Ghislaine Maxwell objects to potential witness' attempt to end civil lawsuit

Lawyers for Maxwell assailed the accuser's claims as "baseless."

December 23, 2020, 9:31 AM

For the second time this month, an alleged childhood sex-abuse survivor is running into unexpected opposition from Ghislaine Maxwell as the alleged victim tries to dismiss a civil lawsuit against Maxwell and the estate of deceased sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein, new court documents show. The alleged victim may be a key prosecution witness at a criminal trial of Maxwell.

"Ms. Maxwell is clearly trying to gain an unfair advantage over all these victims," said Robert Glassman, a lawyer for the anonymous plaintiff, who sued the estate and Maxwell in federal court under the pseudonym Jane Doe. "I've never had a case in my career where a defendant is blocking the plaintiff's attempt to dismiss the plaintiff's case."

Doe, 40, accepted an offer earlier this month from the Epstein Victims' Compensation Program, an independently operated restitution fund established by the co-executors of Epstein's estate. To finalize the deal, she is required to dismiss all pending litigation against the estate and any former employee of Epstein and his thicket of companies.

"The estate would not settle the case without Maxwell being part of it," Glassman said.

Maxwell, 58, has asserted in court filings and testimony in various civil cases that she worked for Epstein from 1999 until at least 2006, staffing and managing his various properties in the U.S. and Europe. She has denied, under oath, that she ever hired underage girls to work for Epstein.

PHOTO: In this Oct. 18, 2019, file photo, Ghislaine Maxwell attends an event in New York.
In this Oct. 18, 2019, file photo, Ghislaine Maxwell attends an event in New York.
Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images, FILE

Doe and the estate's lawyers have agreed to end the litigation, but Maxwell's legal team is objecting, just as they did earlier this month when Annie Farmer, another probable criminal trial witness, tried to dismiss her lawsuit after reaching a deal with the victims' program.

In both cases, Maxwell's lawyers have argued that they require unredacted copies of the agreements the women reached with the program -- including the amount of the settlement -- and documented proof that Maxwell is released from any future liability, before they'll agree to end the lawsuits.

But in Doe's case, Maxwell's advocates went even further, asking the court to require Doe to pay Maxwell's legal costs for defending the civil suit and, in a letter to the court late Tuesday, assailing the alleged victim's credibility in the most direct way since Maxwell's arrest in July.

"[Doe] improperly brought this baseless civil suit against Ms. Maxwell, making claims that are decades old without a shred of documentary or corroborative support. Ms. Maxwell absolutely denies plaintiff's claims against her; they are false," wrote Laura Menninger, an attorney who represents Maxwell in both civil and criminal cases.

The conflict over the resolution of Doe's lawsuit comes as Maxwell is awaiting a decision from a federal judge on her renewed effort to be released from jail pending trial, which is scheduled to begin in July 2021. Maxwell has proposed a $28.5 million bail package, secured primarily by her assets combined with those of her previously undisclosed husband.

"Ghislaine Maxwell is in prison and stands accused of aiding and abetting one of the worst sexual predators of our time. She is trying to pay her way out of prison by putting up over $28 million," Glassman, Doe's attorney, told ABC News after reviewing Maxwell's letter Tuesday night.

"Now ... she is inexplicably asking the judge to make a child rape victim pay for her attorney's fees and costs. It's unconscionable and sad," said Glassman, a trial lawyer at the California firm Panish, Shea & Boyle.

Doe alleged in her lawsuit, which was filed six months before Maxwell's arrest, that she was first approached by Epstein and Maxwell in 1994, when she was just 13, at a summer arts camp in Michigan. She alleged in her complaint that she was sexually abused over several years by Epstein at his homes in Florida, New York and New Mexico, and that she would often travel to those locations with Epstein and Maxwell on one of Epstein's private jets.

"Epstein's system of abuse was facilitated in large part by his co-conspirator and accomplice, Maxwell, who helped supply him with a steady stream of young and vulnerable girls," the complaint said. Maxwell has denied the allegations in Doe's complaint.

The allegations in Doe's civil case overlap substantially with those of "Victim-1" in the criminal indictment. Prosecutors allege Maxwell groomed three minor girls to be abused by Epstein between 1994 and 1997 and, in some instances, participated in the abuse herself. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Of more than 30 women who brought legal claims against Epstein's estate following his death last year, Doe was the only accuser who had declined to voluntarily put her lawsuit on hold to pursue the alternative resolution via the compensation program, arguing in court filings that a stay would "simply delay long overdue justice."

But Doe's lawsuit was placed on hold by a magistrate judge in September after Maxwell argued that the overlap between the civil and criminal cases would result in Maxwell being forced to choose between her constitutional right to remain silent and defending herself against the claims in the civil case. Federal prosecutors also advocated for a stay of the civil case, citing a "significant risk" that proceeding with the case "would adversely affect the ongoing criminal prosecution against Maxwell."

The government did not confirm in its court filings that Doe is one of the alleged victims in the criminal case, and Doe's attorney has declined to comment on the parallels. But in her Tuesday letter to the court, Menninger directly addressed the commonalities, writing that Maxwell "is currently under indictment based on the same allegations as were made by [the] plaintiff in this case."

At a hearing last week in Annie Farmer's case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman declined Maxwell's request to be provided with details of Farmer's monetary award from the estate. But she directed the parties to work out a resolution themselves to end the lawsuit to everyone's satisfaction, calling the dispute "a ridiculous problem."

"It's sort of beyond me how you can't work this out. It seems like so much of a non-issue," Freeman said. But a week later, there's no indication in the court record that the dispute has been resolved. Farmer has publicly identified herself as one of the three alleged victims in the criminal indictment of Maxwell.

Doe's case has a conference scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Glassman is hoping that the court will side with his client, dismiss the case and reject the demands that Doe pay Maxwell's legal fees. "There's no good faith reason in fact or law for [Maxwell] to be doing this," Glassman said.

Maxwell had no role in the development of the compensation fund by the estate, and she is not consulted on any of its operations or decisions. But attorneys for the estate have said in court filings that the program requires participants to sign a broad release of former Epstein employees like Maxwell for finality and to prevent alleged victims from "double-dipping" with more lawsuits after reaching a settlement with the estate.

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