Jeffrey Epstein's estate prevented his victims from suing Ghislaine Maxwell
Jeffrey Epstein accusers who took money from a compensation fund set up by his estate can't sue Ghislaine Maxwell.
A release form obtained by Insider shows Epstein's associates are protected from future lawsuits.
Estate administrators refused to carve out Maxwell from the release, arguing that doing so would have created more litigation.
Earlier this year, around 150 women accusing Jeffrey Epstein of sexual abuse accepted money from a victims' compensation fund.
The disgraced financier killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. For his accusers, the $125 million distributed from the Epstein Victims' Compensation Program gave a sense of closure that the criminal justice system couldn't.
In accepting money from the program, the accusers had to sign a release form, a copy of which has been obtained by Insider.
The language in the release required the women to drop any existing lawsuits against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's longtime associate who multiple women have accused of sexually abusing them and of trafficking them to Epstein. The release also forbids accusers who accepted compensation from ever filing a lawsuit against Maxwell in the future.
For some accusers, being locked out of civil litigation against Maxwell has raised the stakes of the ongoing criminal case against her. Maxwell is currently standing trial in Manhattan federal court for allegedly grooming and trafficking girls to Epstein, and sexually abusing some of them herself. She's pleaded not guilty to the charges.
David Boies represents 14 Epstein accusers, including one of the four women listed as victims in the indictment against Maxwell. Boies told Insider that the protection Epstein's estate granted to Maxwell spoiled the hopes of some of his clients who'd sought money from the compensation program.
"The inability to hold Maxwell civilly accountable — it's frustrating," he said. "I think that has, in the survivors' minds, made accountability through the criminal process even more important."
Accusers could 'carve out' people they wanted to sue, but not Maxwell
Faced with a barrage of civil litigation, the executors of Epstein's estate, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, created the compensation program in order to handle each accuser's claims more quickly.
The program, which ran between June 2020 and August 2021, worked to the benefit of accusers, too. Indyke and Kahn invited input from accusers' attorneys, hoping they'd ultimately choose to go through the compensation program rather than continue filing lawsuits against the Epstein estate.
The program was overseen by Jordana Feldman, who'd worked on the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund. Feldman's team included people who'd worked on compensation programs for victims of the Holocaust and sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
The release form was the only element of the compensation program out of Feldman's control. The release's main objective was to prevent anyone who accepted compensation from suing Epstein's estate, and it was worded to protect not only Indyke and Kahn, but also anyone who has ever been "employed by, worked in any capacity for, or provided any services to Mr. Epstein, the Epstein Entities or the Epstein Estate." The release form covers an expansive range of conduct, in a timespan ranging "from the beginning of the world" to the present.
In addition to being Epstein's girlfriend for a time, Maxwell worked for Epstein as a household manager and occasional helicopter pilot. Bank records entered into evidence at Maxwell's criminal trial revealed Epstein wired her more than $30 million between 1999 and 2007.
The release did permit accusers to carve out anyone they still wanted to sue. Boies' client Virginia Giuffre, for example, reserved the right to sue Prince Andrew. On August 9, the same day the Epstein compensation program ended, Giuffre filed a lawsuit against the royal, accusing him of sexually assaulting her at Epstein's residences when she was 17. Prince Andrew has denied any wrongdoing and moved to dismiss the lawsuit.
But in order to carve out someone from the release, accusers had to get permission from Indyke and Kahn. And they refused to exempt Maxwell.
"We tried, but we were told we could not carve out Maxwell," Boies told Insider.
Boies said that Indyke and Kahn also refused to carve out Sarah Kellen or Lesley Groff, two former assistants of Epstein's who some of his accusers have alleged facilitated sexual abuse. Both Kellen and Groff have denied wrongdoing.
The release had no effect on litigation that had already been completed, like the settlement Giuffre previously reached with Maxwell in 2017 after suing for defamation.
Daniel Weiner, an attorney for Indyke and Kahn, told Insider that the the language shielding Maxwell was necessary to include in the release in order to finalize everyone's claims. In a lawsuit filed in the US Virgin Islands, Maxwell said Epstein and Indyke promised to cover her legal costs, including in the federal criminal case against her. The estate's executors have moved to dismiss Maxwell's lawsuit, but it's not clear if a judge will ultimately accept their argument.
Weiner told Insider that if Epstein's estate hadn't shielded Maxwell from accusers' lawsuits, the estate would've been dragged into endless litigation.
"It would make no sense for the Estate — and would be inconsistent with the Co-Executors' fiduciary duties to the Estate, including its creditors and remaining claimants — to pay out over $120 million in awards under the Epstein Victims' Compensation Program, and then risk being dragged back into litigation when someone who provided services to Mr. Epstein got sued and then impleaded the Estate, alleging that he or she was acting at his direction," Weiner said.
Epstein had offered legal protections to his employees before. In a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in Florida in 2007, Epstein pleaded guilty to state-level prostitution charges. The agreement protected Epstein's employees from future prosecution, and he was sentenced to an 18-month sentence in Florida's Palm Beach County Jail.
Prior to her criminal trial, Maxwell's attorneys argued that Epstein's non-prosecution agreement barred the Justice Department from pursuing its sex-trafficking case against her. US District Judge Alison Nathan, who is overseeing the case, rejected that argument.
Accusers who didn't participate in the compensation program could still sue Epstein's associates
Some accusers, like Jennifer Araoz, who says Epstein raped her when she was 15 after his associates groomed her for months, opted to accept the money from the compensation program and drop their lawsuits against Maxwell.
But if an accuser wasn't happy with the terms of the release, or the amount of money the program offered, they could always reject it altogether and file a civil lawsuit — and many women did.
One of Gloria Allred's clients, a Russian national using a "Jane Doe" pseudonym, filed a lawsuit in October against Epstein's estate and Lesley Groff. She accused them of luring her into a sex-trafficking operation, and said Epstein raped her for years, up until his 2019 arrest. There are a number of other civil lawsuits ongoing against the estate, including one from a woman who alleged Epstein threatened to feed her to alligators if she told anyone about him sexually abusing her.
"While Ms. Maxwell will have to answer for her own conduct, both in her criminal trial and in any civil action brought against her, the Estate did not include her among those who could be excluded from the release executed by those claimants who elected to receive an award under the EVCP," Weiner told Insider, using an abbreviation for the Epstein Victims' Compensation Program. "It was, of course, each claimant's choice whether to accept the award offered by the EVCP and paid by the Estate."
But accusers who didn't participate in the compensation program could only pursue a lawsuit against Maxwell if their claims were within the statute of limitations, as Allred told Insider. If accusers had waited too long — the precise length of time differs in each state — they were out of luck.
"You can either accept the compensation or get nothing," Allred said.
The compensation program's release didn't include a non-disclosure provision, so accusers could still accept money from the fund and talk about their experiences publicly. The release didn't prevent any accusers from cooperating with prosecutors conducting criminal investigations into Maxwell, either.
All four of the accusers in Maxwell's trial accepted money from the compensation fund. Maxwell's attorneys subpoenaed the fund, and her attorney, Bobbi C. Sternheim, told jurors in opening statements that the accusers all received between $1.5 million and $3.25 million from the program.
In cross-examining the accusers, Maxwell's lawyers have suggested that the women somehow stand to make more money from the compensation fund, even though it has already ended. Boies, who represents Annie Farmer, one of the accusers in the trial, said the accusation was nonsense.
"The victims were compensated out of the compensation fund for the abuse they suffered," Boies told Insider. "They were not compensated for cooperating with the government or doing anything else."
Read the original article on Insider