A federal judge in Manhattan on Thursday ruled on a series of redactions proposed by Ghislaine Maxwell and prosecutors regarding a compilation of transcripts submitted under seal by the government last month.
After reviewing arguments from both sides, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan allowed most of the government’s redactions to remain in place over Maxwell’s objections while also adding several additional redactions at her request.
Maxwell’s legal team in January filed 12 motions requesting that the court, among other things, dismiss all of the charges relating to her alleged role as a recruiter of young girls for infamous and since-deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The government responded in February with an “omnibus memorandum of law” opposing Maxwell’s motions, all of which were filed under seal pending rulings on the redactions.
The government argued that its redactions were required in order to “protect the integrity” of its ongoing criminal investigation into Maxwell and to protect the privacy interests of third parties. Judge Nathan granted most of the government’s requests, reasoning that the redactions were based on legitimate interests to overcome the presumption of public access to judicial documents.
“Exhibit 1 contains a single redaction—the name of a third party—and the Court concludes that that individual’s personal privacy interests outweigh the presumption of access that exists as to that limited portion of the exhibit,” Judge Nathan wrote. “The proposed redactions to Exhibit 7 are similar in that they seek to protect from public access only the names and contact information of third parties. Here, too, the interest in protecting the safety and privacy of those individuals outweighs the presumption of access that attaches to those documents.”
Nathan rejected Maxwell’s objection to redactions containing information “that has been made public by other means” where such information still relates to the privacy interests of third parties.
“At least some of the redactions to which the Defendant objects relate to private ‘family affairs’ of a third party, a factor that ‘weigh[s] more heavily against access than conduct affecting a substantial portion of the public.’ Nathan wrote, citing to controlling precedent from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. “And though the Defendant contends that some of the information contained in the redactions is public, she furnishes no evidence to that effect. As a result, the Court concludes that the significant privacy interests at stake justify the limited and narrowly tailored redactions contained in Exhibit 5.”
Judge Nathan, citing privacy interests, did side with Maxwell on several additional redactions proposed to transcripts submitted as part of the government’s filing, finding that to make those details public would only tend to cater to an appetite for the “sensational and impure.”
“Those portions of the transcript, which were redacted in the civil matter, concern privacy interests and their disclosure would merely serve to cater to a ‘craving for that which is sensational and impure,’” she wrote. “The Court thus concludes that such redactions are justified.”
It’s unclear what Judge Nathan has redacted, but Judge Loretta Preska — the federal judge in the civil case — ruled on Jan. 19 that details Maxwell provided about her consensual sexual relationships with adults would remain redacted in publicly released versions of deposition transcripts (see: Miami Herald, “Judge orders release of more Ghislaine Maxwell records — minus salacious details”).
“Although the prurient interest of some may be left un-satiated as a result, Ms. Maxwell’s interest in keeping private the details of her sexual relationships with consenting adults warrants the sealing of those portions of her testimony,” said Preska, emphasizing privacy interests.
Several other redactions proposed by the government were rejected at Maxwell’s request after Judge Nathan found that prosecutors failed to provide a reasonable basis “as to why its investigation at this stage of the matter would be imperiled by the disclosure of the information regarding how it obtained the information in question, and the requested redactions are far from narrowly tailored.”
“As a result, the Court denies the Government’s redaction requests in pages 1–128 and denies its request to file Exhibits 8 and 9 under seal, since those documents relate to this very issue and the same reasoning applies to them,” Nathan wrote.
The court will allow the government to seek more tailored redactions before the redactions are removed on the public docket.
Read the full ruling below:
Note: story was updated to include additional context about Judge Preska’s handling of the civil case.
[photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images]