Fact check: List of Ghislaine Maxwell 'co-conspirators' is from a previous lawsuit

·4 min read

The claim: A list shows Ghislaine Maxwell's 'co-conspirators' in a federal criminal case

As the criminal trial begins for British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, some social media users claim a list of nearly 40 other individuals and groups will be tried alongside her.

"Ghislane Maxwell on trial," reads a Nov. 22 Facebook post. "Here's the co-conspirator list.

Posts like this have been circulating for weeks alongside a document that lists the estate of billionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, as well as popular music artists like Beyoncé and Kanye West. Other people on the list, like rapper R. Kelly and film producer Harvey Weinstein, were jailed for sex crimes.

A number of posts on Facebook, together amassing hundreds of likes and shares, claim the document shows co-defendants in Maxwell's federal case, which began Nov. 29. But that's wrong.

More: Ghislaine Maxwell complains of unsanitary prison conditions ahead of sex-trafficking trial

The document is real, but it's not related to the criminal charges filed against Maxwell, who was a close associate of Epstein before he died. It was filed as part of a 2020 civil lawsuit by a Texas woman who claimed she was trafficked by Epstein and other famous individuals and companies. The case was thrown out after a court determined the woman's claims were unfounded.

USA TODAY reached out to social media users who shared the post for comment.

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Document from 2020 civil suit, not related to criminal case

The document shown in the social media posts is the first page of a complaint filed by Texan Charlene Latham against the 1953 Trust, Epstein's estate. It is not related to the federal criminal case against Maxwell.

In the complaint, filed in August 2020 in the Southern District of New York, Latham claimed the listed defendants ran a "lucrative but sociopathic, criminal enterprise where (they) engaged in decades of human trafficking, sexual assaults and various abuses."

The case was dismissed as frivolous less than a month after it was filed, court documents show.

Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell during a news conference in New York.
Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell during a news conference in New York.

"Plaintiff's claims rise to the level of the irrational, and there is no legal theory on which she can rely," now-former U.S. District Judge Louis Stantonwrote in his decision.

The dismissed lawsuit is separate from the federal charges against Maxwell.

In July 2020, Maxwell, 59, was federally indicted on six charges, including perjury and enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sexual acts, court documents show. Two additional counts, sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor, were added in March.

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There are no co-defendants listed in Maxwell's charging documents. She pleaded not guilty in July 2020 and has spent the last year and a half awaiting trial in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that a list shows Maxwell's "co-conspirators" in a federal criminal case FALSE. The document is not related to Maxwell's current case. It was filed as part of a 2020 civil lawsuit by a Texas woman who claimed she was trafficked by Epstein and other famous individuals and companies. The case was thrown out when a court determined the woman's claims were unfounded.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Maxwell 'co-conspirators' list not related to federal case