By JAMES HILL, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A lawyer for an alleged child-sex trafficking victim contends in a new court filing that attorneys for Jeffrey Epstein’s $655 million estate are engaged in a “concerted and coordinated effort” to delay the woman’s lawsuit in an attempt to steer her claims into a private victim compensation fund established by the estate.
“They have done everything they can to make these cases as difficult as possible for the victims so the victims feel like they have no real choice but to submit to the fund and postpone the proceedings indefinitely,” Robert Glassman, an attorney for the alleged victim who sued under the pseudonym Jane Doe, wrote.
Doe filed the lawsuit against the estate in January. The complaint also names Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s alleged accomplice, as a co-defendant. Doe alleges she was recruited by the pair in 1994 when she was a 13-year-old music student at a summer camp in Michigan.
Of the more than 30 women who brought legal claims against Epstein’s estate following his death last year, Doe is the only accuser who has declined to put her lawsuit on hold to pursue an alternative resolution via the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Fund, a voluntary non-adversarial program that began evaluating claims in June.
In the seven months since Doe filed the lawsuit, estate lawyers have yet to turn over a single document in response to pretrial requests and have “resorted to belittling [Doe] … simply because she is exercising her constitutional right to pursue a legal claim against those responsible for causing her unimaginable harm,” according to Glassman’s claims in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman.
“In short, since [Doe] has not agreed to stay her case and walk away, she is being punished by the Epstein estate for doing what she has a basic right to do. That is simply unacceptable and [she] is not walking away,” Glassman wrote.
Glassman declined to comment on the letter when reached by ABC News.
Lawyers for the estate did not respond to an email request for comment, but in a letter filed with the court late Wednesday, they disputed Glassman’s allegations that the estate had belittled the alleged victim as “completely untrue.”
“We have done no such thing, and the inclusion of this claim by plaintiff’s counsel further highlights their lack of good faith in these discussions,” Epstein estate attorney Mary Grace Metcalfe wrote.
The parties have been wrangling for months now over the estate’s insistence on a confidentiality order and a non-disclosure agreement being in place before they would turn over any relevant information in their possession to Doe’s lawyers, who have thus far declined to sign on to its terms. During a teleconference last week, estate lawyer Bennet Moskowitz told the court that Doe’s lawyer’s refusal to sign the agreement is the only thing standing in the way of the estate turning over documents to her legal team.
“It kind of boggles our minds because this case is brought by someone acting through an anonymous name. That is reason alone to have a confidentiality agreement,” Moskowitz said.
Moskowitz also advocated for putting the litigation on hold while Doe submits a claim to the compensation fund, arguing that it was “a very sensible thing to do.”
According to a spokesperson for the compensation program, forms were sent to over 100 potential claimants so far and more than 25 claims have been filed and are being reviewed.
Unlike a lawsuit, the claims process is designed to be confidential from start to finish, which may be a favored path for the vast majority of alleged Epstein victims. But the process, by its very nature, may also prevent disclosure of information about the scope of Epstein’s finances and his alleged sex-trafficking operation that might otherwise be revealed in public court records or proceedings. The only public reporting required of the program is a periodic aggregate accounting of the number of claims paid and the total amount of the awards.
Judge Freeman, who is overseeing the case, seemed to be nudging Doe’s lawyers during the telephonic hearing in the direction of staying the case, as dozens of other Epstein accusers had done.
“I’m not trying to twist anybody’s arms here. I just think you need to talk because I don’t want to see money unnecessarily spent,” Freeman said. “And I’m not saying you should agree to a stay, but I think you should consider it.”
But Glassman told ABC News in a brief interview last month that — while Doe may at some point opt to submit a claim to the compensation fund — she has no interest in delaying the lawsuit while that process runs its course. Glassman also said that he sees no need for the confidentiality agreement the estate wants in place because there is an existing court order which prohibits the disclosure of his client’s identity to anyone not involved in the case.
“We’re interested in taking this case to trial and getting the evidence that we need in order to prepare the case for that time,” Glassman said.
Doe’s lawsuit alleges that she is the first known child victim of Epstein and Maxwell. According to her civil complaint, after first meeting them at the music camp, a months-long grooming process continued after she returned home to Florida, where Epstein had a seaside estate on Palm Beach Island. Doe’s father had recently passed away, the complaint said, creating an opportunity for Epstein and Maxwell to fill the void.
“Epstein gave himself the name of Doe’s ‘godfather’ while Maxwell acted like an older sister to her,” her complaint said. “They took her to movies, went shopping with her and lounged around Epstein’s estate with her.”
Doe, now 40, alleges the abuse escalated over the next few years as Epstein and Maxwell asserted more and more control over her life and aspirations. Epstein paid for voice lessons, private high school tuition and even co-signed a lease on a New York City apartment for Doe and her mother, according to her complaint.
She claims the abuse occurred at Epstein’s homes in Florida, New York and his ranch in New Mexico, and that she would often travel to those locations with Epstein and Maxwell on one of Epstein’s private jets.
“Epstein’s system of abuse was facilitated in large part by his co-conspirator and accomplice, Maxwell, who helped supply him with a steady stream of young and vulnerable girls,” the complaint said, “many of whom were fatherless, like Jane Doe, and came from struggling families.”
The allegations in Doe’s complaint are substantially similar to the circumstances of one of the three child victims described in the criminal indictment filed against Maxwell last month. Maxwell has denied Doe’s claims in the civil suit and has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the criminal indictment. She is currently being held without bail in a federal jail in Brooklyn, New York.
In a letter to the court Wednesday, Maxwell’s attorney Laura Menninger indicated that she intends to ask the court to put Doe’s claims against Maxwell on hold, pending the outcome of her criminal case. Citing the difficulties she’s had communicating with Maxwell at the jail, Menninger asked for another week to consult with her client before filing a formal request.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.