The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of the summary judgment record of lawsuit against a woman accused of running a sex trafficking ring with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The impact of the news has been described as “potentially explosive,” given that the documents could shine sunlight on allegations against Epstein and his former partner and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, plus unnamed individuals who argued against the unsealing of documents.
Virginia Giuffre (formerly Roberts) claimed that Maxwell recruited her to be a “masseuse” for Epstein when she worked at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida club owned by President Donald Trump. As Courthouse News noted, former President Bill Clinton “hitched multiple rides on Epstein’s jet to his private island,” while President Trump “once called Epstein a ‘friend.'” Giuffre alleged that from 1999 to 2002, she was used to perform sexual acts. She said she was just 16 when this began and claimed that other underage girls were used as well. According to the Miami Herald, Maxwell settled the case in 2017 for millions of dollars.
A John Doe once argued that an unsealing of documents related to to this case could “substantially infringe the privacy and reputational interests of many third persons … who have never been charged with a crime, have never been subject to civil proceedings, and have never been publicly identified by Giuffre.”
The appellate court noted at length on Wednesday the background of this case, including that allegations were made against “several other” unnamed “prominent individuals” — even “world leaders”:
The origins of this case lie in a decade‐old criminal proceeding against financier Jeffrey Epstein (“Epstein”). On June 30, 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to Florida state charges of soliciting, and procuring a person under the age of eighteen for, prostitution. The charges stemmed from sexual activity with privately hired “masseuses,” some of whom were under eighteen, Florida’s age of consent. Pursuant to an agreement with state and federal prosecutors, Epstein pleaded to the state charges. He received limited jail‐time, registered as a sex offender, and agreed to pay compensation to his victims. In return, prosecutors declined to bring federal charges.
Shortly after Epstein entered his plea, two of his victims, proceeding as “Jane Doe 1” and “Jane Doe 2,” filed suit against the Government in the Southern District of Florida under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (“CVRA”). The victims sought to nullify the plea agreement, alleging that the Government failed to fulfill its legal obligations to inform and consult with them in the process leading up to Epstein’s plea deal.
On December 30, 2014, two additional unnamed victims—one of whom has now self‐identified as Plaintiff‐Appellee Virginia Giuffre (“Giuffre”)—petitioned to join in the CVRA case. These petitioners included in their filings not only descriptions of sexual abuse by Epstein, but also new allegations of sexual abuse by several other prominent individuals, “including numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well‐ known Prime Minister, and other world leaders,” as well as [Alan] Dershowitz (a long‐time member of the Harvard Law School faculty who had worked on Epstein’s legal defense) and Defendant‐Appellee Ghislaine Maxwell (“Maxwell”).
As noted in the case background excerpt just above, Giuffre previously accused Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz of having sex with her while she was underage and under Epstein’s control. Dershowitz called Giuffre a “certified, complete, total liar” in a conversation with the Law & Crime Network’s Brian Ross in Dec. 2018. He said Giuffre’s allegations against him were a “complete and total fabrication.”
Dershowitz is named as an intervenor‐appellant in Second’s Circuit filing, along with Mike Cernovich and the Miami Herald/reporter Julie Brown. Brown has won an award for the “Perversion of Justice” series that investigated the Epstein plea deal that enabled him to avoid federal charges. Dershowitz was among the team of “powerful lawyers” who represented Epstein and helped him secure that deal, along with Kenneth Starr (yes, that Ken Starr).
Epstein was convicted in 2008 as part of a guilty plea to a state charge of soliciting prostitution from underage girls, resulting in 13 months in county jail, home detention, and him registering as a sex offender. The billionaire avoided federal charges by entering into a non-prosecution agreement, which a federal judge recently said was made illegally. The agreement, which was offered by prosecutors working under then-federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta (President Trump’s current U.S. Labor Secretary), was made without informing any of the alleged victims in the case.
Dershowitz moved to intervene in the case at hand, first seeking to unseal documents that he said would prove Giuffre fabricated allegations against him. When Cernovich moved to intervene to unseal the summary judgment record, Dershowitz joined that motion. The Miami Herald eventually moved to unseal the “entire docket,” the appellate court filing said.
Dershowitz told Law&Crime on Wednesday that he was “pleased” with the appellate court’s ruling, promising that “smoking gun” emails would prove that he was “framed” over money.
“I’m pleased that the truth will finally come out when these sealed documents are released. These ‘smoking gun’ emails and unpublished book manuscript will prove that I was deliberately framed for financial reasons and that my false accuser effectively admitted in writing that she never had sex with me,” Dershowitz said.
The appellate court ruled that the district court “failed to conduct the requisite particularized review when ordering the sealing of the materials at issue.” Due to “potential damage to privacy and reputation that may accompany public disclosure of hard‐fought, sensitive litigation” the court ordered the unsealing of the summary judgment record and asked the district court to begin “particularized review of the remaining sealed materials” — of which there are many.
The court bullet-pointed its holding for clarity as follows:
(1) Materials submitted in connection with a motion for summary judgment are subject to a strong presumption of public access.
(2) The summary judgment record at issue will be unsealed upon issuance of our mandate, subject to minimal redactions.
(3) Materials submitted in connection with, and relevant to, discovery motions, motions in limine, and other non‐dispositive motions are subject to a lesser—but still substantial— presumption of public access.
(4) The District Court is directed to review the remaining sealed materials individually and unseal those materials as appropriate.
(5) District courts should exercise the full range of their substantial powers to ensure their files do not become vehicles for defamation.
Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.
[Image via Florida Department of Law Enforcement]