A list of names connected to late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is set to be released to the public, bringing renewed attention to a sex-trafficking operation that has captured international headlines for years.
A United States judge authorised the unsealing of court documents last month, as part of a 2015 defamation lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre, who accused Epstein and his associate Ghislaine Maxwell of trafficking her as a minor.
The documents are set to reveal more than 150 names of people linked to Epstein, who died by suicide in a US prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and other charges.
They include individuals accused of wrongdoing, as well as those who worked for or had only tangential ties to Epstein. Among the names are also alleged sex-trafficking victims and witnesses to crimes, US media outlets have reported.
Here’s all you need to know about the list of names — and what its implications are.
Where do the names come from?
The names appear in court documents from the 2015 defamation lawsuit Giuffre filed against Maxwell, a British socialite who was later sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges related to sex trafficking.
Giuffre had accused Maxwell of facilitating her sexual abuse at the hands of Epstein and other powerful men. When Maxwell called those accusations “obvious lies”, Giuffre responded with the defamation suit.
The case was ultimately settled in 2017. As part of the court’s findings, a judge wrote that Giuffre “was a victim of sustained underage sexual abuse between 1999 and 2002”.
But the documents used in the case continued to provoke interest, well after the suit ended.
In 2018, the Miami Herald started legal proceedings to get access to the documents. “Thousands of pages have been released” on a “rolling basis” since then, according to the Herald, as part of a process to determine which files could be made public.
Many of the names in the documents had been redacted, though. But on December 18, the US District Court judge overseeing the case, Loretta Preska, decided some of the names could be unsealed as well.
She gave anyone affected until midnight on January 1 to file an objection, which means the files could be released as early as Tuesday.
How did the judge decide which names could be made public?
Preska argued in her decision that many of the names had already been revealed through court testimony or depositions, as well as in media reports. Up to the present, certain individuals had been referred to as John or Jane Doe in court documents.
Some names will remain sealed, however, because the individuals were minors when the alleged sexual abuse occurred and they have not spoken publicly. “The public interest does not outweigh the privacy interests of the alleged minor victim,” Preska wrote.
But concerns remain over how the public may react to any newly released names. The documents themselves “may not make clear why a certain individual became associated with Giuffre’s lawsuit”, ABC News reported.
That said, the new revelations will likely help illustrate the scale of Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring and his influence among powerful members of society.
Epstein died by suicide before he could face sex-trafficking charges in court.
Will prominent names be included?
The United Kingdom’s Prince Andrew is expected to be named in the documents. Giuffre accused the British royal of forcing her to have sex with him two decades ago when she was 17, an allegation Prince Andrew has vehemently denied. The case was settled in 2022.
According to ABC News, the unsealed court documents are expected to contain details from a witness — identified as Jane Doe 162 — “who testified she was with Prince Andrew, Maxwell and Giuffre, then 17, at Epstein’s New York mansion”.
“Giuffre has alleged that gathering, in 2001, was one of the occasions she was directed to have sex with Andrew,” the news outlet reported.
Former US President Bill Clinton is also expected to be named in the released documents, though he was not accused of any wrongdoing by Giuffre. She had said she met Clinton on Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean, US media outlets have reported.
When US prosecutors filed sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against Epstein in 2019, the ex-president’s spokesman, Angel Urena, said Clinton “knows nothing about the terrible crimes” the disgraced financier had been accused of.
“In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane: one to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation,” Urena said.
“He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida.”
ABC News reported that Clinton’s name appears more than 50 times in the court filings, but mentions of the former president are often related to efforts to subpoena him “for deposition testimony about his relationship with Epstein”.
Statement on Jeffrey Epstein. pic.twitter.com/98ha9YYd1l
— Angel Ureña (@angelurena) July 8, 2019
How important is the release?
Rikki Klieman, a legal analyst with CBS News, said this week that “it’s highly significant for documents to be unsealed so that the complete story of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell can be made public”.
“We need to know as members of the public who have an interest in keeping women and young girls, children, safe from predators,” Klieman said.
Giuffre also commented on the release last month over social media, describing Judge Preska as “honourable” for her decision to make the names public and ensure transparency.
She added there were “going to be a lot of nervous [people] over Christmas and New Years”.