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A federal judge late Wednesday denied an attempt by Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell to delay the unsealing of potentially embarrassing documents in a now-settled 2017 defamation lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska earlier this month had ordered unsealed a large batch of documents associated with Maxwell’s defamation suit involving Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, and began releasing them when Maxwell’s attorneys won a stay to prevent a deposition from her in the settled case from being made public.
That appeal is scheduled to be heard on Aug. 20, but Maxwell on Monday tried to block all further unsealing of documents for at least three weeks. In the surprise move, her lawyers cited unspecified “critical new information” that they said shows the unsealing would prejudice her defense in her criminal prosecution.
“Given that Ms. Maxwell is not at liberty to disclose this new information because it is subject to the protective order in the criminal action … the Court has no reasonable basis to impose a stay,” Preska wrote in an order denying the request. “And, as Ms. Maxwell knows, her ipse dixit [assertion without proof] does not provide compelling grounds for relief. Should the protective order in the criminal action be modified to permit disclosure of the relevant information to the Court, Ms. Maxwell may renew her request for a stay of the unsealing process.”
The unsealing of the documents comes from petitions brought by the Miami Herald and social media blogger Mike Cernovich for the release of all documents in the lawsuit brought in 2015 and settled in 2017. That lawsuit has now spilled over into related litigation before Preska in New York.
Celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz and Giuffre have filed dueling defamation suits against each other, and this week lawyers for Dershowitz sought to drag former Epstein patron Leslie Wexner into the legal dispute, asking Preska to compel him to give a deposition.
Wexner is the founder of retail giant L Brands, at its height known for its brands like Victoria’s Secret and The Limited, and lawyers for Dershowitz allege that the former Harvard professor is being accused as part of an effort by Giuffre to actually extort Wexner, something she steadfastly denies. Preska is scheduled Monday to hear Dershowitz’s request to force Wexner to provide testimony in the current defamation suit.
Giuffre alleges that Maxwell, as Epstein’s madam, lured her to work for Epstein and into effective sexual servitude. She claims she was forced by Maxwell and Epstein to have sex with powerful men like Britain’s Prince Andrew and Dershowitz. Both men deny the claim.
Dershowitz was more than just a friend of Epstein; as his lawyer he was instrumental in negotiating a non-prosecution agreement more than a decade ago that absolved Epstein, his close associates and unnamed others of potential federal charges of sex trafficking. The details of his deal were highlighted in the Miami Herald’s Perversion of Justice series.
Court filings have alleged that Dershowitz was identified in Maxwell’s 2015 defamation suit because he was involved in crafting Epstein’s remarkably lenient deal and was also accused by Giuffre of abusing the girls, in essence allowing him to skirt any subsequent prosecution.
The deal blessed by then-U.S. Attorney for Southern Florida Alexander Acosta proved highly controversial. The U.S. attorney for Southern District of New York ignored it and last year filed sex-trafficking charges in July against the disgraced Epstein, with Acosta resigning as the Trump administration’s labor secretary days later. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell last August, scuttling efforts by the feds to have him implicate other prominent men.
Maxwell was arrested in a New Hampshire mansion on July 2. Federal prosecutors in New York allege that she recruited and groomed three girls between 1994 and 1997, befriending them and normalizing them to the idea of sexual activity to prepare them for Epstein’s abuse at numerous locations, including Epstein’s estate in Palm Beach, his massive New York mansion, his ranch in New Mexico and Maxwell’s apartment in London.
Maxwell was also charged with perjury for allegedly lying under oath during her deposition in the 2015 defamation suit with Giuffre. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and remains incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Story by Kevin G. Hall, Miami Herald.