Ghislaine Maxwell has filed a desperate last-minute appeal to stop “embarrassing” confidential documents from being released, claiming the government wrongfully used them to bring criminal charges.
US District Judge Loretta Preska had ruled that the files must be unsealed and released to the public by Thursday, but Ms Maxwell’s lawyers launched what they conceded was an “extraordinary request” for her to reconsider.
The British socialite, 58, is currently answering a number of civil lawsuits brought by victims of associate Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier found dead in his prison cell last year.
Her lawyers charged on Wednesday that prosecutors in a separate criminal case used confidential depositions she made in 2016 in the civil case that is now being consideration by Judge Preska.
The defamation suit was filed in 2015 by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who alleges she was abused by Epstein and pimped out to powerful figures including Prince Andrew, and confidentially settled in 2017.
The Duke of York has denied all allegations.
The depositions are Ms Maxwell’s only on-the-record account of her association with Epstein and his sex-trafficking ring. Her attorneys argue it was given under an expectation of confidentiality that had been agreed to by both sides in the dispute.
Transcripts of the depositions were designated “confidential” and subject to a “Protective Order”.
However, they came to be in the hands of the US government, which used statements made by the heiress to charge her with perjury in an indictment filed last month.
Parts of it were unsealed by a judge last year.
In an April 2016 interview with Ms Giuffre’s lawyers, Ms Maxwell was asked: “Did Jeffrey Epstein have a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages?”
To which she answered: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
During another deposition in July of the same year, Ms Maxwell said: “I wasn’t aware that he was having sexual activities with anyone when I was with him other than myself.”
Prosecutors at the Southern District of New York claim she was lying when she said she was not to be aware of Epstein’s assaults on women and underage girls.
“This is a serious violation of the Protective Order, and merits the commencement of contempt proceedings,” Ms Maxwell’s lawyers argued in documents filed at a Manhattan court on Wednesday. They accused Ms Giuffre of leaking the deposition, and “in conjunction with the government” setting a “perjury trap” for their client, whose six criminal counts include two for perjury.
Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
They also tried to claim that the trove of documents – which could expose fresh details about Ms Maxwell’s sex life as well as her relation to powerful figures accused of taking part in the abuse of the late millionaire’s victims – would result in “substantial negative media publicity and speculation in an internet world.”
It is now unclear whether the publication of the documents would go ahead as planned on Thursday.
Legal experts said there was little precedent for the judge to rely on due to the complex interweaving of Ms Maxwell’s civil and criminal suits.