Why are the secret Epstein documents being released now?

Hundreds more pages of courtroom documents from the lawsuit between Virginia Giuffre and Ghislaine Maxwell are yet to come, bringing with them potentially damaging claims

Rachel Sharp
Saturday 06 January 2024 12:20 GMT
Which big names are on the Jeffrey Epstein list?

Thousands of pages of court documents are being publicly released for the first time, revealing the names of individuals who associated with the late sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, magician David Copperfield and several Hollywood celebrities have all found themselves on the so-called “Epstein list”.

Their names in the filings don’t indicate any wrongdoing or any involvement in Epstein’s crimes.

In fact, some of them have no known connection or association whatsoever to the man who for years ran a horrific sex-trafficking ring, but are merely in the documents as part of questions put to victims as to whether they ever met several famous faces.

That said, some new revelations and details about Epstein’s campaign of sexual abuse – and allegations against some of his circle – are detailed in the unsealed documents.

To date, two batches of documents have been released.

In the first, unsealed on Wednesday, previously known allegations resurfaced against Prince Andrew.

Epstein victim Johanna Sjoberg claimed in a deposition that “Andrew put his hand on my breast”. The duke and Buckingham Palace have previously strongly denied all allegations by Epstein victims.

Ms Sjoberg also testified that Epstein once told her that Mr Clinton “likes them young, referring to girls”.

Undated photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell (VIA REUTERS)

However, Ms Sjoberg testified that she never met Mr Clinton, never saw him on Epstein’s Caribbean island and never saw him being flown in a helicopter by Maxwell. There is no indication that the former president is involved in any wrongdoing and is not accused of any crime.

His spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday that it has now “been nearly 20 years since President Clinton last had contact with Epstein” and denied that the former president ever had any knowledge of Epstein’s crimes.

In the second trove of documents, Mr Clinton’s name resurfaced once again – with Ms Giuffre once claiming in an email that the former president had threatened Vanity Fair not to publish a story about Epstein.

Masses more documents are yet to come over the coming days and weeks, bringing with them potentially damaging claims.

But why are they being released now?

These thousands of pages of documents aren’t new.

They are part of a defamation lawsuit brought against Ghislaine Maxwell back in 2015 by Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre.

Ms Giuffre filed the suit after Maxwell accused her of lying about the years-long abuse she had suffered at the hands of Epstein and some in his inner circle.

The case went through the courts for two years – and dozens of individuals sat for depositions and gave testimony on both sides – before the suit was settled in 2017.

At the time, a judge placed the filings under a protective seal – with the identities of those named in the filings kept under lock and key.

But, The Miami Herald – whose investigative reporting first exposed Epstein’s crimes – sued for the release of all of the sealed documents.

Around 2,000 pages of documents were first unsealed in 2019, with further documents released over the following years.

But, this current trove of documents remained sealed – and the names of hundreds of people associated with the dead paedophile were kept secret, known only as Jane and John Does.

Maxwell’s legal team sought to block it for years – before finally giving up the fight in 2022.

Virginia Giuffre with Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell at Epstein’s townhouse (US District Court - Southern Dis)

Then, in a landmark ruling in December, US District Judge Loretta Preska ruled that the trove of documents could be released and the names unsealed in full, saying that there was no legal justification to keep the names of Epstein’s associates redacted as “John and Jane Does”.

She also argued that much of the information is already available publicly, having been revealed through other lawsuits, criminal cases or media reports.

The judge’s ruling thereby paved the way for the release of the documents – and the names and ties of those linked to the notorious disgraced financier unmasked.

Individuals named in the documents were given 14 days to appeal, before the documents were to be unsealed in full from 1 January.

Two individuals asked for their names to remain under seal.

The first, known only as Doe 107, claimed that she lives in a conservative country and could be at risk of physical harm if her name is revealed. The judge granted her an extension until 22 January to provide evidence for this.

The request from the second individual, Doe 110, is still under review.

The federal judge has also ordered the names of several Epstein victims to remain anonymous.

But, beyond this, all documents were ordered to be released. All redacted names unredacted. And all revelations made public.

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