As Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Starts, Not All Court Records Are Public
A March order from the judge in the Ghislaine Maxwell case has resurfaced amid criticism over a lack of transparency and publicity for the accused sex trafficker’s trial.
On Nov. 28, multiple high-profile Twitter users reported that U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan ordered certain “sensational and impure” information to be kept from the public.
Maxwell, whose trial began Nov. 29, faces six counts of allegedly recruiting, grooming, and abusing four girls with multimillionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein from 1994 through 2004. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell while awaiting trial on Aug. 10, 2019.
Media personality Mike Cernovich, who was involved in litigation to make a trove of Epstein documents public, said he would file a lawsuit over the matter if the reports proved true.
However, it was later revealed that Nathan had made her order during pretrial proceedings.
“That is different than anything coming out at trial,” Cernovich attorney Marc Randazza wrote on Twitter upon learning that the order came pretrial.
The order in question came from Nathan on March 18 in response to motions from both parties. The Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed a memorandum of law and several exhibits a month before, and the parties disputed what information should be made public. Maxwell had objected to certain redactions the DOJ had proposed while seeking to include additional redactions of her own.
The DOJ stated at the time that its proposed redactions were “narrowly tailored to cover information implicating the privacy interests of third parties” as well as information affecting other ongoing investigations. Maxwell’s objections aren’t public, but Nathan’s decision states that “the core of the objections” was because the redacted information had already been made public by other means.
Nathan agreed with the DOJ, allowing the information in dispute to remain redacted.
“The redactions to which the [Maxwell] objects relate to the privacy interests of third parties. … And though the Defendant contends that some of the information contained in the redactions is public, she furnishes no evidence to that effect,” the judge said in her decision. “As a result, the court concludes that the significant privacy interests at stake justify the limited and narrowly tailored redactions.”
Additionally, Nathan allowed other redactions proposed by Maxwell. It isn’t clear what was redacted at Maxwell’s request, but the judge said the same information is also kept secret in her civil proceedings.
“Those portions of the transcript, which were redacted in the civil matter, concern privacy interests and their disclosure would merely serve to cater to a ‘craving for that which is sensational and impure,’” the judge said. “The Court thus concludes that such redactions are justified.”
The civil court redactions may refer to a January order from U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, who ruled that certain details of Maxwell’s sexual relationships with adults can remain secret.
Nathan’s March order sparked outrage online, but Randazza reviewed it and said that “at first glance, it at least appears that this judge showed her work and might have even gotten it right.”
Along with the controversy over the redacted records, numerous critics have questioned why the Maxwell trial isn’t being aired on television when more divisive cases such as the Kyle Rittenhouse trial have been. Federal courts typically don’t allow trials to be broadcast.
The trial started on Nov. 29 with jury selection and opening statements. According to a Miami Herald reporter covering the trial, there were delays starting because one juror apparently forgot to show up, two others couldn’t be found for a time, and a third cited financial hardships for not serving.
A fourth reportedly said her husband surprised her with a vacation.