(AP) — Amid great hype, a court began to release a new batch of previously secret court documents late Wednesday related to Jeffrey Epstein, the jet-setting financier who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Social media has been rife in recent weeks with posts speculating that the documents would include a list of rich and powerful men who were Epstein’s “clients” or “co-conspirators.”
There was no such list. The initial collection of around 40 documents made public largely contained material that had been released previously, or exhaustively been covered in nearly two decades’ worth of newspaper stories, TV documentaries, interviews, books about the Epstein scandal.
Still, the records — which included transcripts of interviews with some of Epstein’s victims — included reminders that Epstein surrounded himself with famous and powerful figures, including a few who have also been accused of misconduct.
They included mentions of Epstein’s past friendship with Bill Clinton — who is not accused of any wrongdoing — and of Britain’s Prince Andrew, who previously settled a lawsuit accusing him of having sex with a 17-year-old girl who traveled with Epstein.
The documents being unsealed are related to a lawsuit filed in 2015 by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre. She is one of the dozens of women who sued Epstein saying he had abused them at his homes in Florida, New York, the US Virgin Islands and New Mexico. This particular suit was against Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted in 2021 of helping recruit Epstein’s victims and is serving a 20-year prison term.
Epstein, a millionaire known for associating with celebrities, politicians, billionaires and academic stars, killed himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial on a sex trafficking charge.
Giuffre’s lawsuit against Maxwell was settled in 2017, but the court had kept some court documents blacked-out or sealed because of concerns about the privacy rights of Epstein’s victims and other people whose names had come up during the legal battle.
Only around 40 of those documents were made public Wednesday. More will be released in the coming days.
The records included the depositions of several of Epstein’s victims, many of whom have told their stories publicly previously.
Giuffre said the summer she turned 17, she was lured away from a job as a spa attendant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club to become a “masseuse” for Epstein — a job that involved performing sexual acts.
She settled a lawsuit against Prince Andrew in 2022 in which she claimed he had sexually abused her during a trip to London. That same year, Giuffre withdrew an accusation she had made against Epstein’s former attorney, the law professor Alan Dershowitz, saying she “may have made a mistake” in identifying him as an abuser.
The records released Wednesday included many references to Jean-Luc Brunel, a French modeling agent close to Epstein who was awaiting trial on charges that he raped underage girls when he killed himself in a Paris jail in 2022. Giuffre was among the women who had accused Brunel of sexual abuse.
Clinton’s name came up because Guiffre was questioned by Maxwell’s lawyers about inaccuracies in newspaper stories about her time with Epstein, including a story quoting her as saying she had ridden in a helicopter with Clinton and flirted with Donald Trump. Giuffre said neither of those things actually happened.
The judge said a handful of names should remain blacked out in the documents because they would identify people who were sexually abused. The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they decide to tell their stories publicly, as Giuffre has done.
Even before the documents were released, misinformation about what was in them abounded. Social media users wrongly claimed that late-night host Jimmy Kimmel’s name might appear in the documents, spurred by a crack New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers made Tuesday on ESPN’s “The Pat McAfee Show.”
Kimmel said in a response on X that he had never met Epstein and that Rodgers’ “reckless words put my family in danger.”
“Keep it up and we will debate the facts further in court,” Kimmel wrote.
The judge hasn’t set a target for when all of the documents should be made public, but more documents are expected to come in the next few days.