Life at the Epstein estate: Maxwell kept photos of topless girls, aide testified

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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

Ghislaine Maxwell regularly took topless photos of girls who visited Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach, Florida, mansion and kept an album of the photos on her desk in Epstein’s home.

That’s according to excerpts from a June 1, 2016, deposition of Juan Alessi, the former maintenance man and house manager of Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion, unsealed Friday from a 2015 defamation lawsuit brought against Maxwell by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who has said that she was manipulated and sexually abused by Epstein and that Maxwell and that Epstein directed her to have sex with a number of their prominent friends.

Alessi described Maxwell as being very “avid” about photographs.

Alessi added that he would occasionally be asked by Epstein to pick up some of the dozens of girls who came to the house under the guise of providing massages but who were allegedly, in many cases, sexually assaulted by Epstein.

Alessi’s full June 2016 deposition is set to be released in a future batch of unsealed documents, but it’s unclear when that will be as Maxwell’s team has continued to object to their release.

The deposition excerpts were among a tranche of documents from the 2015 lawsuit ordered unsealed in late July, following a records-release lawsuit brought by the Miami Herald, which argued that since the civil matter was settled in 2017 much of it should be public records. The lawsuit followed the Herald’s Perversion of Justice series in November 2018, which brought renewed attention to Epstein and Maxwell.

The July unsealing decision by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska came weeks after Maxwell was arrested on July 2 on a 156-acre estate in New Hampshire and charged with four counts of sexual trafficking of a minor and two counts of perjury.

The first batch of documents was released in late July, including a 2015 email exchange between Epstein and Maxwell in which Epstein advised Maxwell, “You have done nothing wrong and I would urge you to start acting like it.”

But Maxwell fought to block the release of a transcript from her April 2016 deposition and the two excerpts released Friday, arguing that release of the transcripts would jeopardize her chance of a fair criminal trial. She ultimately lost an appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which ruled that Maxwell’s arguments were without merit.

When Maxwell’s deposition transcript was finally released in late October it showed Maxwell’s refusal to give direct answers to her knowledge of Epstein’s abuse of girls. At one point, lawyers representing Giuffre asked Maxwell 20 times consecutively whether she believed Epstein “sexually abused minors” or “interacted sexually with minors.” Maxwell refused to give a direct answer, instead repeating that Giuffre was a liar. Maxwell’s lawyer became so bothered by the repeated questions that he struck the table in frustration.

Maxwell was asked numerous times in the deposition about some of her and Epstein’s prominent friends, including former President Bill Clinton and British royal Prince Andrew.

Because Maxwell was so obstructive, lawyers for Giuffre convinced a judge to order Epstein’s longtime friend and alleged sex trafficking accomplice to sit for another deposition in July 2016, where she was compelled to answer questions.

Giuffre, who said she was recruited by Maxwell in 2000 at President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago club, where Giuffre was working as a spa attendant at the time, has said that she was directed to have sex with numerous powerful men by Maxwell and Epstein, including Prince Andrew, former Sen. George Mitchell, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, prominent attorney Alan Dershowitz and hotel magnate Tom Pritzker, among others. All the men have denied her claims and Dershowitz and Giuffre have sued each other for defamation.

Maxwell was asked at length about Prince Andrew in the April 2016 deposition, including Giuffre’s claims that she had sex with him at Maxwell’s London home in 2001. Maxwell disputed Giuffre’s assertions and questioned the authenticity of a widely seen photo of Giuffre, Maxwell and Prince Andrew reportedly taken in Maxwell’s London home during the visit.

The two perjury charges Maxwell faces stem from statements she made in the April 2016 deposition and in a later July 2016 deposition, and Maxwell has argued that federal prosecutors obtained the transcripts improperly. She suggested at one point, with no proof, that Giuffre’s lawyers had shared the transcripts with federal prosecutors in violation of a protective order that blocked their release. Federal prosecutors later clarified that they had obtained the transcripts after asking two separate courts for access, one of which complied.

The Epstein saga is getting another round of scrutiny following last week’s release of a 350-page report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). It looked into the original deal made with Epstein in 2008 that allowed him to escape federal prosecution.

An executive summary was made public, clearing then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta of any impropriety but said he exercised poor judgment in opting for a non-prosecution agreement that allowed the state of Florida to sentence Epstein on lesser crimes to a short sentence that let him out almost daily to “work” at an office next to that of one of his lawyers. Acosta, who became dean of the Florida International University law school and then labor secretary in the Trump administration after his stint as U.S attorney for Southern Florida, resigning shortly after Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on new federal sex charges.

McClatchy and the Miami Herald obtained the full Justice Department OPR report and it paints a much more nuanced picture in which a line prosecutor in West Palm Beach — Ann Marie Villafaña — was thwarted in her efforts to have Epstein arrested by federal agents and indicted by the U.S. attorney’s office.

After the publication of Perversion of Justice, Epstein was arrested at the best of the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, where Epstein maintained one of his several homes. He was found dead in his cell while awaiting trial, hanging from the neck in what was termed a suicide.

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