Updated at 2:10 p.m. ET
Ghislaine Maxwell’s answers to questions about the sex-trafficking operation she allegedly ran with the late Jeffrey Epstein were made public Thursday, as a federal court released Maxwell’s 2016 deposition. The transcript is more than 400 pages long, but it has been redacted to protect the privacy of some people it mentions.
The transcript is finally being unsealed after a back-and-forth legal battle between Maxwell and Virginia Giuffre, who has accused Maxwell, Epstein and others of sexually abusing her when she was a minor. In it, Maxwell repeatedly denies “recruiting” girls for Epstein or taking part in orgies and other activities.
“Have you ever said to anybody that you recruit girls to take the pressure off you, so you won’t have to have sex with Jeffrey, have you said that?” Maxwell was asked during the deposition.
“You don’t ask me questions like that,” she replied. “First of all, you are trying to trap me, I will not be trapped. You are asking me if I recruit, I told you no.”
Giuffre’s attorneys say that while they welcome the transcript’s release, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Court documents allege that Maxwell procured young girls for the late Epstein to have sex with — and that the pair also ordered girls and young women to have sex with rich and powerful men.
“The public should know today’s unsealing is only a small part of the total evidence,” Giuffre’s lead attorney, Sigrid McCawley, tells NPR. “As the evidence comes out, it will be clear why Ms. Maxwell and others who enabled Jeffrey Epstein are fighting so hard to keep it concealed. As our client Virginia Giuffre bravely asserts, they did not act alone.”
NPR is sifting through the transcript, which you can read here:
The documents’ release comes after months of anticipation — as well as doubts over whether the transcript would contain any bombshells. In addition to redactions that remove names and other details, federal prosecutors have filed two criminal counts against Maxwell for allegedly lying during the deposition.
“This is a long-time coming and a welcome step towards revealing the evidence of the scope and scale of the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking ring,” McCawley said Thursday.
Repeated questions about minors
Many of the questions Maxwell was asked in the deposition revolve around the ages of the girls and young women she allegedly hired to give massages to Epstein and other adults that prosecutors say were sexual in nature.
“How old was the youngest female you ever hired to work for Jeffrey?” McCawley asked.
“I have not any idea exactly of the youngest adult employee that I hired for Jeffrey,” Maxwell said.
The prosecutor replied, “When you say adult employee, did you ever hire someone that was under the age of 18?”
“Never,” Maxwell said.
To another question, asking if she ever invited minors to Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, Maxwell said she has friends who have children, and she likely invited them.
McCawley then turned to Giuffre, asking if Maxwell had invited her to come to Epstein’s house when Giuffre was under the age of 18. At the time, Giuffre was known by her maiden name, Roberts.
“Virginia Roberts held herself out as a masseuse and invited herself to come and give a massage,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell said she did not recall the first time she met Giuffre, who has said they met while she was a teenager working at Mar-a-Lago, the club owned by President Trump.
In the questioning that followed, Maxwell said Giuffre’s mother drove her to Epstein’s house — and she said she spoke to Giuffre’s mother outside for the entire time Giuffre was inside.
“Virginia lied 100 percent” about what happened that day, Maxwell said, calling Giuffre “an awful fantasist.”
But at another point, Maxwell seems to acknowledge Giuffre’s status as a minor. After being asked if she ever met a person younger than 18 who was hired as a masseuse for Epstein, Maxwell replied:
“First of all, Virginia Roberts who you are referring to was a masseuse aged 17, we all now know, so your story that you keep pushing out to the press that she was a 15 year old — you and I both know was a lie.”
Maxwell is asked at one point in the document, “Were you aware that Jeffrey was having sexual contact with [redacted] when she was 13 years old?”
“I would be very shocked and surprised if that were true,” Maxwell replied.
Soon afterwards, Maxwell seemed to grow impatient with repeated questions about how old girls or young women were when they began spending time with Epstein.
“Did she look like a child the first time you met [redacted]?” McCawley asked.
“I don’t know what you mean if she looked like a child,” Maxwell replied. Upon further questioning, she said that to her, the person did not look like she was under 18.
Tense moments during deposition
Several contentious exchanges are captured in the deposition transcript – including one in which Maxwell alarms Giuffre’s attorney by smacking the table. The moment arose when McCawley asked Maxwell — not for the first time — how old Giuffre was when the two met.
“Can we agree she was not the age she said and you put that in the press, that is obviously, manifestly, absolutely, totally a lie,” Maxwell replied.
“I am going to put on the record, Ms. Maxwell very inappropriately and very harshly pounded our law firm table in an inappropriate manner,” McCawley said. “I ask she take a deep breath, and calm down. I know this is a difficult position but physical assault or threats is not appropriate, so no pounding, no stomping, no, that’s not appropriate.”
“Can we be clear, I didn’t threaten anybody,” Maxwell said. Her attorney then noted the table was not damaged, before suggesting they take a break.
Maxwell’s representative made frequent objections during the deposition, and at one point, Maxwell joined in.
“I have to object,” she replied to a question about flight records between Palm Beach and Teterboro, N.J.
“You don’t get to object,” her attorney said.
Perjury charges against Maxwell
One federal perjury count against Maxwell refers to her saying under oath that she wasn’t aware of anyone she interacted with at Epstein’s properties who was younger than 18, besides the plaintiff. When asked whether he had a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages, she said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
In the second perjury count, prosecutors quoted Maxwell saying that in the 1990s and 2000s, she “wasn’t aware that he was having sexual activities with anyone when I was with him other than myself.” Prosecutors said these statements were not truthful.
The transcript shows that the very first question to Maxwell from McCawley sought to establish her role in Epstein’s orbit.
“When did you first recruit a female to work for Mr. Epstein?” Maxwell was asked – immediately drawing an objection from her attorneys. Maxwell eventually answered the question, but she seemed to prefer to focus on semantics.
“First of all, can you please clarify the question,” she said. “I don’t understand what you mean by female, I don’t understand what you mean by recruit. Please be more clear and specific about what you are suggesting.”
After more back-and-forth, she acknowledged, “I was somebody who hired a number of people to work for Mr. Epstein and hiring is one of my functions.”
Maxwell then said the first time she hired a female to work for Epstein was “sometime in 1992” — and the woman was around the age of 40 or 50, she said. Maxwell said her work for Epstein “lessened considerably” starting in 2002 or 2003. But she also said she continued working for him through at least 2008 or 2009.
Maxwell’s role in Epstein’s life
Maxwell says she had a “very wide ranging job” under Epstein that centered on hiring staff for the wealthy financier’s properties.
“There were six homes,” Maxwell said. “I hired assistants, I hired architects, I hired decorators, I hired cooks, I hired cleaners, I hired gardeners, I hired pool people, I hired pilots, I hired all sorts of people.”
It was “a very small part of my job,” she added, “from time to time to find adult professional massage therapists for Jeffrey.”
Persistent allegations that Epstein sexually abused young women under the guise of receiving massages prompted an investigation by Palm Beach police in the early 2000s.
Giuffre’s attorney asked, “Are you aware there were underage girls, 30 of them, in this police report that were assaulted by Jeffrey Epstein in the Palm Beach house during the time you are working there?”
In her reply, Maxwell said she couldn’t testify about that, accusing one of Epstein’s alleged victims of lying and saying that she spent only limited time at Epstein’s house in 2004, the year in question.
In other exchanges, Maxwell said her knowledge of what was going on in the house was sometimes limited because she closed the door to her office.
How we got here
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ordered the documents released back in July. That month, the two sides began arguing over which redactions should be made — and they were still going over revisions on Wednesday, just ahead of the deadline. Early Thursday, Preska said that after reviewing the suggested changes, she approved Giuffre’s proposed redactions and ordered “limited additional redactions.”
The public release includes other materials related to Maxwell’s deposition — but it does not include the transcript of a separate deposition by a man identified only as “John Doe #1.” The judge has given that man and another John Doe 14 days to consider making formal objections.
Maxwell, 58, was arrested in July and charged on several counts related to sex trafficking minors and perjury. She has pleaded not guilty in that case. She has previously denied the allegations against her, including under sworn testimony.
The transcript reflects hours of interviews conducted with Maxwell after Giuffre brought a 2015 defamation suit against her. Maxwell had accused Giuffre of lying when she alleged Epstein and Maxwell sexually abused and exploited her. Maxwell’s attorneys have cited her ongoing criminal case as a chief reason to suppress the transcript of her deposition.
Maxwell appealed to a higher court to try to keep the transcript secret, but earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirmed Preska’s ruling from July, saying the lower court was correct to reject “meritless arguments” from Maxwell.
Protected from federal charges in Florida
For years, accusations against Maxwell and Epstein were obscured by legal maneuvers — most famously, a controversial nonprosecution agreement Epstein reached in 2007 with federal prosecutors in Florida. That plea deal with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta led to state charges against Epstein, but it also prevented him and any co-conspirators — including, allegedly, Maxwell — from being prosecuted for federal sex crimes in southern Florida.
In addition to its leniency, the deal was also criticized because it implied Epstein’s victims were prostitutes: He pleaded guilty only to two felony prostitution charges at the state level.
Many victims also complained that prosecutors never told them about the government’s deal — a failure that was found to violate the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
Epstein never faced a federal trial over the crimes of which he was accused. About a month after his arrest on sex-trafficking charges in 2019, he died after being found unresponsive in his jail cell in Manhattan. His death at age 66 was ruled a suicide.
Giuffre’s case against Maxwell was settled in 2017, but Giuffre has insisted that the public deserves access to many of the records. The Miami Herald and investigative reporter Julie K. Brown — whose work helped substantiate the accusations against Epstein — have also sought the records’ release.
NPR’s Barbara Van Woerkom contributed to this report.