Ghislaine Maxwell's Lawyers Fighting to Keep 'Sexualized' Photos & Video Sealed
Demand incriminating imagery of Epstein's 'madam' be marked 'highly confidential'
Lawyers defending Jeffrey Epstein's alleged accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, in her coming child sex trafficking trial, are demanding that "sexualized" photos and videos from the case are kept sealed and marked as "highly confidential."
Maxwell's attorneys have asked a federal judge to block evidence related to her case from being shared on the internet.
The legal team for the British socialite, believed to have been Epstein’s "madam," demanded in a letter that the court prevents victims or their attorneys from sharing information linked to Maxwell’s trial on the internet.
The information includes “nude, partially nude, or otherwise sexualized images, videos, or other depictions of individuals,” Fox News reported.
The request revolves around the secrecy rules usually involved in sex abuse cases in which both sides will agree to keep the evidence under wraps until the trial.
Several of the state’s witnesses were underage girls when the alleged abuse occurred, Fox News reported, and the attorneys could not come to a compromise on whether the state witnesses should be subject to the secrecy rules as well.
Prosecutors and Maxwell's lawyers are currently hammering out an agreement on how sensitive documents in the high-profile case should be handled before they hand over to each other the evidence they plan to use at trial, according to reports.
The reference to videos appears in a proposed version of the agreement lodged by Maxwell's lawyers.
The proposed order says any "Highly Confidential Information" either side plans to use in the case remains sealed and can only be viewed behind closed doors with lawyers present.
The wording of the legal filing raises the prospect that the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York could be sitting on explicit photos and videos for their explosive case against Maxwell, the alleged madam to late billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell has always denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of sex crimes and is pleading not guilty in her criminal case.
As well as hinting at video evidence, the documents filed on Monday in Maxwell's criminal case sparked a legal spat, with prosecutors claiming Maxwell ambushed them by asking for a gag order on witnesses in her criminal trial.
Maxwell's lawyers filed an affidavit in her child sex trafficking case, asking New York federal judge Alison Nathan to prevent prosecution witnesses from publishing information about the case online.
Prosecutors scrambled to file a letter to the judge in response, claiming that they had been negotiating with the alleged madam's legal team "as recently as 6 p.m. last night" and were surprised by the gagging request.
The British socialite's attorney, Christian Everdell, wrote to Judge Nathan asking her to keep discovery materials from being published.
"The defense believes that potential government witnesses and their counsel should be subject to the same restrictions as the defense concerning appropriate use of the discovery materials – namely, if these individuals are given access to discovery materials during trial preparation, they may not use those materials for any purpose other than preparing for trial in the criminal case, and may not post those materials on the Internet," the affidavit said.
Everdell also asked for permission to identify witnesses and Maxwell's alleged victims who have already come forward in the case.
"The defense believes it should not be restricted from publicly disclosing or disseminating the identity of any alleged victims or potential witnesses referenced in the discovery materials who have already identified themselves by speaking on the public record," the lawyer wrote.
The affidavit said Maxwell's legal team had been negotiating with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Moe, Alex Rossmiller, and Maurene Comey.
Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, shot back in a one-paragraph letter to the judge, asking for a day to respond to Maxwell's gagging request and saying that the two sides had been working through the weekend towards an agreement, before the surprise filing by the defense.
"The Government and defense counsel were in discussions – as recently as 6 p.m. last night – in the hopes of jointly proposing a protective order," Strauss' letter said.
"Until seeing the filing on ECF this morning, the Government had understood those discussions to be ongoing.
"In light of the defense's letter, however, the Government respectfully requests until 5 p.m. tomorrow to submit a response."
Judge Nathan had already slapped down a request from Maxwell's lawyers to bar prosecutors from speaking to the media about the case.
In a ruling on Thursday, the judge denied the ask for an order "prohibiting the Government, its agents and counsel for witnesses from making extrajudicial statements concerning this case," saying that forcing prosecutors to stay silent was not necessary "to protect the Defendant's right to a fair trial by an impartial jury."
But the court told the attorneys to tread carefully in interviews, writing it "warns counsel and agents for the parties and counsel for potential witnesses that going forward it will not hesitate to take appropriate action in the face of violations of any relevant rules."