NEW YORK — Confronted with allegations that he orchestrated a sex trafficking ring that delivered girls to him and his high-profile acquaintances, financier Jeffrey Epstein repeatedly refused to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself, according to court records released Friday.
Epstein's responses emerged in a partial transcript of a September 2016 deposition stemming from a defamation lawsuit. The transcript was included in hundreds of pages of documents placed in a public file by a federal appeals court in New York.
The deposition happened almost three years before Epstein's July 6 arrest on sex trafficking charges in a case that has brought down a Cabinet secretary and launched fresh investigations into how authorities dealt with Epstein over the years. The 66-year-old has pleaded not guilty.
Epstein was asked in the videotaped deposition whether it was standard operating procedure for his former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, to bring underage girls to him to sexually abuse.
Epstein replied "Fifth," as he did to numerous other questions, citing the Constitution's Fifth Amendment that protects people against incriminating themselves.
He also was asked whether Maxwell was "one of the main women" he used to procure underage girls for sexual activities.
"Fifth," he replied.
And he was asked whether Maxwell met one of the females she recruited for massages at the Mar-a-Lago resort owned by President Donald Trump in Palm Beach.
"Fifth," he replied.
Asked if he was a member of Mar-a-Lago in 2000, he replied once again, "Fifth," according to the transcript.
After Epstein's arrest, Trump acknowledged that he knew Epstein but said he "had a falling out with him a long time ago."
Over 2,000 pages of documents made public by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals pertained to a since-settled lawsuit against Maxwell filed by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's accusers.
Giuffre filed the complaint in 2015, saying Maxwell subjected her to "public ridicule, contempt and disgrace" by calling her a liar in published statements "with the malicious intent of discrediting and further damaging Giuffre worldwide." The lawsuit sought unspecified damages.
In a deposition included in the newly released papers, Giuffre said that her father, who worked at Mar-a-Lago as a maintenance manager, got her a job there in summer 2000 as a locker room attendant at the club's spa when she was 16.
She said she was reading a book on massage therapy one day when she was approached by Maxwell, who noticed the book and told her she knew someone seeking a traveling masseuse. When Giuffre said she had no experience or credentials, she recalled Maxwell said: "We can train you. We can get you educated."
The court records contain graphic allegations against Epstein, who is accused in Manhattan federal court of trafficking young girls internationally to have sex with prominent American politicians, business executives and world leaders. The papers portray Epstein as a sex slave-driver with an insatiable appetite for underage girls.
"My whole life revolved around just pleasing these men and keeping Ghislaine and Jeffrey happy," Giuffre said. "Their whole entire lives revolved around sex."
Giuffre said Maxwell instructed her to take off her clothes and give oral sex to Epstein the first time she met him after bringing her to Epstein's Florida home near Mar-a-Lago with the expectation she would be trained as a masseuse.
Prosecutors have not accused Maxwell of any wrongdoing. They say they continue to investigate.
In her own deposition, Maxwell called the claims another one of Giuffre's "many fictitious lies and stories to make this a salacious event to get interest and press. It's absolute rubbish." She also claimed that Giuffre was 17 when she met her.
Neither Maxwell's attorney nor a public-relations firm she hired responded Friday to emails from The Associated Press.
Epstein's lawyers say the federal charges that accuse Epstein of recruiting and abusing dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s should never have been brought. They say Epstein is protected by an agreement he reached with federal prosecutors in Florida a dozen years ago. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last month after coming under fire for overseeing that deal when he was U.S. attorney in Miami.
Attorney Martin Weinberg has said Epstein has not committed crimes since pleading guilty to charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida in 2008.
At the time of Epstein's arrest, prosecutors said they found a trove of pictures of nude and seminude young women and girls at his $77 million Manhattan mansion. They also say additional victims have come forward since the arrest.
Epstein's lawyers did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Friday.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Michael Biesecker in Washington, Curt Anderson in Miami, Jennifer Peltz in New York and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia, contributed to this report.