortly after, saying the government did not inform or consult with them.

Guiffre later joined the suit and, with another unnamed victim, brought forth new allegations of sexual abuse by several others, “including numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well‐known Prime Minister, and other world leaders.” 

The Justice Department opened up an investigation in February into its attorneys’ handling of Epstein’s plea deal.

U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who at the time was a federal prosecutor, was reportedly involved with the plea deal, according to an investigation conducted by the Miami Herald. 

Acosta has repeatedly denied he sought a more lenient deal for Epstein.

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