NEW YORK (AP) — The judge presiding over the criminal case against a British socialite charged with recruiting teenage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse said Friday that her attorneys are not permitted to publicly identify accusers even if they’ve spoken in a public forum.
“Not all accusations or public statements are equal,” U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan wrote in her ruling in the case facing Ghislaine Maxwell.
“Deciding to participate in or contribute to a criminal investigation or prosecution is a far different matter than simply making a public statement ‘relating to’ Ms. Maxwell or Jeffrey Epstein, particularly since such a statement might have occurred decades ago and have no relevance to the charges in this case.”
She said the women “still maintain a significant privacy interest that must be safeguarded.”
Prosecutors had asked Nathan to block Maxwell’s lawyers from publicly identifying the women unless they identified themselves as participants in the criminal case. Otherwise, prosecutors said, the women may be harassed or intimidated and become reluctant to cooperate with the government.
Nathan’s order came hours after newly unsealed court documents provided a fresh glimpse into a fierce civil court fight between Maxwell, who was Epstein’s former girlfriend, and one of the women who accused the couple of sexual abuse.
The documents released late Thursday were from a now-settled defamation lawsuit filed by one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
Giuffre claimed in the suit and other litigation that Maxwell recruited her in 2000 to be a sexual servant to Epstein. She said the couple subsequently pressured her into having sex with numerous rich or notable men, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, U.S. politicians, wealthy entrepreneurs, a famous scientist and fashion designer.