A federal appeals court in New York has ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of judicial documents related to sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell in a Wednesday ruling.
Epstein, 66, wooed underage girls with a series of recruiters to his Palm Beach waterfront mansion from the years of 1997 to 2006. He claimed he was going to give massages to the girls, but would then sexually abuse them, and use them to recruit other victims.
Epstein received immunity for his crimes after pleading guilty to lesser charges in 2008. He only received 13 months of confinement in the Palm Beach County stockade, with work release that is usually barred for sex offenders. He was never prosecuted federally, which has fueled conspiracy theories that his elite connections allowed him to evade justice.
Maxwell, 57, denies that she helped Epstein with his operation but nevertheless has fought to keep the records of a civil case from seeing the light of the day. Following today’s ruling, they will now be seen by the public.
The U.S. Court of Appeals decided that a lower district court was mistaken when it sealed the case and essentially provided cover for Epstein, Maxwell and others mentioned in the lawsuit.
“The District Court failed to review the documents individually and produce ‘specific, on‐the‐record findings that sealing is necessary to preserve higher values.’ Instead, the District Court made generalized statements about the record as a whole. This … was legal error,’’ the appeals court wrote.
“When faithfully observing its best traditions, the print and electronic media ‘contributes to public understanding of the rule of law’ and ‘validates [its] claim of functioning as surrogates for the public.’ At the same time, the media does the public a profound disservice when it reports on parties’ allegations uncritically,’’ the ruling stated.
The Miami Herald was joined by other news agencies such as the New York Times and Washington Post in filing a brief to the court requesting that the files be released to the public.
“We continue to believe that justice was not well served by the secrecy cloaking nearly every aspect of Mr. Epstein’s alleged sex crimes,” said Casey Frank, who works as senior editor for investigations with the Miami Herald. “We are all better off when allegations as serious as those against Mr. Epstein are held up to the light rather than buried.”
Virginia Roberts Giuffre brought the civil case forth in 2015 in a New York court. She claims she was sex trafficked while underage by Epstein and Maxwell to government officials, attorneys, academics and other members of the elite establishment, including Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz. Maxwell called Giuffre a liar, which resulted in a subsequent defamation suit.
The suit was decided favorably toward Giuffre in 2017, but the documents related to the case have remained sealed. The public will now be able to understand the illicit details uncovered due to the suit.
“The most important point is the court is saying that facts that are brought out in court proceedings that go to improper and, in some cases, unlawful conduct should not be concealed from the public,’’ Giuffre’s attorney, David Boies said.
“The court is saying the public has a right to know what the evidence is in cases involving the public interest. Cases of sexual abuse and sex trafficking are cases in which the public has an obvious and compelling interest,” he added.
The ruling may be appealed by two unnamed individuals who do not want their names to be connected to the case.
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