A guide to understand Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘list’

The batch of unsealed documents relating to the late jet-setting financier includes witness statements, emails and legal filings with more than 100 names. The paperwork pertains to a civil lawsuit filed by a victim against Epstein’s partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was later convicted of sex trafficking minors

protesta contra epstein
Demonstrators protesting against Jeffrey Epstein outside a New York court in an image from July 2019.Shannon Stapleton (REUTERS)

Epstein’s list is not actually a list. At least, it’s not a list of clients, nor of people who traveled to his island. Although some names are mentioned, it is in a variety of contexts. Along with people who committed sexual acts with some of the victims, there are others whose names show up only because someone asked about them, or because they were themselves victims, or worked for Epstein as employees. In the vast majority of cases, there are no signs of wrongdoing, although the mere fact of having one’s name show up has oftentimes proven toxic to their reputation, amid the misinformation that circulates unchecked on social media, where numerous phony lists have also been showing up.

The names appear in more than 900 pages that were unsealed on Wednesday by Loretta Preska, the judge in charge of the defamation lawsuit filed in 2015 by one of the victims, Virginia Giuffre, against Epstein’s lover and partner, Ghislaine Maxwell. This first batch of documents was followed by a second release on Thursday, and more are expected. The financier Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide in August 2019 in his cell at a high-security Manhattan prison while awaiting trial on charges of sex crimes.

Here is a guide to some of the more relevant documents unsealed so far.

Document 1: “I need head space”

The first of the documents is an email sent by Ghislaine Maxwell to her lawyer in 2015. In it, Jeffrey Epstein’s former lover and partner seems overwhelmed after being sued for defamation by Virginia Giuffre, one of the victims. “I am out of my depth to understanding defamation and other legal hazards and don’t want to end up in a lawsuit aimed at me from anyone if I can help it. Apparently even saying Virginia is a liar has hazard! I have never been in a suit criminal or civil and want it to stay that way,” she writes. “I need head space.” Subsequently, Maxwell, daughter of the media mogul Robert Maxwell, reached an out-of-court settlement with Giuffre, but was still criminally prosecuted, found guilty of sex trafficking of minors and sentenced to 20 years in prison in June 2022.

Document 2: “Adult” sexual activity

Lawyers for Giuffre, the plaintiff, ask the judge in a motion to compel Maxwell, the defendant, to answer questions about whether she had given Jeffrey Epstein massages and had sex with him. Maxwell had refused to answer those questions regarding “adult” sexual activity, but the plaintiff’s lawyers believe it is important that she answer because she was the one who “provided instruction on how to do it and turn the massage into a sexual event.”

Document 3: “An excellent job opportunity”

This is the transcription of a fragment of a statement by Maxwell in April 2016 in which she was asked about another one of the victims, Johanna Sjoberg. Maxwell says she gave her “professional advice” to become a massage therapist, which she calls “an excellent job opportunity.” She admits that Johanna gave her massages, but refuses to answer if she had sex with her. “I’ve never had non-consensual sex with anybody.”

Document 4: Clinton’s name shows up for the first time

In another excerpt from Maxwell’s statement, she continues to maintain that Giuffre’s allegations are “one giant tissue of lies.” In that fragment, the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, is cited for the first time in this batch of documents. The defendant claims that “the allegations that Clinton had a meal on Jeffrey’s island are 100% false.” Instead, she believes he did eat on board the plane. In 2019, the former U.S. president acknowledged that he had flown on Epstein’s private plane on several occasions in 2002 and 2003, but assured that he knew nothing about the millionaire’s “terrible crimes.”

Document 5: “There were times I would have liked to think of myself as his girlfriend”

This document is a broader fragment of the same deposition from April 2016. In it, Maxwell acknowledges having visited Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach (Florida). The relationship that Trump had with Jeffrey Epstein is known and no further details are given in this statement. Maxwell says he hired many employees of all kinds for Epstein and that a very small part of his work was occasionally finding professional adult masseuses for the billionaire financier. During the interrogation, Maxwell is asked about some of the girls who were recruited and whether girls were provided to some people such as the investor Glenn Dubin, the modeling agent Jean Luc Brunel (who committed suicide in prison in France before being tried for sexual crimes) and the former CEO of Limited and Victoria’s Secret, Leslie Wexner. The defendant is evasive. They also ask her if she was Epstein’s girlfriend: “It’s a complicated question. There were times when I would have liked to think of myself his girlfriend,” she answers. She also points out that Prince Andrew visited Epstein’s island, but that there were no girls on that occasion.

Document 9: An orgy for Prince Andrew

This is a document from another Florida case. In it, two victims whose identity remains anonymous ask to join the lawsuit alleging that they have been forced to have sex with celebrities, politicians, presidents, “a well-known prime minister” and others. More details are given about Prince Andrew. “Jane Doe #3 was forced to have sexual relations with this Prince when she was a minor in three different geographical locations: in London (in Ghislaine Maxwell’s apartment), in New York and on Epstein’s private island in the Virgin Islands (in an orgy with numerous other underage girls). Epstein instructed Jane Doe #3 that she was to give the Prince whatever he demanded and required Jane Doe # 3 to report back to him on the details of the sexual abuse,” the document says.

Document 12: Prince Andrew, Trump, Clinton, Michael Jackson, David Copperfield...

Johanna Sjoberg’s deposition, 179 pages long, is perhaps the star document of the entire batch of unsealed filings. In it she states that in a meeting in which Virginia Giuffre was also present, she discovered that she was with Prince Andrew because there was a puppet in the image of the prince and that she thought it was funny. She said she remembered someone suggested taking a photo, and the girls were told to get on the couch. So Andrew and Virginia sat on the couch, and put the puppet on their lap. And then Johanna sat on Andrew’s lap, and they took one of the puppet’s hands and put it on Virginia’s breast, while Prince Andrew put his on Johanna’s breast.

In that same statement, the victim claims that Epstein once told her that “[Bill] Clinton likes them young.” Sjoberg also says that once she was on the financier’s private plane, the pilots told them that they couldn’t land in New York and that they would divert to Atlantic City and then “Jeffrey [Epstein] said, ‘Great, we’ll call Trump and go (...) to the casino.”

The witness is asked if she had sex with him or gave him massages, to which she answers no, in a series of questions that also cite the scientist Marvin Minsky, the filmmaker George Lucas and the lawyer Alan Dershowitz, in all cases with negative answers.

Sjoberg also indicates that she met Michael Jackson at Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, but did not give him a massage, and on another occasion she saw the magician David Copperfield. He performed some magic tricks and asked her, according to her statement, if she knew that “girls are getting paid to find other girls.”

Document 13: Epstein's arrest

This is a police report from Palm Beach from 2005 with the first incident that sparked the Epstein scandal. He was arrested after being accused of paying a 14-year-old girl for sexual relations, which were partly described in the report. Dozens of other minors described similar sexual abuse, but prosecutors finally allowed the financier to plead guilty in 2008 to a charge involving a single victim.

Document 14: Stephen Hawking

These are two emails. One of them, with multiple typos, is written by Jeffrey Epstein and says that a reward may be offered to any of Virginia’s friends and acquaintances who step forward and help prove that her accusations are false. The emails mention accusations about a meal with Clinton and that Stephen Hawking participated in an underage orgy.

Document 19: “When they say massage, that means erotic”

In a deposition by the plaintiff Virginia Giuffre, she says Ghislaine Maxwell asked her to massage Glenn Dubin, Prince Andrew and Bill Richardson, who was governor of New Mexico. “When they say massage, that means erotic,” says Giuffre. In that statement, another of the most powerful revealed in this batch, Giuffre also says that she was sent to have sex with the modeling agent Jean Luc Brunel, the owner of a hotel chain (around the birthday of supermodel Naomi Campbell, whose party she was at), the scientist Marvin Minsky, “another prince” and many more people she doesn’t remember. She started taking notes, but then burned them in agreement with her husband, because they are both “very spiritual” people, she says.

Document 33: Ghislaine Maxwell pursues Giuffre for evasion

In this document from April 2016, Ghislaine Maxwell accuses Virginia Giuffre of “playing the game of catch and release,” of providing the data about her health that she wants and when it suits her. “She is withholding information that the court ordered to be produced and only releasing it when she is caught in her deception.” Specifically, Maxwell claims that her attorneys have asked Giuffre for information about her health care providers and that she has avoided doing so: “All of this information is directly relevant to, and necessary to defend against plaintiff’s damages claims for ‘psychological and psychiatric injuries’ and the resulting medical expenses.”

Document 35: “Ghislaine Maxwell brought me into the sex trafficking industry”

This is one of the main published documents, in which 40 pages of a deposition by Virginia Giuffre in May 2016 are transcribed. The text starts with a partially cut-off question: “... another prince, the large hotel chain owner and Marvin Minsky, is there anyone else that Ghislaine Maxwell directed you to have sex with?” The answer: “I’m definitely sure there is. But can I remember everyone’s name? No.” Asked if she can provide more details, Giuffre says: “Look, I’ve given you what I know right now. I’m sorry. This is very hard for me and very frustrating to have to go over this. I don’t recall all of the people. There was a large amount of people that I was sent to.”

Giuffre admits not having notes, having burned her diary, which she says she started years after these events and which only her husband has read. She has only talked about this matter with him, not with friends or in her new life in Colorado first, and in Sydney, Australia, later. The question about Clinton and the helicopter comes up again. Giuffre discusses Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew: “I know Alan Dershowitz is lying himself; Prince Andrew is lying himself.” She also states that she has been taking medication for years to control the pain suffered at the hands of Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein. “Ghislaine Maxwell brought me into the sex trafficking industry. She’s the one who abused me on a regular basis. She is the one that procured me, told me what to do, trained me as a sex slave, abused me physically, abused me mentally.”

Document 38: The “Spanish” president, trips to Thailand and France, Naomi Campbell’s birthday

Similar to document 35, here are almost 90 pages of statements from Giuffre, in a deposition made in May 2016. Giuffre details what her life is like now in Australia, after having been a victim of Jeffrey Epstein and especially of Ghislaine Maxwell in the 2000s. It is here that she is asked if she has had forced sexual encounters with a foreign president and she assures that she has. “Honestly, I can’t remember his name, I am a very visual person…” she says, and when asked to describe him she says: “He’s Spanish, tall, dark hair, he had a foreign accent. I would say around 40 years old.” The encounter took place in New Mexico, she believes, where Epstein had a ranch.

She also explains that she met Ghislaine Maxwell while working at the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where her father was a maintenance employee and got her a summer job. Since then she spent long periods with Maxwell and Epstein, since she was a minor, at 16 years old, and recalls how they showered her with expensive gifts, like a trip to Thailand. She recalls trips to Paris and the south of France and the birthday of the model Naomi Campbell. They constantly reminded her that they had very important friends and they offered her to celebrities, politicians, millionaires. Asked to name one of those people, she says: “Prince Andrew [of England].” She also mentions Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, investor Glenn Dubin, artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky (who died in 2016) and “another prince whose name I don’t remember.”

After her time with Maxwell and Epstein, Giuffre says she suffered anxiety attacks and psychological problems. Giuffre also says that she had a contract with the British newspaper Mail on Sunday for which she was paid 140,000 pounds for the photo with Prince Andrew, and 20,000 pounds more for two additional stories. She also acknowledges that she is working on a book deal.

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