Four more tranches of court records pertaining to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein were unsealed Friday.
The records are part of a defamation lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre, an alleged victim of the disgraced financier, against Epstein’s longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell that the two settled in 2017. Epstein died by suicide in a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell is serving a 20-year prison sentence after she was convicted in 2021 of aiding Epstein’s sex trafficking of young women and girls. Her appeal will be heard in March.
Friday’s documents detail how Maxwell reacted after Giuffre made explosive allegations in a court case filed by Epstein’s alleged victims against the federal government, which challenged the lenient treatment the sex offender received. It was the first time Giuffre alleged publicly that she was forced by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with Prince Andrew and other prominent men.
“I am out of my depth to understanding defamation and other legal hazards and don’t want to end up in a lawsuit aimed at me from anyone if I can help it,” Maxwell wrote to her lawyer and publicist in a newly unsealed email exchange from January 2015. “I am trying to stay out of litigation and not have to employ lawyers for years as I get lost in US legal nightmare.”
Maxwell’s representatives had already issued a brief statement calling the claims “untrue” and “obvious lies.”
But Maxwell seemingly agonized over whether she should respond more fully, she worried that might lead to questions about her connections to famous men.
“Statements that don’t address all just lead to more questions .. what is my relationship to clinton ? Andrew on and on,” the email said.
Among the advice she got from her lawyer, “We can’t let you sit back and be a conspirator by silence,” her U.K. lawyer Philip Barden emailed in response. “You have to stand up and deny the allegations or be branded guilty by association and that may lead to other investigations and worse…I know what is right to do and that is to shout your innocence.”
Barden urged her to respond quickly, calling silence “reputational suicide,” and not to concern herself with Epstein, who might have his own reasons to stay silent.
“I can see why JE doesn’t want this as it may not suit him but he is already toast,” Barden wrote, referring to Epstein by his initials.
Yet, as Maxwell was ruminating over this, she was also in email communication with Epstein, who asked over email the following morning, “What did you decide to do?”
Eleven days later, Epstein instructed Maxwell to “Ask press to investigate whether Clinton was ever there. Challenge the press.”
Giuffre’s claim to have met President Bill Clinton on Epstein’s island would later become a contentious issue between Maxwell and Giuffre.
The newly unsealed documents showed Epstein took a continued interest in how Maxwell might respond, writing, “I’ve tried to call. what have you decided?”
Maxwell apparently decided against saying anything more, but she had already said too much, which resulted in exactly what she had feared: A defamation suit from Giuffre, the very lawsuit from which all of these newly unsealed documents originated.
On Sept. 21, 2015, the day Giuffre filed that suit, Maxwell’s U.K. press agent Ross Gow emailed her to say “G, here we go again. VR on our case again,” using the initials for Virginia Roberts, Giuffre’s given name. “Joyous to hear I’m not a co-defendant. Best, R,” he added.
Prince Andrew has denied Giuffre’s claims. In 2022 he settled a civil lawsuit she filed against him, with no admission of wrongdoing.
The unsealing of documents from the court files is expected to continue next week. Thus far, 191 documents have been made public, out of an anticipated total of about 250.