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, Ghislaine Maxwell doesn’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 recalls women hanging around Epstein’s pool topless, but it was not that common and they didn’t appear underage.

No, despite claims to the contrary, she didn’t participate in orgies with Epstein and young girls, including a specific allegation that involved the participation of 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 Jeffrey Epstein. It shows how deeply intertwined she was in what authorities labeled the sex trafficking of minors.

Maxwell gave the deposition in a defamation lawsuit settled in 2017 brought against her by Epstein accuser Giuffre. Much of the document 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 documents 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 the deposition became public, It showed the degree to which Maxwell was obstructive in her sworn testimony about her relationship with Epstein and 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.

As Virginia Giuffre’s lawyers continued to press Maxwell on whether she had ever observed underage girls in Epstein’s home, Maxwell continued to deny any knowledge, in spite of being presented with police reports documenting Epstein’s alleged abuse of girls.

“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.

The transcript also calls into question Maxwell’s assertion that she had little to do with Epstein after his release from a Florida jail in 2009 and is 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 shocking 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 that she began working for Epstein in 1992, according to the deposition.

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 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 Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse between 1994 and 1997. Maxwell is alleged to have partaken in the abuse with 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.

The newly released transcript depicts Maxwell as an obstructionist, making lawyers repeat a question four or five times on questions such as whether calling a victim a liar can be psychologically harmful.

Frustrated by Maxwell’s non-answers, lawyers then turned to the allegation by several women who said they were brought in as minors to give massages to Epstein at his Palm Beach home. Many said there were sex toys present that Epstein unexpectedly used on them as he forced himself on them.

Maxwell responded by asking for a definition of a sex toy.

“No. I need you to define a sex toy, I don’t have enough knowledge of sex toys,” she responded.

WHAT WAS COMING

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 England’s 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 forced 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 Second 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 persons who provided testimony in the civil suit this week were given another 14 days to convince 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