NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ghislaine Maxwell forcefully rejected suggestions she had seen the late financier Jeffrey Epstein have sex with underage girls or helped him arrange illicit sexual encounters, in a 2016 deposition made public on Thursday.
The British socialite at times appeared insistent and frequently evasive as she responded under oath over 9-1/2 hours to questions from lawyers for Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre in April 2016, as part of a now-settled civil defamation lawsuit against her.
“I can only testify to what I know and the fact (Giuffre) has lied about me from the beginning to the end,” Maxwell said.
The 58-year-old Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges she helped Epstein recruit and groom underage girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sexual acts in the mid-1990s, and lied for having denied involvement under oath.
Maxwell’s 418-page deposition left unresolved who else she might have known was involved in Epstein’s orbit. Nearly all names other than hers and Epstein’s were blacked out.
But her lawyers had fought hard to keep the deposition under wraps, saying the release could violate her right against self-incrimination, and that bad publicity could make it hard to find an impartial jury in her criminal case.
Maxwell’s lawyers have argued the “intimate” and “personal” questions she was asked could suggest Giuffre’s lawyers believed they had a factual basis to ask them, even if the suggested misconduct never happened.
At one point, Maxwell called Giuffre an “absolute and total liar” when asked if she and Epstein had three-way sex.
But a federal appeals court on Monday said the public’s right to see the deposition and other materials also released on Thursday outweighed Maxwell’s concerns.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska later directed that the materials be unsealed, which Giuffre and the Miami Herald newspaper had sought.
Maxwell’s father was British media mogul Robert Maxwell. Her trial is scheduled for July 2021.
“The unsealing of this transcript has resulted in the public dissemination of salacious questions and answers that can linger in the minds of potential jurors,” said Brian McMonagle, a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia who is not involved in the case.
Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for Giuffre, in a statement called the unsealing “a long time coming and a welcome step towards revealing the evidence of the scope and scale of the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking ring.”
Lawyers for Maxwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Epstein once counted U.S. President Donald Trump, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew as friends. They have not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
Giuffre, 37, has said Epstein kept her as a “sex slave” with Maxwell’s assistance, and told BBC’s “Panorama” that Epstein brought her to London in 2001 to meet the prince, one of three occasions when she claimed to have had sex with Andrew.
Andrew has denied the allegations.
Maxwell acknowledged in the deposition having maintained contact with Epstein even after his 2008 guilty plea to Florida state prosecution charges, landing him a 13-month jail sentence.
“I’m a very loyal person and Jeffrey was very good to me when my father passed away,” she said.
Maxwell said much of her work for Epstein before then involved hiring architects, cooks, decorators, gardeners, pool cleaners and others to help him maintain six homes.
Epstein’s properties included a townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a home in Palm Beach, Florida, and two entire islands within the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“[A] very small part of my job was from time to time to find adult professional massage therapists for Jeffrey,” Maxwell said.
“I never saw any inappropriate underage activities with Jeffrey ever,” she added.
Maxwell appeared evasive when a lawyer for Giuffre pressed whether she hired Giuffre to give Epstein an erotic massage, saying Giuffre “held herself out as a masseuse and invited herself to come and give a massage.”
She also denied having an array of “schoolgirl” or “black patent leather” outfits for Epstein’s masseuses to wear, and said she did not recall a laundry basket of sex toys being kept in the Palm Beach home.
Maxwell also testified that she flew on Epstein’s planes with Clinton, but wouldn’t characterize the men as friends or acquaintances.
“One of [the] lies she told was that President Clinton was on [Epstein’s] island where I was present,” Maxwell testified. “Absolutely 1000% that is a flat out total fabrication and lie.”
Maxwell was arrested on July 2 in Bradford, New Hampshire, where authorities said she was hiding on a property she bought in December while shielding her identity.
She is locked up in a Brooklyn jail after the judge in her criminal case called her an unacceptable flight risk.
Epstein killed himself at age 66 in August 2019 at a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges announced the previous month.
He had entered a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in 2007, before pleading guilty to the Florida state charges. That arrangement is now widely considered to have been too lenient.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; additional reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Mark Hosenball and Jan Wolfe in Washington, D.C., and Brendan Pierson in New York; Writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis
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