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Ghislaine Maxwell urges U.S. appeals court to keep dama...

Newsdeck

Newsdeck

Ghislaine Maxwell urges U.S. appeals court to keep damaging deposition secret

(FILE) - United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman (R) points as he speaks during a news conference about the arrest of American financier Jeffrey Epstein in New York, USA, 08 July 2019 (reissued 10 August 2019). US media reported that Epstein was found dead in his prison cell on 10 August 2019 morning in the MCC Manhattan while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. An official confirmation by authorities of his death is pending. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES epa07766214 (FILE) - United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman (R) points as he speaks during a news conference about the arrest of American financier Jeffrey Epstein in New York, USA, 08 July 2019 (reissued 10 August 2019). US media reported that Epstein was found dead in his prison cell on 10 August 2019 morning in the MCC Manhattan while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. An official confirmation by authorities of his death is pending. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES
By Reuters
13 Oct 2020 0

NEW YORK, Oct 13 (Reuters) - A lawyer for Ghislaine Maxwell on Tuesday urged a federal appeals court on Tuesday to overturn a ruling that the longtime associate of late financier Jeffrey Epstein says jeopardizes her ability to defend against criminal charges she enabled Epstein's sexual abuse of girls.

By Jonathan Stempel

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing a judge’s order to unseal sworn testimony related to Epstein, including a April 2016 deposition from Maxwell, citing the presumption of the public’s right to have access to it.

Maxwell, 58, has said bad publicity from disclosing “intimate, sensitive, and personal” details from her deposition would violate her right against self-incrimination, and imperil a fair trial because prospective jurors may hold it against her.

“We’re concerned about preserving the status quo,” Maxwell’s lawyer Adam Mueller told a three-judge panel. “There’s going to be a public criminal trial, and this will all be aired in open court … We think that vindicates the public interest as well.”

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to charges she helped Epstein recruit and groom underage girls as young as 14 years old to engage in illegal sexual acts in the mid-1990s, and not guilty to perjury for having denied involvement under oath.

Her 418-page deposition came from a civil defamation lawsuit against her by Virginia Giuffre, who has said Epstein kept her as a “sex slave” with the British socialite’s help, and now believes the public has a right to see Maxwell’s deposition.

The defamation case settled in 2017, and U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ordered the deposition unsealed in July.

Mueller, however, said the deposition was filled with suggestive questions akin to “when did you stop beating your wife,” and that Maxwell’s denials to certain questions could be as “revealing” as admissions.

“It certainly implies that the other side has an evidentiary basis to ask the question,” he said.

David Boies, a lawyer for Giuffre, countered that there was a “substantial presumption” of public access, but drew skepticism from the panel about why his client deserved it.

“What does she care about it?” Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler asked. “Sure she wants the whole thing out, but what’s the legally cognizable interest?”

Boies responded that it was important for materials to be unsealed in an “even-handed way,” to ensure that no context is lost.

Christine Walz, a lawyer for the Miami Herald, which also wants the deposition unsealed, said “mere speculation” that releasing the deposition could deprive Maxwell of a fair criminal trial was not sufficient justification to block it.

Maxwell was arrested on July 2 in New Hampshire, where prosecutors said she had been hiding out.

She has been locked up in a Brooklyn jail after U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, who oversees the criminal case, called her an unacceptable flight risk. A trial is scheduled for July 2021.

Epstein, a registered sex offender, killed himself at age 66 in August 2019 at a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The appeals court is also considering a second Maxwell appeal, from Nathan’s refusal to modify a protective order and let her access confidential materials produced by the government.

Maxwell’s lawyers hope to use those materials to convince Preska not to unseal the deposition, saying the judge deserved to know “just how prosecutors obtained the deposition material and who turned it over to them.”

Prosecutors have countered that Maxwell has shown no need for the materials, and that her appeal was a “thinly veiled attempt” to have the appeals court declare they gathered evidence illegally. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Bill Berkrot and Grant McCool)

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