Some sealed documents related to the teen sex trafficking case against hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein will be opened, following a July 3 decision by a federal appeals court in New York.

The move comes amid growing criticism of a plea deal that allowed the well-connected financier to avoid conviction on the most serious charges stemming from an alleged teen sex trafficking ring that he ran out of his South Florida home. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who was the lead prosecutor in the case, has faced calls to resign and a new Justice Department inquiry since the Miami Herald detailed the case and the plea deal in a November report.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered a federal judge to open documents filed in connection with a defamation lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, against British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. Giuffre alleges Maxwell and Epstein recruited her into a forced sex ring at Epstein’s home in Florida when Giuffre was a minor.

The documents could shed new light on the details of Epstein’s alleged trafficking ring. That could ramp up the criticism of Acosta, who a group of House Democrats and some progressive groups have urged to resign over the plea deal.

The court issued “a cautionary note” in granting the Herald’s request to unseal some of the documents.

“Materials submitted by parties to a court should be understood for what they are,” Second Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes wrote for the court. “They do not reflect the court’s own findings. Rather, they are prepared by parties seeking to advance their own interests in an adversarial process.”

Epstein was accused of using employees to bring local teen girls to his home for sex and paying victims to recruit new victims. His alleged victims were as young as 13 years old at the time. Epstein eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of soliciting a prostitute and served 13 months in a state prison.

The Second Circuit order unseals documents filed in connection with a summary judgment motion in the Giuffre case, which was eventually settled. The court also ordered a judge to individually review other sealed documents to determine whether they should also be opened.

Legal Battles Continue

A federal judge in Miami ruled Feb. 21 that Acosta and the other prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by landing Epstein’s plea agreement without telling the alleged victims. The prosecutors also “misled” the victims to believe that Epstein may still be prosecuted in federal court, Judge Kenneth Marra said.

Marra has yet to decide on a remedy for the alleged victims.

Acosta recently told two separate congressional panels that he stepped in to pursue federal charges against Epstein after a Florida grand jury recommended no prison time for state charges. He also said Epstein’s lawyers unsuccessfully asked Justice Department officials to tell his team to back off.

“This matter was appealed all the way up to the deputy attorney general’s office,” Acosta said in response to questioning at a May 1 House hearing. “Not because we weren’t doing enough but because the contention was that we were too aggressive.”

Acosta’s supporters point out that the plea deal forced Epstein to compensate victims and register as a sex offender. They also say that some victims refused to cooperate with prosecutors, who had a tough time supporting federal instead of state charges by showing that the alleged crime happened across state lines.

Epstein’s all-star legal defense team included Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz, former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, and famed criminal defense attorney Roy Black. Jay Lefkowitz, who previously worked with Acosta at Kirkland and Ellis, also was part of the team.

An Epstein accuser in a related lawsuit in New York claims Dershowitz participated in the sex ring, a claim Dershowitz denies. He’s among a group that has asked a court to unseal documents in that case.

The case is Maxwell v. Giuffre, 2d Cir., No. 16-3945, 7/3/19.