Public interest outweighs right to privacy: Judge rules on future of Epstein documents

After a judge ruled the public interest outweighs the right to privacy, dozens of court documents relating to the associates of Jeffrey Epstein, which includes a billionaire businessman, will be made public. It was ruled by Judge Loretta Preska that despite one subject claiming it could “wrongfully harm (his) privacy and reputation,” the material concerning eight people should be unsealed.

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Objections from Tom Pritzker, the billionaire executive chairman of the Hyatt Hotels, were overridden by Judge Preska and she ordered material related to him to be made public. The documents are part of a defamation case by accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, which was brought against Maxwell in 2016 that was later settled. After numerous requests from media organizations, the first set of material came in 2019, two days before Epstein killed himself, and the trove of material has been released on a rolling basis after, reported Daily Mail.

As for the release of the files being made public, a total of 16 ‘Non-Party Does’ have objected, and the first set of eight have already been dealt with by the federal court in New York. Related to the remaining eight, the latest batch was referred to as Does 12, 28, 97, 107, 144, 147, 171, and 183.

During Maxwell’s trial last year for trafficking underage girls to Epstein, which led to her being jailed for 20 years, Judge Preska said that much of the “purportedly sensitive information” had already been made public. She ordered for the documents to be unsealed, as she ran through dozens of them. The Doe 183 related documents were to be made public as they have been the “subject of intense media coverage” and cropped up in Maxwell’s trial. But in order to give the Doe a chance so they could appeal if they want to, Judge Preska put a stay on the release of this material until November 28.

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It was claimed by Doe 107 that unsealing their material would “connect’ them to the Epstein and ‘unnecessarily invade (their) privacy.” It was noted by Judge Preska that the public’s right to access outweighed any “generalized concerns” about privacy and the material was “not particularly salacious,” so the judge disagreed and ordered their material unsealed. Pritzker claimed in his submission to the court that it would “wrongfully harm (his) privacy and reputation” if material related to him was made public.

But there was “no basis” for keeping the material under seal, Judge Preska said, adding that it was just a fleeting mention. However, some concessions to the objectors were made by Judge Preska. “Certain details contained within certain documents that are not public…objecting Does have set forth a sufficient interest to preserve sealing,” said the judge. Doe 12 related documents remained sealed as they were a “classic outsider,” as per Judge Preska. Doe 12 is “peripheral to the events at issue” and is “neither victim nor associated with Epstein or Maxwell,” said Preska.

As Doe 28 related documents are a “victim of sexual assault who continues to experience trauma as a result of these events,” they will also remain sealed. However, Doe 147 related material should be unsealed, as Judge Preska identified it as Epstein victim Sarah Ransome. Ransome was a “victim of sexual trauma and abuse” by Epstein and Maxwell but she testified publicly at Maxwell’s sentencing, Judge Preska said. Ransome had “put herself out into the public forum relating to these issues,” Judge Preska said. Ransome published a book about her experience and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about it.

The timeline for the material to be made public is still not been set by Judge Preska but it will likely be several weeks away. Maxwell did not oppose and made no representation to the court, unlike with the previous batches of documents.

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