The judge presiding over the U.S. criminal case against a British socialite charged with recruiting teenage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse said Friday that her lawyers are not permitted to publicly identify accusers, even if they’ve spoken in a public forum.
“Not all accusations or public statements are equal,” U.S. District Justice Alison Nathan wrote in her ruling in the case facing Ghislaine Maxwell.
“Deciding to participate in or contribute to a criminal investigation or prosecution is a far different matter than simply making a public statement `relating to’ Ms. Maxwell or Jeffrey Epstein, particularly since such a statement might have occurred decades ago and have no relevance to the charges in this case.”
She said the women “still maintain a significant privacy interest that must be safeguarded.”
Prosecutors had asked Justice Nathan to block Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers from publicly identifying the women unless they identified themselves as participants in the criminal case. Otherwise, prosecutors said, the women may be harassed or intimidated, and become reluctant to co-operate with the government.
Justice Nathan’s order came hours after newly unsealed court documents provided a fresh glimpse into a fierce civil court fight between Ms. Maxwell, who was Mr. Epstein’s former girlfriend, and one of the women who accused the couple of sexual abuse.
The documents released late Thursday were from a now-settled defamation lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
Ms. Giuffre claimed in the suit and other litigation that Ms. Maxwell recruited her in 2000 to be a sexual servant to Mr. Epstein. She said the couple subsequently put pressure on her to have sex with numerous rich or notable men, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, U.S. politicians, wealthy entrepreneurs, and a famous scientist and fashion designer.
Ms. Maxwell, and all of the accused men, have denied those allegations for years.
Among the newly released documents were e-mails Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein exchanged in January, 2015, when Ms. Giuffre’s allegations were getting a new round of media attention.
One e-mail sent from Mr. Epstein’s e-mail address, but written in Ms. Maxwell’s voice, appeared to be a draft statement or set of talking points for Ms. Maxwell to use in defending herself. It said she had been the target of “false allegations of impropriety and offensive behaviour that I abhor and have never ever been party to.”
Responding to a Ms. Maxwell e-mail a few days later, Mr. Epstein wrote: “You have done nothing wrong and I [would] urge you to start acting like it.” He suggested she go outside and hold her head high, “not as an [escaping] convict.”
Mr. Epstein killed himself last summer while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. Ms. Maxwell was recently arrested on federal charges that she recruited at least three girls, including one as young as 14, for Mr. Epstein to sexually abuse in the 1990s. Prosecutors said she also joined in the abuse.
Ms. Maxwell is jailed awaiting trial in New York.
Many of the documents unsealed by the court Thursday had been available publicly before.
They included a deposition in which Ms. Giuffre described the alleged abuse, and also answered questions about errors she’d made previously in telling her story, including originally telling a court she was 15 when she met Mr. Epstein, when records showed she was at least a year older.
Ms. Giuffre over the years has told her story to the FBI, but no charges were brought based on her allegations, and she is not one of the three alleged victims in the current criminal case against Ms. Maxwell.
Two documents that were not released as scheduled Thursday were depositions Ms. Maxwell gave in the civil lawsuit in 2016.
U.S. District Justice Loretta Preska had ordered them released, but Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers appealed her ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Her lawyers said they should be blocked because she now faces criminal charges.
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