Court orders release of sealed Epstein-related documents

July 9, 2019

Just a few months after the death of the judge who sealed court documents in a lawsuit involving victims of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of almost 2,000 pages of potentially explosive records. 

Once publicized, details in the court documents could possibly implicate or exonerate other high profile figures with ties to Epstein, from former President Bill Clinton to Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz. This comes as Epstein now faces fresh charges for sex trafficking.

Epstein victims sue in civil court

Judge Robert Sweet died in March at age 96, according to the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Despite his advanced age, Sweet had continued to administer cases over the last few months of his life. Sweet was the presiding judge in a lawsuit that stemmed from the criminal case where Epstein was charged with two prostitution-related offenses in the state of Florida. Epstein was accused of procuring dozens of underage girls for nude massages and sex acts, but reached a plea deal with prosecutors in 2008 and served only a 13-month sentence.

Some of Epstein’s victims sought justice in civil court, however, agreeing to waive their rights to sue the financier in order to pursue lawsuits against individuals who aided him in his crimes. One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, sued Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell, who was accused of helping procure many of the girls that were made to perform sex acts on older men.

A settlement was reached with Maxwell just before the case went to trial in 2017, although not before Judge Sweet sealed much of the most compelling evidence presented by both sides in the case.

Unseal the records

Several parties then came forward demanding the unsealing of court documents. Dershowitz, who previously represented Epstein, said he wanted to publicize evidence that he says will prove him innocent of accusations from Giuffre and another victim that they had sex with him on Epstein’s orders.

Author and social media personality Mike Cernovich said he wanted to “expose pedophilia among American elites,” according to Politico. The Miami Herald, meanwhile, sought information from the case as part of a year-long investigation into Epstein’s crimes.

Maxwell opposed the publication of court records, and two anonymous individuals submitted pleas to the appeals court asking for information about third parties named in the case to remain under seal.

The wheels are turning

Earlier this month, a panel of judges from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Judge Sweet applied undue secrecy to the case when he decided to seal much of the evidence presented.

Last week, the court ruled to unseal much of the trove of documents — along with a warning to the media about privacy: “We have long noted that the press plays a vital role in ensuring the public right of access. … At the same time, the media does the public a profound disservice when it reports on parties’ allegations uncritically,” the court wrote.

On Tuesday, a Manhattan federal judge set a hearing for Thursday afternoon to determine how to release the documents.

“Very powerful people” are “sweating”

Miami Herald correspondent Julie K. Brown recently told MSNBC that some “very powerful people” are “sweating a little bit” following a fresh round of indictments aimed at Epstein.

Fox News produced an investigative report in 2016 alleging that former President Clinton took as many as 26 flights aboard Epstein’s private aircraft during the early 2000s, according to flight logs. But a spokesperson for the former president released a statement recently claiming that he “knows nothing” about the “terrible crimes,” and insisting that he only took “a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane” in 2002 and 2003.

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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.