Dozens more Jeffrey Epstein documents are now public. Here’s what we know so far
Jan 3, 2024, 10:43 AM
NEW YORK (AP) — The release of dozens of previously sealed court documents from a lawsuit involving Jeffrey Epstein might disappoint online sleuths who anticipated explosive new information.
The nearly 200 documents released as of Friday largely mention figures whose names were already known, including high-profile friends of Epstein’s and victims who have spoken publicly. In fact, the judge who made the call last month to release the information said she was doing so largely because much of it is already public.
The plan to release the documents had prompted rumors that they contained a list of “clients” or “co-conspirators,” and misinformation about their contents is continuing to run rampant on social media.
Still, the records do include fresh details about the financier’s sexual abuse of teenage girls, and offer a reminder of how he leveraged his powerful connections to recruit his victims and help cover up his crimes.
The documents unsealed this week are the latest of thousands previously made public in lawsuits involving Epstein.
Here’s what we know about the documents released so far:
A millionaire known for associating with celebrities, politicians, billionaires and academic stars, Epstein became the subject of a police investigation in Palm Beach, Florida, in 2005 after he was accused of paying a 14-year-old girl for sex. He was arrested in 2006.
Dozens of other underage girls described similar sexual abuse, but prosecutors ultimately allowed the financier to plead guilty in 2008 to a charge involving a single victim. He served 13 months in a jail work-release program.
Some famous acquaintances abandoned Epstein after his conviction, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, but many did not. Epstein continued to mingle with the rich and famous for another decade, often through philanthropic work.
Reporting by the Miami Herald renewed interest in the scandal, and federal prosecutors in New York charged Epstein in 2019 with sex trafficking. He killed himself in jail while awaiting trial.
The U.S. attorney in Manhattan then prosecuted Epstein’s former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell for helping recruit his underage victims. She was convicted in 2021 and is serving a 20-year prison term.
The documents being unsealed are part of a 2015 lawsuit filed against Maxwell by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre. She is one of the dozens of women who sued Epstein saying he had abused them at his homes in Florida, New York, the U.S. Virgin Islands and New Mexico.
Giuffre said the summer she turned 17, she was lured away from a job as a spa attendant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club to become a “masseuse” for Epstein — a job that involved performing sexual acts.
Giuffre also claimed she was pressured into having sex with men in Epstein’s social orbit, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell and the billionaire Glenn Dubin, among others. All of those men said her accounts were fabricated.
Giuffre settled a lawsuit against Prince Andrew in 2022. That same year, Giuffre withdrew an accusation she had made against Epstein’s former attorney, the law professor Alan Dershowitz, saying she “ may have made a mistake ” in identifying him as an abuser.
Giuffre’s lawsuit against Maxwell was settled in 2017, but the Miami Herald went to court to access court papers initially filed under seal, including transcripts of interviews the lawyers did with potential witnesses.
About 2,000 pages were unsealed by a court in 2019. Additional documents were released in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The batch currently being released contains around 250 records with sections that were blacked out or were sealed entirely because of concerns about the privacy rights of Epstein’s victims and other people whose names had come up during the legal battle but weren’t complicit in his crimes.
Nearly 200 have been released as of Friday. The judge hasn’t set a target for when all the documents should be made public, but more are expected to come.
U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska, who evaluated the documents to decide what should be unsealed, said in her December order that she was ordering the records released because much of the information within them is already public.
Some records have been released, either in part or in full, in other court cases.
The people named in the records include many of Epstein’s accusers, members of his staff who told their stories to tabloid newspapers, people who served as witnesses at Maxwell’s trial, people who were mentioned in passing during depositions but aren’t accused of anything salacious, and people who investigated Epstein, including prosecutors, a journalist and a police detective.
There are also boldface names of public figures known to have associated with Epstein over the years, but whose relationships with him have already been well documented elsewhere, the judge said.
One of them is Jean-Luc Brunel, a French modeling agent close to Epstein who was awaiting trial on charges that he raped underage girls when he killed himself in a Paris jail in 2022. Giuffre was among the women who had accused Brunel of sexual abuse.
His name was peppered throughout the documents released Wednesday.
Clinton and Trump both factor in the court file, partly because Giuffre was questioned by Maxwell’s lawyers about inaccuracies in newspaper stories about her time with Epstein. One story quoted her as saying she had ridden in a helicopter with Clinton and flirted with Trump. Giuffre said neither of those things actually happened. She hasn’t accused either former president of wrongdoing.
The judge said a handful of names should remain blacked out in the documents because they would identify people who were sexually abused. The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they decide to tell their stories publicly, as Giuffre has done.
In addition to false claims that the documents represent some kind of list identifying Epstein’s “clients,” the internet is rife with misinformation about exactly who is named in the records and what that means.
Ahead of the release, social media users wrongly claimed that late-night host Jimmy Kimmel’s name might appear, spurred by a joke New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers made Tuesday on ESPN’s “The Pat McAfee Show.”
Kimmel said in a response on X that he had never met Epstein and that Rodgers’ “reckless words put my family in danger.” His name did not appear in the documents released so far.
After the documents began emerging, social media users seized on names that appeared in passing, falsely suggesting it was proof of wrongdoing.
For instance, some suggested that the documents included allegations about Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018. In reality, the theoretical physicist’s name appears, misspelled, in a 2015 email Epstein sent proposing a reward be paid to anyone who could debunk a baseless claim about Hawking.
Other social media users are spreading fabricated images made to look like documents that they claim show people making allegations against Hawking and Kimmel. The quotes in the images don’t appear anywhere in the records.
This story has been corrected to reflect that although the Palm Beach, Florida, police investigation into Epstein began in 2005, he wasn’t arrested until 2006.