A ‘Chilling Factor’ for Victims: Ghislaine Maxwell Lawyers Drop Anonymous Accusers’ Real Names in Court

Last week in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, defense attorney Jeff Pagliuca made a show of remembering to respect an alleged victim’s request for anonymity. He had just begun discussing the first accuser, known only by the pseudonym “Jane” while cross-examining Jeffrey Epstein’s former estate staff member Juan Alessi. Judge Alison Nathan broke in with a reminder to not say Jane’s real name out loud. Pagliuca told the judge not to worry. “I have it blacked out on all my copies,” he said, referring to the documents in front of him. Nathan replied that she was also providing the reminder for the benefit of Alessi, who was less familiar with the process. Then Pagliuca read from the document in front of him and promptly spoke Jane’s real first name out loud. 

Today, he did it again. In open court, he uttered the real last name of Carolyn, the third of four accusers to testify for the state, who tearfully recounted testimony of being abused by Epstein and Maxwell starting when she was 14, and whom counsel had agreed to refer to by her first name only. Prosecutors immediately complained to the judge.

Attorney Adam Horowitz, who represented eight Epstein victims in a Florida civil suit around 2009, thinks that’s one occasion too many to be a slip of the tongue. “It’s one of those things where the first time maybe it’s a mistake,” he says. “The second time, there’s a pattern now that something is being done purposefully, which is disturbing, because there’s a court order that he’s not allowed to use the name.” (Pagliuca did not immediately respond for comment; we will update if he does.) 

Horowitz says that if the revelation of the alleged victims’ names is an intentional attempt to expose or embarrass them, it isn’t working. “Thankfully, no major media outlets have reported the name,” he says. “So it’s not an effective strategy.” But total secrecy isn’t the biggest concern. After all, Jane’s provided enough detail about her career and upbringing that it isn’t impossible to suss out her identity — the issue is the betrayal of trust of alleged victims who have agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of an alleged sex-trafficker by telling a jury, a courtroom, and overflow rooms full of invisible strangers the painful details of what they claim happened to them.

To Horowitz, that broken agreement could have troubling ramifications. “As a lawyer, what I’m concerned about is the chilling factor, where victims and whistleblowers decide they’re not going to come forward because a defense lawyer might out their names,” Horowitz says. “We rely on whistleblowers and other victims to come forward; sometimes they provide helpful evidence. How many victims might stay silent because they hear about this?”

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