Ghislaine Maxwell lawyers attempt to keep deposition details secret

By Victoria Bekiempis

A lawyer for Ghislaine Maxwell appeared remotely before three New York federal appeals court judges on Tuesday afternoon, in an attempt to keep under wraps a deposition from past civil litigation regarding her relationship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The British socialite is urging the US second circuit court of appeals to overturn Manhattan federal court judge Loretta Preska’s July decision to unseal the 418-page deposition.

Preska’s order applied to a tranche of documents, not just Maxwell’s sworn testimony, in a settled civil lawsuit relating to claims about her alleged involvement in the late Epstein’s sex trafficking. While nearly all the documents were unsealed, Maxwell was able to secure a delay over her deposition.

In the civil case, Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre alleged that Maxwell brought her into Epstein’s orbit as a teen, under the guise of providing work as a masseuse.

Giuffre accused Maxwell and Epstein of pressuring her to engage in sex with wealthy and powerful men including Prince Andrew. Her 2015 civil action maintained that Maxwell defamed her in claiming she was a liar for alleging the couple participated in sexual impropriety. The Duke of York has vehemently denied Giuffre’s allegations.

Maxwell, who was arrested in July for alleged sex crimes, conspiracy and perjury relating to Epstein, contended in court papers that unsealing the deposition from the old civil case “will lead to a violation of [her] due process right to a fair trial by an impartial jury” in the ongoing criminal case. She has pleaded not guilty in her criminal case.

The Manhattan US attorney used the deposition – which Maxwell believed was confidential – in its perjury allegation against her in the criminal case, claiming she lied under oath.

“The criminal indictment quotes directly from it,” Maxwell’s legal team said in court documents in advance of the proceedings. “The district court’s unsealing order eviscerates the promise of confidentiality on which Ms Maxwell and numerous third parties reasonably relied. It sanctions the perjury trap unfairly set for Ms Maxwell, in violation of the fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Judge José Cabranes pressed Maxwell’s lawyer, Adam Mueller, on this topic.

“Is it your argument that unsealing would implicate your client’s fifth amendment right?”

“It is, your honor,” Mueller said during the appeals proceeding.

“Now, during the deposition itself, there was no invocation of those rights, was there?” Cabranes asked.

“There was no invocation of the fifth amendment rights because we understood the protective order applied …” Mueller answered. “Had we known differently ... we would have proceeded differently.”

Maxwell’s argument against unsealing on privacy grounds also came up.

Cabranes asked whether Maxwell had refused to answer questions about consensual sexual activities between adults.

“Some of the questions, we declined to answer, but there were questions and answers given,” Mueller answered. Mueller also said there was deposition testimony about “intimate sexual matters”.

Mueller said that the questions themselves were “problematic irrespective of the answer”.

“It’s akin to a ‘when did you stop beating your wife’-type question,” he said.

The judge had a further question.

“Is it fair to say your client did not deny knowledge of any activity involving underage minors? Or did she? What’s your view of this?” Cabranes asked. “Did she or did she not deny knowledge of any activity involving underage minors?”

Mueller responded: “Your honor, I’m hesitant to answer the question, because at the moment the deposition is sealed. I’m not trying to avoid answering the question, I’m hesitant to offer answers.”

The panel will issue a decision on the matter of the deposition at a later date.

The matter of the documents’ release stems from a legal push by the Miami Herald to unseal them. Before the newspaper’s successful petition, many of the documents in this litigation were under seal.

The Miami Herald reporter Julie K Brown exposed how Epstein managed to evade federal prosecution in south Florida in 2007.

On Tuesday, the judges also heard another appeal related to Maxwell in her criminal case. Maxwell, 58, is being held in federal custody in Brooklyn. She did not take part in Tuesday’s hearing.

Mueller wants to alter a protective order relating to some confidential materials in Maxwell’s criminal case. The materials were produced by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

The judge in Maxwell’s criminal case did not agree with Mueller’s request to modify the protective order.

Mueller hopes to use this confidential information to persuade Preska not to release the deposition.

Decisions about both issues in question at the hearing, the deposition and the protective order, will be issued by the federal appeals court judges at a later date.