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The backstory: In 2006, Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy individual known for his associations with billionaires, celebrities and politicians, faced charges in Florida for engaging in illegal sexual activities with a 14-year-old girl. In 2008, he pleaded guilty, and the outcome was a controversial plea deal and a 13-month jail term, mostly on a work-release program. Then in 2019, Epstein faced new federal charges for sexually trafficking minors, but he died in jail before the trial. The cause of death was officially ruled a suicide.
Virginia Giuffre is a key player in the legal fight against Epstein and his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell for alleged sexual misconduct. She said she was trafficked and forced into sexual activities, including with the UK’s Prince Andrew, when she was underage. In 2021, she sued Prince Andrew, accusing him of sexual assault and battery. He denied the allegations but then in February 2022 reached a settlement agreement with Giuffre for an undisclosed sum.
After Epstein's death, the focus moved to Ghislaine Maxwell. Last year, she got a 20-year prison term for recruiting underage girls for Epstein in the trafficking scheme.
More recently: A judge recently ordered the release of documents containing the names of around 180 people linked to the case. The judge set the release date for January 1, giving people listed time to object if they didn’t want their names to become public. Some names, including some underage victims, would remain redacted. But others, especially people who had done interviews with the media, would be made public.
The development: From the beginning of this new year, documents related to the case have been coming out in waves. One 1,300-page file mentions almost 200 individuals, including Epstein's accusers, well-known figures and politicians.
For example, Juan Alessi, a former Epstein employee, gave testimony on his experiences, talking about encounters with people like Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Other notable names were mentioned, though not directly accused of wrongdoing, like former US Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. More names like Prince Andrew, Michael Jackson, Stephen Hawking and David Copperfield are also mentioned in the documents.
While some names are not disclosed, it's important to note that many of the names listed haven’t necessarily been accused of Epstein-related crimes. But this information puts Epstein's connections back in the spotlight, prompting a fresh look at his associates and their activities.
“The public interest must still be served in learning more about the scale and scope of Epstein’s racket to further the important goal of shutting down sex trafficking wherever it exists and holding more to account,” said Virginia Giuffre’s attorney, Sigrid McCawley last week. “The unsealing of these documents gets us closer to that goal.”
"I've known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy," said Donald Trump in a 2002 interview with New York magazine, adding: "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life."
"There were no girls on the island. No girls, no women, other than the staff who work at the house. Girls meaning - I assume you are asking underage - but there was nobody female outside of the cooks and the cleaners,” said Ghislaine Maxwell in her deposition.