A lawyer for Ghislaine Maxwell has urged a US appeals court to overturn a ruling that the long-time associate of late financier Jeffrey Epstein says jeopardises her ability to defend against charges that she enabled Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls.
- Ms Maxwell said releasing her deposition would violate her right against self-incrimination
- Her deposition came from a civil defamation lawsuit against her by Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was kept as a “sex slave”
- The defamation case settled in 2017
The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing a judge’s order to unseal sworn testimony related to Epstein, including a April 2016 deposition from Ms Maxwell, citing the presumption of the public’s right to have access to it.
Ms Maxwell, 58, has said bad publicity from disclosing “intimate, sensitive, and personal” details from her deposition would violate her right against self-incrimination, and imperil a fair trial because prospective jurors may hold it against her.
“We’re concerned about preserving the status quo,” Ms Maxwell’s lawyer Adam Mueller told a three-judge panel.
“There’s going to be a public criminal trial, and this will all be aired in open court … We think that vindicates the public interest as well.”
Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to charges she helped Epstein recruit and groom underage girls as young as 14 years old to engage in illegal sexual acts in the mid-1990s, and not guilty to perjury for having denied involvement under oath.
Her 418-page deposition came from a civil defamation lawsuit against her by Virginia Giuffre, who has said Epstein kept her as a “sex slave” with the British socialite’s help, and now believes the public has a right to see Ms Maxwell’s deposition.
The defamation case settled in 2017, and US District Judge Loretta Preska ordered the deposition unsealed in July.
Mr Mueller, however, said the deposition was filled with suggestive questions akin to “when did you stop beating your wife?” and that Ms Maxwell’s denials to certain questions could be as “revealing” as admissions.
“It certainly implies that the other side has an evidentiary basis to ask the question,” he said.
A ‘presumption’ of public access
David Boies, a lawyer for Ms Giuffre, countered that there was a “substantial presumption” of public access, but drew scepticism from the panel about why his client deserved it.
“What does she care about it?” Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler asked.
“Sure she wants the whole thing out, but what’s the legally cognisable interest?”
Mr Boies responded that it was important for materials to be unsealed in an “even-handed way,” to ensure that no context was lost.
Christine Walz, a lawyer for the Miami Herald, which also wants the deposition unsealed, said “mere speculation” that releasing the deposition could deprive Ms Maxwell of a fair criminal trial was not sufficient justification to block it.
She has been locked up in a Brooklyn jail after US District Judge Alison Nathan, who oversees the criminal case, called her an unacceptable flight risk. A trial is scheduled for July 2021.
Epstein, a registered sex offender, took his own life at age 66 in August 2019 at a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
The appeals court is also considering a second Maxwell appeal, from Judge Nathan’s refusal to modify a protective order and let her access confidential materials produced by the Government.
Prosecutors have countered that Maxwell has shown no need for the materials, and that her appeal was a “thinly veiled attempt” to have the appeals court declare they gathered evidence illegally.