While Maxwell’s attorneys said the documents could impact their clients’ ongoing legal woes, a judge said the public is entitled to their access.
The federal judge overseeing a civil lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell has agreed to unseal documents related to a 2015 defamation case.
However, the documents’ release will be delayed until Maxwell has the chance to appeal the decision.
Maxwell, says The Hill, has protested the release, saying the documents may complicate other legal issues—in particular, federal allegations that she procured underage girls for the late Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein, a convicted sex offender and finance mogul, allegedly committed suicide at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York last year. He had ties to an assortment of high-profile politicians, businesspeople, and celebrities, including President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew of England.
In her appeal, Maxwell said the hitherto-unreleased defamation documents could interfere with the sex trafficking case against her.
“We are in a vastly different position,” Maxwell attorney Laura Menninger said in court. “And certainly have great concerns about our client’s ability to seek and receive an impartial and fair trial and jury, given the intense media scrutiny around anything that is unsealed.”
According to ABC News, the court filings in the case—filed by Virginia Roberts Giuffre—could contain the names of hundreds of people who socialized, traveled, or otherwise worked with Jeffrey Epstein over the course of about a decade.
An undated photo of Ghislaine Maxwell. Image via Wikimedia Commons/no attribution. (CCA-BY-3.0).
Maxwell’s legal team—which includes lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca—suggested that document release is intended to coerce his client into answering “intrusive” questions.
“The series of pleadings concerns (Giuffre’s) attempt to compel Ms. Maxwell to answer intrusive questions about her sex life,” Pagliuca wrote in a filing last month. “The subject matter of these documents is extremely personal, confidential, and subject to considerable abuse by the media.”
Pagliuca said that whatever information is contained in the documents could inappropriately influence proceedings against his client.
“The sealed testimony or summaries may inappropriately influence potential witnesses or alleged victims,” he said.
However, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska—who verbally ordered the documents unsealed earlier this week—said Pagliuca’s claims don’t hold water.
“Ms. Maxwell has not explained how this sealed material, if released, could, as she posits, ‘inappropriately influence potential witnesses or victims,’” Preska said. “Again, the Court finds that this interest is entitled to little weight under the facts of this case.”
Preska also said that the public is entitled to access whatever information Maxwell is trying to withhold on her association with Epstein.
“In the context of this case, especially its allegations of sex trafficking of young girls, the court finds any minor embarrassment or annoyance resulting from Ms. Maxwell’s mostly non-testimony (…) is far outweighed by the presumption of public access,” Preska said Thursday.
ABC News notes that the sealed documents “contain the identities of people who provided information in the case under an expectation of confidentiality,” plus the names of accused Epstein victims and enablers.
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