CLAIM: Recently unsealed court documents show a list of defendants, including some celebrities, named as “co-conspirators” in Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal case.
THE FACTS: The list of defendants is not part of the ongoing criminal case against Maxwell. It comes from a since-dismissed civil lawsuit that is separate from Maxwell’s upcoming trial. Social media users are circulating a monthsold list of names and companies, falsely claiming they are co-conspirators in Maxwell’s criminal case as she prepares to face trial on charges she groomed underage victims to have unwanted sex with the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, her former boyfriend.
But the list originated in a separate civil lawsuit that was filed in August 2020 and dismissed as “frivolous” less than a month later. The dismissed civil case had named nearly 40 defendants, including Epstein, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Disney and Universal Music Group. Maxwell was included as the 31st defendant on the list. The lead plaintiff alleged that over the course of 30 years, the defendants conspired to “unlawfully surveil, drug and abduct” them “for sexual assault, sex trafficking, and other exploitative abuse” and conspired to transact a “purchase agreement” to buy the plaintiff from their mother.
U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton for the Southern District of New York dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that it did not have a legal or factual basis, and that the plaintiff, who did not appear to be an attorney, made claims on behalf of others, according to the dismissal order.
Some social media users have circulated excerpts from the court documents, erroneously asserting that they were recently unsealed documents from Maxwell’s criminal case. But two different cases — the civil lawsuit and Maxwell’s criminal case — are being conflated.
Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 after a grand jury indicted her on multiple federal charges. U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan is set to preside over Maxwell’s criminal trial in Manhattan federal court. Further, no such list of “co-conspirators” has been released in Maxwell’s case. And Nathan has made clear there will be no name-dropping at trial, saying only certain pages of an address book that investigators seized — showing a section naming the alleged victims — will come into evidence, according to previous reporting by the AP.
The trial is expected to begin Nov. 29. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to her charges and denied wrongdoing. Epstein killed himself in a federal detention center in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp in Atlanta contributed this report.