A United States appellate court has ordered the release of previously sealed court documents filed in a defamation suit related to multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking ring.
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The money manager, who owns his own private island in the Virgin Islands and at one time owned multiple planes, including a Boeing 727, was first investigated for alleged sexual abuse of underage girls in Florida in 2005. Epstein ended up striking a once-secret deal with the government and pleaded guilty to two prostitution related offenses.
These new forthcoming documents stem from a 2015 lawsuit filed by an alleged victim of Epstein, Virginia Giuffre, against Epstein’s former girlfriend and alleged recruiter, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. The lawsuit, which was settled in 2017 on the eve of trial, accused Maxwell of making defamatory statements about Giuffre. In the original complaint, Giuffre accused Epstein of sexually abusing her from 1999 to 2002, with Maxwell’s “assistance and participation,” at numerous locations including Epstein’s mansions in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida.
Maxwell has repeatedly denied Giuffre’s allegations, both publicly and in court filings, as “entirely false” and “entirely untrue.” Epstein settled privately with Giuffre in 2009 over a separate lawsuit in which she alleged she was sexually abused by Epstein and his “adult male peers, including royalty, politicians, academicians, businessmen, and/or other professional and personal acquaintances,” according to her civil complaint.
The timeline for the pending release of the sealed documents is not immediately known. In all, a total of 167 documents related to this case were sealed by the lower court. A representative for the court told ABC News that the documents would only be unsealed once the court’s mandate is issued, which typically can take several weeks, allowing other parties to request emergency hearings. ABC News has reached out to Maxwell’s attorney but has not yet received a response.
In a phone interview with ABC News, Giuffre’s attorney David Boies said “This is a great day for Virginia. More than 5 years ago, she dedicated herself to trying to make sure that she did whatever she could to prevent other young girls from befalling what she befell. And a critically important part of that has been bringing to the attention of the public, how significant and dangerous sex trafficking is in this country.”
Regarding the significance of today’s decision from the Second Circuit, Boies said that these documents highlighted the “scope and scale of the Epstein sex trafficking enterprise” and that this now “puts pressure on prosecutors not to turn a blind eye,” adding that federal prosecutors in New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands could open investigations.
The appeal to access these records was originally filed by the Miami Herald and its reporter Julie Brown, who last year published an investigation into Epstein and the controversial “non-prosecutorial agreement” - or NPA - that Epstein secured from then-Florida U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, now the secretary of labor. The NPA allowed for Epstein to plead guilty to Florida state charges to which he served 13 months of an 18-month sentence, registered as a sex offender, and agreed to pay restitution to each of his alleged victims identified by federal authorities. In return, Epstein was not federally prosecuted and his alleged co-conspirators were granted immunity.
The NPA followed a more than two-year long local and federal investigation into accusations that Epstein sexually abused minor girls in his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion between 2001 and 2007, under the guise that they were serving as his masseuse. According to court documents, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami had identified over 30 underage girls allegedly abused by Epstein.
Epstein, through his attorneys, has maintained that he did not know the women were minors and claimed that many of them lied about their age.
Separately, there is ongoing litigation involving Epstein and alleged victims Jane Doe 1 and 2 in a Florida federal court. In February 2019, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that the government violated federal law, specifically the “Crime Victims' Rights Act” – when they entered into the NPA with Epstein in 2008 and did not inform his alleged victims. In that ruling, Marra cited findings from the Florida investigation into Epstein’s alleged misconduct, and wrote in his opinion “Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually. Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him. Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.”
In their response, the government asked the court to uphold the NPA. The two alleged victims who are suing the government, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, want the NPA voided and Epstein to be investigated again for alleged sex-trafficking crimes. They also requested an apology from Acosta, who has not yet publicly responded to the plaintiff’s filing and has declined to comment on the case. The Department of Justice also launched their own internal inquiry earlier this year, looking into the actions that lead to the NPA.