Ghislaine Maxwell testimony: 465 pages of fury, denials, glimpses into Jeffrey Epstein's life

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Ghislaine Maxwell attends the ETM Children's Benefit Gala in New York on May 6, 2014. - Rob Kim/Getty Images North America/TNS

No, said Ghislaine Maxwell, she didn’t remember where she met Virginia Roberts Giuffre, the woman who says she was recruited from a job at Mar-a-Lago as a teenager to become a Jeffrey Epstein masseuse and eventually a “sex slave.”

Yes, she recalled women hanging around Epstein’s pool topless, but it was not that common and they didn’t appear underage, she swore.

No, despite claims to the contrary, she said she didn’t participate in orgies with Epstein and young girls, including a specific allegation that involved a 13-year-old.

The back and forth comes from a 465-transcript released early Thursday of a deposition from 2016 given by Maxwell, the former partner and alleged recruiter for Epstein, who was arrested this past summer on sex-related charges. It shows how deeply intertwined she was in what authorities labeled the sexual trafficking of minors.

Maxwell gave the deposition in a defamation lawsuit settled in 2017 brought against her by Epstein accuser Giuffre. Much of the court record remained hidden from public view until the Miami Herald first sued in April 2018 for dozens of documents in the case to be unsealed.

An earlier batch of filings was released last summer. While Giuffre supported release of the transcript in July, Maxwell’s lawyers had put up obstacle after obstacle to block its release.

That ended Thursday, after days of wrangling over redactions, when the transcript of Maxwell’s deposition became public. Two more depositions from unnamed people referred to as Doe 1 and Doe 2 are expected to be released within the next month.

The testimony released Thursday showed the degree to which Maxwell was obstructive in her sworn testimony about her relationship with Epstein, although the detailed questioning by Giuffre’s lawyers outlined her intimate knowledge of his empire.

When asked if she had ever seen a girl under the age of 18 in Epstein’s home who wasn’t the child of a friend, Maxwell denied any knowledge.

“Again, I can’t testify to that because I have no idea what you are talking about,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell later claimed that she wasn’t aware of all that happened in Epstein’s home, even when she was there.

“I had an office with a door so the door would be shut and I would be working. I’m not responsible for what Jeffrey does and I don’t always pay attention to what happens in the house,” she said.

A second deposition Maxwell gave in July 2016, one that has not yet been unsealed, is more revelatory because Maxwell was forced to give answers, said David Boies, the prominent attorney representing Giuffre.

“What you see and what was released is only the beginning of revelations about the scope and scale of the Epstein/Maxwell trafficking ring. We are finally seeing how it operated, a bit of who was involved beyond what is publicly known,” Boies said. “This is only a small part of the evidence that was accumulated during our civil case.”

Time and time again in the April 2016 deposition, Maxwell avoided answering direct questions about her knowledge of Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse of girls. In fact, she uttered the phrase “I don’t recall” 66 times in the lengthy deposition and 42 times said “I don’t recollect.”

After showing her a copy of a police report with allegations from 30 girls that Epstein had sexually abused them, Giuffre’s lawyers asked Maxwell 20 times whether she believed Epstein “sexually abused minors” or “interacted sexually with minors.” Maxwell refused to give a direct answer, instead repeatedly maintaining that Giuffre’s accusations about her and Epstein had been lies.

The repeated questioning so rankled Maxwell’s lawyer, Jeffrey Pagliuca, that he at one point shouted, “Ask your next question. Don’t keep asking the same question.”

At a later point in the questioning, Maxwell herself was so frustrated by repeated questions about her knowledge of Epstein’s sexual abuse that she pounded a table in frustration.

Maxwell’s refusal to answer questions about Epstein’s alleged abuse includes her denial that she was aware of the stash of sex toys Epstein allegedly used on himself and victims during his abuse.

“No. I need you to define a sex toy, I don’t have enough knowledge of sex toys,” Maxwell responded to a question on the subject.

Many of the names of alleged victims, perpetrators and other third parties in the documents remain redacted. Those whose identities are obscured by the redactions are being given the opportunity to object to their names being released and the court will consider whether to release the names of those who have not objected at a later, unspecified time.

Despite that, the names of two girls who were allegedly abused by Epstein were included in the deposition.

Former President Bill Clinton’s name appeared four times in the transcript, but seemed referenced elsewhere in areas where names were redacted.

Maxwell denied she was on Epstein’s private island Little St. James with Clinton, but acknowledged that she flew with the former president on Epstein’s plane. She balked at the suggestion that Epstein and Clinton were friends.

“I wouldn’t be able to characterize it like that, no,” she said.

Giuffre has not accused Clinton of having sex with her or other girls allegedly abused by Epstein. He appears at least 27 times in flight logs for Epstein’s two aircraft.

Another of the documents unsealed Thursday appeared to suggest that Giuffre’s team had sought to depose Clinton himself. The deposition apparently did not happen. Maxwell’s team opposed the effort, saying it was part of a “calculated media strategy” by Giuffre and her lawyers.

President Donald Trump, who was friends with Epstein and said of Maxwell, “I just wish her well,” when asked about her after her arrest, doesn’t appear to be referenced in the deposition. However, Maxwell is asked about Trump’s Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago, where she reportedly met and recruited Giuffre, who was working as a spa attendant at the time. Maxwell said she wasn’t a member of Mar-a-Lago, but that she had visited. The Herald has previously reported that Epstein was a member of the club until he was kicked out for hitting on the teenage daughter of another member.

In some cases, the identity of the person whose name was redacted is obvious from the context.

For example, Maxwell appeared to be asked about Epstein’s relationship with billionaire former Victoria’s Secret owner Les Wexner, for whom Epstein served as a financial adviser and who was the source of a significant amount of Epstein’s wealth.

Maxwell said she didn’t know of any relationship between Epstein and Wexner beyond their business relationship and had no knowledge of the circumstances under which Epstein gained possession of Wexner’s Upper East Side mansion.

“I know nothing about that transaction,” Maxwell said.

Similarly, she appeared to be asked several times about Giuffre’s relationship with Prince Andrew, who Giuffre has said she was directed to have sex with. When asked about the infamous picture of Maxwell, Giuffre and Prince Andrew together, with the prince’s arm around Giuffre’s bare midriff, Maxwell denied knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the photo, which Giuffre said was taken by Epstein at Maxwell’s London home.

“I have no idea (where) this picture was taken. I know what she purports it to be but I’m not going to say that I do,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell also disputed Giuffre’s claim that the then-teen had sex with Prince Andrew at Maxwell’s home.

“What I’m representing is that her entire ludicrous and absurd story of what took place in my house is an obvious lie,” said Maxwell, who, despite her protestations settled the legal dispute with Giuffre in 2017.

The transcript also called into question Maxwell’s assertion that she had little to do with Epstein after his release from a Florida jail in 2009 and was in conflict with her later assertion that Epstein paid her legal bills at the time of the civil case.

That’s important because in the U.S. Virgin Islands Maxwell is suing the Epstein estate, valued at more than $600 million. She has argued the estate must cover her legal bills because she was an employee who had a verbal agreement with Epstein and that he kept his word about paying her legal bills until his death in August 2019 in a Manhattan jail.

In the deposition, she insisted he was not paying her legal bills. She also appeared to contradict what is now common knowledge: that Epstein did work for her father, Robert Maxwell, a high-profile publishing baron who died under mysterious circumstances in 1991. After his death at sea, apparently falling off his yacht called the Lady Ghislaine, it was discovered he had pilfered his company’s pension fund.

She and Epstein met the same year and she began working for Epstein in 1992, according to the deposition, and continued to work for him through 2009. They maintained occasional contact after that, according to the deposition, particularly on looming legal matters and Epstein contributed $50,000 to Maxwell’s environmental organization Terra Mar.

When asked if she was ever Epstein’s girlfriend, Maxwell replied that it was a “tricky question.”

“There were times when I would have liked to think of myself as his girlfriend,” she said.

Maxwell said Epstein paid her between $100,000 and $200,000 a year for her work for him and made her loans for various purchases, including a townhouse, and bought her a car. She said that at the time of the deposition she didn’t have any outstanding loans with Epstein. She also said she was “couch surfing” at the time, without a home in the United States.

She said that she interviewed employees of all sorts for Epstein’s operations across the globe, but when presented with the names of various Epstein companies, including one called the Ghislaine Maxwell company, she denied having any specific knowledge. Later, Maxwell, who had worked for Epstein for 17 years, said she didn’t know how he made money.

Under grilling, Maxwell acknowledged that not only did she have U.S. and British citizenship, but was also a citizen of France. That’s important since France does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

The lengthy deposition covered a lot of territory, including the longstanding rumors of Epstein’s ties to the CIA and Israeli intelligence.

“I have no knowledge of that,” Maxwell said in response to a question about any CIA or FBI ties.

In fact, FBI documents now public show that Epstein became an informant as part of his controversial plea deal in 2008. That relationship is the subject of a current federal public records lawsuit brought by Angela Clemente, a self-styled muckraker.

Maxwell said she maintained contact with Epstein after his 2008 guilty plea and that he paid her an unspecified amount in 2009 after his guilty plea.

“I’m a very loyal person and Jeffrey was very good to me when my father passed away and I believe that you need to be a good friend in people’s hour of need,” she said.

Lawyers for Giuffre used the deposition to show what they suggested was collusion by Epstein and Maxwell to get their stories straight as Giuffre’s allegations began to get global media attention. The one-time Epstein muse countered she just wanted to be accurate.

“I was not coordinating with Jeffrey. He had details that I did not have. I was not party to his case,” she insisted. “I needed to have information in order to be able to respond so I was not coordinating with him. I was merely asking for details that I could have.”

Maxwell was arrested this past July 2 at a 156-acre estate in New Hampshire and charged with four counts of sexual trafficking of a minor and two counts of perjury, related to statements she made in the April 2016 deposition.

The sexual trafficking charges covered her alleged recruiting and grooming of three girls for Epstein to sexually abuse between 1994 and 1997. Maxwell is alleged to have partaken in the abuse of one of the girls. An extraordinarily lenient deal with federal prosecutors in 2008, spotlighted in the Herald’s “Perversion of Justice” series in November 2018, allowed Epstein to escape similar charges.

“Maxwell’s presence as an adult woman helped put the victims at ease as Maxwell and Epstein intended,” said Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, in announcing the charges against Maxwell in July.

Several of Maxwell’s statements in the transcript were the basis for the perjury charges in the criminal charges, including that she was not aware of Epstein’s scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages, had not interacted with any girls under the age of 18 at Epstein’s properties aside from Giuffre, had no knowledge of Epstein’s sex toys or of his sexual partners aside from herself and two other women with whom she and Epstein had sex together.

A first batch of documents in the Giuffre-Epstein lawsuit was unsealed on Aug. 9, 2019, a month after Epstein was arrested on new federal charges of sex crimes, and a day before his death by suicide.

The unsealed documents in 2019 detailed Maxwell’s alleged role in finding girls to satisfy Epstein’s insatiable sexual appetite. It also alleged that Giuffre, who was about 17 when Maxwell allegedly recruited her to have sex with Epstein, had been directed to have relations with a host of Maxwell and Epstein’s prominent friends. These included former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, French modeling scout Jean-Luc Brunel, American hotel magnate Tom Pritzker and New York hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin.

Giuffre had previously said that she had also been directed to have sex with Prince Andrew, which appears to be the subject in a section of the transcript in which there is discussion about alleged events in the bathtub of Maxwell’s home in London.

The Epstein accuser also said she was told to have sex with prominent American attorney Alan Dershowitz. All the men have denied Giuffre’s claims, and Giuffre and Dershowitz have sued each other for defamation.

After Epstein was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Maxwell largely disappeared from public view. She was photographed at a Los Angeles In-N-Out Burger restaurant, an unusual locale for a British socialite, weeks after Epstein’s death. Otherwise her whereabouts were largely unknown.

The New Hampshire house where Maxwell was arrested was purchased through a shell company in December 2019 and Maxwell kept her name off of the purchasing documents, according to someone familiar with the details of the sale. She toured the house under a pseudonym.

It all added weight to an argument by lawyers for the Herald that Maxwell’s April 2016 deposition was a judicial document in a settled case and that there was a public interest in releasing it. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ruled in July 2020 in favor of the Herald, ordering that the deposition and several related documents in the Giuffre-Maxwell lawsuit be made public.

Maxwell appealed that and on Monday the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled against her. That set in motion another round of court filings where Maxwell’s attorneys sought further delay and argued for blacking out more names and descriptions. Two unidentified people who provided testimony in the civil suit this week were given another 14 days to persuade Preska to redact their names and some information.

The deposition also factors into Maxwell’s ongoing criminal case, scheduled for a July trial. Her lawyers have argued that the deposition had been released illegally to federal prosecutors, a charge the prosecutors dispute. The deposition release, her lawyers said, would jeopardize chances of a fair trial in the criminal case.

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©2020 Miami Herald

In this file photo, Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, announces charges against Ghislaine Maxwell during a July 2, 2020, press conference in New York City. - JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS