By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Monday rejected Ghislaine Maxwell's effort to keep under wraps an excerpt from a 2016 deposition that she fears could undermine her criminal trial on charges she aided the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and committed perjury.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska said Maxwell had only a "minimal" privacy interest in the 20-line excerpt, because it concerned massages and not private sexual activity of consenting adults, and the public had a right to see her testimony.
"There is no reason not to unseal this portion of testimony," the Manhattan-based judge wrote. "While the court acknowledges Ms. Maxwell's interest in a fair criminal trial, Ms. Maxwell can argue all her points to the presiding judge in her criminal trial, as she has already."
Lawyers for Maxwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Preska had previously released large portions of the July 22, 2016 deposition, which came from a now-settled civil defamation lawsuit against Maxwell by Virginia Giuffre, one of dozens of women who have accused Epstein of sexual misconduct.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to a six-count indictment claiming she helped Epstein recruit three teenage girls for sex from 1994 to 1997, and then lied about it.
She has said the 20 lines of testimony was the basis of one of the perjury charges.
That charge covered Maxwell's denials to ever giving Epstein or anyone else a massage, knowing whether Epstein possessed sex toys and knowing whether Epstein had sex in the 1990s and 2000s with anyone other than herself and two other women.
Maxwell believes prosecutors obtained the deposition transcript illegally, and it should be kept out of her trial.
Her lawyers have said that argument would be compromised if prosecutors could claim that any errors they made were harmless once Preska released the testimony.
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan oversees the criminal case and will decide whether to admit or suppress the deposition.
Maxwell is separately seeking to dismiss all or part of the indictment, arguing in part that prosecutors are targeting her only because Epstein is dead and she serves as a "substitute" for him.
Epstein killed himself in August 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell was arrested in July and is being held in a Brooklyn jail. Nathan has twice denied bail.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman)