NEW YORK (AP) — Amid great hype, a court began to release a new batch of previously secret court documents late Wednesday related to Jeffrey Epstein, the jet-setting financier who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Social media has been rife in recent weeks with posts speculating the documents would include a list of rich and powerful men who were Epstein’s “clients” or “co-conspirators.”
There was no such list. The initial collection of around 40 documents made public largely contained material that had been released previously, or exhaustively had been covered in nearly two decades’ worth of newspaper stories, TV documentaries, interviews and books about the Epstein scandal.
Still, the records — which included transcripts of interviews with some of Epstein’s victims — contained reminders that Epstein surrounded himself with famous and powerful figures, including a few who have also been accused of misconduct.
There were mentions of Epstein’s past friendship with Bill Clinton — who is not accused of any wrongdoing — and of Britain’s Prince Andrew, who previously settled a lawsuit accusing him of having sex with a 17-year-old girl who traveled with Epstein.
Epstein accuser Johanna Sjoberg testified in a newly released deposition that she once met Michael Jackson at Epstein’s Palm Beach, Florida, home, but that nothing untoward happened with the late pop icon.
The documents being unsealed are related to a lawsuit filed in 2015 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. This particular suit was against Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted in 2021 of helping recruit Epstein’s victims and is serving a 20-year prison term.
Epstein, a millionaire known for associating with celebrities, politicians, billionaires and academic stars, killed himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial on a sex-trafficking charge.
Giuffre’s lawsuit against Maxwell was settled in 2017, but the court had kept some court documents blacked-out or sealed because of concerns about the privacy rights of Epstein’s victims and other people whose names had come up during the legal battle.
Only around 40 of those documents were made public Wednesday. More will be released in coming days.
Among records released Wednesday were court memos in which lawyers for Giuffre complained that some of the women who had worked for Epstein were proving difficult to serve with subpoenas, as was Epstein himself.
Two women had invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned in other lawsuits about whether they had been involved in procuring young women for Epstein to abuse.
Maxwell, in her deposition, chaffed at being asked questions about whether she had ever arranged for Giuffre or other women to have sexual encounters with Prince Andrew, or purchased sex toys or revealing outfits, or seen young, topless women at Epstein’s home.
One person who had been on Epstein’s domestic staff said in a deposition that he felt uncomfortable with the number of young women showing up at the house, and felt threatened by Maxwell to stay quiet after he left his job.
Other documents included legal arguments over whether Giuffre should be allowed more time to depose potential witnesses, including Clinton. Giuffre never alleged he was involved in illegal behavior, but her attorneys said the former president was a “key person who can provide information about his close relationship” with Maxwell and Epstein.
Maxwell’s attorneys countered that Clinton testimony was not relevant and that Giuffre’s attorneys didn’t diligently try to subpoena him to testify.
The records included the depositions of several of Epstein’s victims, many of whom have told their stories publicly previously.
Besides the mention of Michael Jackson, Sjoberg’s May 2016 deposition also shed new light on an April 2001 trip to New York in which she said Prince Andrew touched her breast while they posed for a photo at Epstein’s Manhattan town house.
In the testimony, some of which appeared as excerpts in previous court filings, Sjoberg said she and Giuffre had flown with Epstein to New York on his private jet. Maxwell and Prince Andrew met them there, she said.
At one point, she testified, Maxwell called her to an upstairs closet where they pulled out a puppet of Prince Andrew that had been made for a BBC program.
“It looked like him,” Sjoberg said. “And she brought it down and presented it to him; and that was a great joke, because apparently it was a production from a show on BBC.”
“And they decided to take a picture with it, in which Virginia and Andrew sat on a couch. They put the puppet on Virginia’s lap, and I sat on Andrew’s lap, and they put the puppet’s hand on Virginia’s breast, and Andrew put his hand on my breast, and they took a photo.”
On the way to New York, Sjoberg testified, Epstein’s jet diverted to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and spent a few hours at one of Donald Trump’s casinos, because of bad weather.
Upon hearing the change of plans, Sjoberg recalled Epstein saying, “Great, we’ll call up Trump and we’ll go to” the casino. Sjoberg wasn’t asked if they’d met up with Trump that night. Later in her testimony, she said she was never asked to give Trump a massage.
Sjoberg also testified that though she never met Clinton, Epstein once remarked to her that “Clinton likes them young,” a remark she took as a reference to young women or girls.
In her deposition, 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.
She settled a lawsuit against Prince Andrew in 2022 in which she claimed he had sexually abused her during a trip to London. That same year, Giuffre withdrew an accusation she had made against Epstein’s former attorney, law professor Alan Dershowitz, saying she “ may have made a mistake ” in identifying him as an abuser.
The records released Wednesday included many references to 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.
Clinton’s name also came up because Guiffre was questioned by Maxwell’s lawyers about inaccuracies in newspaper reports about her time with Epstein, including a story quoting her as saying she had ridden in a helicopter with Clinton and flirted with Trump. Giuffre said neither of those things actually happened.
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.
Even before the documents were released, misinformation about what was in them abounded. Social media users wrongly claimed that late-night host Jimmy Kimmel’s name might appear in the documents, spurred by a crack 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.”
“Keep it up and we will debate the facts further in court,” Kimmel wrote.