Court documents from a 2015 case against Ghislaine Maxwell will become available to the public, a federal judge ordered.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ruled to have the documents related to a 2015 defamation case involving Virginia Roberts unsealed, according to CNN. The civil case, which was settled in 2017, involved Roberts’ claims that Jeffrey Epstein — Maxwell’s alleged sex trafficking accomplice — sexually abused her as a minor.
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According to ABC News, contents on the sealed case could contain hundreds of names of people who worked with or traveled with Epstein, who died in August 2019 almost a month after he was arrested for allegedly sex-trafficking girls.
Preska ordered that the documents be unsealed “within a week,” causing lawyers for Maxwell, 58, to take action to try to appeal the decision. Maxwell’s attorney Laura Menninger said publicizing the contents of the past case could prevent her opportunity for a fair trial, according to ABC News.
“We are in a vastly different position 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,” Menninger told the outlet.
Maxwell, who was arrested by the FBI earlier this month, has pleaded not guilty to all charges after authorities say she allegedly helped longtime companion Epstein groom girls as young as 14 for sexual abuse — incidents that she allegedly participated in herself.
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According to CNN, Judge Preska said in her ruling that medical records will remain sealed and identities of anonymous victims will stay undisclosed.
“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.
Maxwell has been charged with six felonies, including conspiracy to entice minors to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation of a minor to engage in illegal sex acts, and perjury. She is being held without bond, and prosecutors describe her as a flight risk.
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Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005
Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty
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At a press conference earlier this month, Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the multiple charges Maxwell faces, covering a period from at least 1994 to 1997.
According to Strauss, Maxwell, a British socialite and heiress who is Epstein’s former girlfriend, helped Epstein “identify, befriend and groom minor victims of abuse.” The pair “had a method,” Strauss alleged, involving befriending girls by “asking them questions about their lives and pretending to be taking an interest in them.”
“After developing a rapport with the victims, Maxwell then tried to normalize sexual abuse with a minor victim through a process known as grooming,” Strauss added, alleging that Maxwell would discuss sexual topics with the girls, undress in front of them and be present for sex acts involving the girls and Epstein.
Maxwell will appear in court again next month. Her trial date has been set for July 2021.