What to make of Ghislaine Maxwell, millionaire heiress and alleged underage-girl procurer for Jeffrey Epstein? This is the central question at the heart of all coverage of the Epstein case. That’s especially true now that Epstein is dead and his secrets have perished along with him; as his former girlfriend and the person closest to him for decades, Maxwell is the last harbor of all secrets related to Epstein, the key to unlocking the mysteries central to the case, such as who he may have been protecting and how he got away with his misdeeds for so long. And with every tranche of new documents released, those following the case believe themselves to be one step closer to answering these questions — even though this is probably never going to happen.
On Monday, the cycle repeated itself when the 2nd circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the unsealing of a 422-page deposition Maxwell gave in 2016, as part of a legal battle with Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who has alleged Maxwell and Epstein sexually abused her and trafficked her to powerful men like Prince Andrew. (The case was settled under undisclosed terms in 2017.) Last July, Maxwell was arrested and charged for her alleged connection to Epstein’s sex trafficking ring, as well as perjury for allegedly lying about her knowledge of his activities with underage girls. She has pleaded not guilty and faces 35 years in jail if convicted.
For the past four years, Maxwell has fought tooth-and-nail against the release of the deposition, arguing that it contains intimate details about her sex life and that its release would compromise her ability to sufficiently defend herself in a criminal case. Reading the transcript, though, it’s hard to understand why she would fight so aggressively against its release. In reading the entire 422-page deposition, she reveals almost zero personal information; it makes a compelling case for Maxwell being cagey to the point of being obstructive.
The deposition is, in a word, enraging, because Maxwell seems constitutionally incapable of answering any question in a direct fashion. She spends pages upon pages arguing with Giuffre’s lawyers over the definition of the term “sex toy.” (She also argues over the definition of the word “puppet.”) Her attitude vacillates between outraged defiance (at one point, she has to apologize for banging on the table), and steadfast stand-by-your-man-ism. In one infuriating moment, she refuses to answer Giuffre’s lawyers questions about whether Epstein had an attraction to minor girls, despite being confronted with nearly 30 police reports from underage girls claiming to have been abused by him:
Q: Knowing that you have the police report here and knowing about the criminal investigation, do you believe that Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused minors?
MR. PAGLIUCA (Maxwell’s lawyer): Same objection.
MAXWELL: I know what you put in front of me and I know what I read.
Q: I’m asking what you believe, do you believe Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused minors?
MAXWELL: I can only tell you what I read and what you showed me.
Q: I’m asking what you believe, from your own belief, do you believe that Jeffrey Epstein abused minors?
MAXWELL: I can only go from what I know personally and what I know personally about what Virginia’s lies talked about.
This goes on for 13 pages.
Here is, effectively, all that Maxwell is willing to concede: After meeting Epstein in 1992, they briefly had a relationship before he hired her to decorate and hire staff for his six homes. Under oath, she asserts that she never approached anyone under the age of 18 to give Epstein a massage (despite Giuffre claiming she was 16 when Maxwell approached her at Mar-a-Lago for the job). “When I was there, at the time I was present, the people that gave Jeffrey, men and women who gave Jeffrey massages were adults over the age of 18,” Maxwell says. She repeatedly denies knowledge of or involvement with sexual activities with underage girls.
The one and only telling moment throughout the entire deposition is when Maxwell is asked about the nature of her relationship with Epstein. “Did you ever consider yourself his girlfriend?,” Giuffre’s attorneys ask, to which Maxwell responds: “That’s a tricky question. There were times when I would have liked to think of myself as his girlfriend,” in the early 1990s. It’s a statement that would resonate with most women who have been involved in a toxic relationship with someone they simply can’t shake, and it says volumes more about what Maxwell’s motivations may have been than 422 pages of a deposition ever could. It also explains why Maxwell will never reveal those motivations to us, nor can we ever fully grasp them: at the end of the day, this is a story about a complex relationship between two wealthy, powerful, deeply fucked-up people, and just as is the case with any relationship, there are worlds of secrets we will never be given access to, or understand.