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New round of Epstein documents detail cesspool of sexual abuse

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  • ELIZABETH WILLIAMS VIA AP
                                In this courtroom artist’s sketch, Jeffrey Epstein listens during a bail hearing in federal court in New York on July 15, 2019. A new batch of unsealed documents pertaining to Epstein’s sexual abuse of teenage girls was released Thursday, Jan. 4, adding hundreds of pages to a trove of information detailing how the financier leveraged connections to the rich, powerful and famous to recruit his victims and cover up his crimes.

    ELIZABETH WILLIAMS VIA AP

    In this courtroom artist’s sketch, Jeffrey Epstein listens during a bail hearing in federal court in New York on July 15, 2019. A new batch of unsealed documents pertaining to Epstein’s sexual abuse of teenage girls was released Thursday, Jan. 4, adding hundreds of pages to a trove of information detailing how the financier leveraged connections to the rich, powerful and famous to recruit his victims and cover up his crimes.

NEW YORK >> More than 130 additional court files were unsealed Friday in a lawsuit involving Jeffrey Epstein, providing yet more detail about the late millionaire financier’s sexual abuse of underage girls and interactions with celebrities.

The latest round of documents included excerpts of testimony from people who worked for Epstein, copies of phone messages he received — including one from Harvey Weinstein — and lots of legal memos from lawyers discussing who could potentially have been called as a witness if the lawsuit ever went to trial.

No blockbuster revelations were apparent. Lots of the records covered material that has been the subject of many past news stories about Epstein and his victims. But like other documents previously made public in lawsuits related to Epstein, they provide a window into the rarified world he inhabited.

The records are all related to a defamation lawsuit that one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, filed in 2015 against the millionaire’s girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was accused by multiple women of helping Epstein recruit underage victims. The suit was settled in 2017. Maxwell was later prosecuted and is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Here are some takeaways from the latest batch of released documents:

PRINCE ANDREW

The records released Friday include the 2009 deposition of a former housekeeper at Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, who talked about how much time the financier spent with Prince Andrew, the British royal who was a longtime friend of Maxwell’s.

Juan Alessi testified that “Prince Andrew spent weeks with us” and when he visited, he would receive daily massages at the mansion.

Alessi said Andrew would stay in the main guest bedroom, which he described as “the blue room.” He recalled seeing Andrew’s former wife, Sarah Ferguson, on one occasion, but added, “I don’t think she slept in there.”

Alessi also remembered seeing other celebrities including Donald Trump and “a lot of queens and other famous people that I can’t remember.”

Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago club is also in Palm Beach, would come over to Epstein’s home for dinner, Alessi said, but he “never sat at the table,” dining instead with Alessi in the kitchen. Asked whether Trump ever received massages, he said, “No. Because he’s got his own spa.”

Alessi, who worked at Epstein’s sprawling home from 1990 to 2002, previously testified at Maxwell’s 2021 trial that he saw “many, many, many” young adult female visitors, often lounging topless by the pool. He also admitted to stealing $6,300 from Epstein’s desk.

Prince Andrew was publicly criticized when photos emerged of him visiting Epstein in New York even after the financier was imprisoned in Florida for a sex crime.

Giuffre sued Andrew, accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was 17. Andrew said he didn’t remember ever meeting Giuffre. The lawsuit was settled in 2022 without ever going to trial, but the allegations damaged his public standing and led Andrew to withdraw from some royal duties.

The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they are the victims of sexual abuse unless they have come forward publicly with their stories, as Giuffre has.

PHONE RECORDS

One document unsealed Friday contains copies of phone messages Epstein received, handwritten by staffers, in 2004, a year before police in Palm Beach started investigating allegations that he was paying underage girls for sex.

At the time, Epstein was getting attention for hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, offering free rides on his private jet to celebrities including former President Bill Clinton and actor Kevin Spacey.

The phone messages, while mostly mundane, give a small taste of those associations.

“She had on the phone Mr. Harvey Weinstein,” reads one message about a missed call.

Weinstein, then a force in Hollywood, was once part of a media investment group that included Epstein.

“At the time, Epstein was seen as a wealthy power broker with access to many people of various industries and for many reasons,” said Weinstein’s spokesman, Juda Engelmayer. “It wasn’t uncommon for people of that caliber to talk, as we see from the lists that have been coming out. There was and remains nothing more to that.”

Weinstein would be charged years later with raping and sexually assaulting women in the entertainment business and is serving lengthy prison terms after convictions in New York and Los Angeles.

Epstein also got several messages about missed calls from Jean-Luc Brunel, a French modeling agent who was close to Epstein. Brunel was awaiting trial on charges that he raped underage girls when he killed himself in a Paris jail in 2022.

RECRUITING YOUNG GIRLS

When Epstein was initially investigated by Palm Beach police in 2005, detectives spoke to a number of girls from an area high school who said they had been paid money to give massages to Epstein.

Tony Figueroa, who worked as a driver for Epstein and once dated Giuffre, talked about the effort to recruit those girls during his 2016 deposition.

“Jeffrey was giving us $200 apiece for every one that we brought over,” he said. “I would get friends that I went to school with and I would take them over there and introduce them, and then I would just leave.”

He said Maxwell would also call him occasionally, “asking me to get girls.”

Figueroa has told the same story in media interviews in the years since that deposition.

“HAVE MY BABY”

A woman who worked for Epstein, Johanna Sjoberg, testified in her 2016 deposition that Epstein asked her to perform sexualized massages.

He also told her he wanted her to be the mother of his baby, a request she said he made several times.

“I don’t believe that I said flat-out no. I didn’t agree to it. I would just say, ‘Oh, yeah, really? Okay,” Sjoberg testified, according to a transcript of her deposition.

Later in her questioning, Sjoberg was asked if Maxwell ever made the same request. Sjoberg said no.

Maxwell was also asked about that in her 2016 deposition, and she called the claim “completely rubbish.”

“I can’t testify to anything Jeffrey did or didn’t do when I am not present, but I have never asked anybody to carry a baby for me,” Maxwell said. She added that she didn’t remember having any conversations with Epstein about babies.

Sjoberg also testified that Epstein took her on a shopping trip to Victoria’s Secret where he “picked out everything and went into the room with me, the fitting room, which was very odd.”

Sjoberg said that while in the room, Epstein joked that he’d previously been in there with another girl who called him “Dad.”

Sjoberg, like Giuffre, has previously gone public with her story in media interviews.

PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER

The legal storm that Epstein and Maxwell were facing is captured well in a Jan. 11, 2015, email by her attorney Philip Barden, who referred to Maxwell as “G,” and to Epstein as “JE.”

He urged a strong public response to Giuffre’s claims because silence was “reputational suicide.”

“Now it is reported that G engaged in direct abuse — as I feared would happen. Next reports to the authorities will be made,” Barden wrote in a message to an individual whose name was blacked out, with Maxwell copied on the missive.

“It is necessary from a litigation, investigatory and reputational reason to issue a cogent denial. I can see why JE doesn’t want this as it may not suit him but he is already toast,” he added.

Four years later Epstein would be dead by suicide, found in a jail cell after he was arrested in July 2019 on sex trafficking charges. It would be two more years before a jury in New York agreed that Maxwell helped Epstein recruit and groom teenage girls for sexual abuse and sometimes joined in the abuse.

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