On Dec. 18, 2023, a judge in the state of New York ordered the unsealing of a long list of court documents connected with the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. According to The Associated Press (AP), the unsealing of these documents would also mean de-anonymizing them, with over 150 names in the court documents being made public. People on the internet took the news and ran with it.
??BREAKING NEWS: Jeffrey Epstein’s court documents with the list of over 200 names is getting released in a few hours. Nothing will ever be the same again. pic.twitter.com/WFVvZYWJor
— Dom Lucre | Breaker of Narratives (@dom_lucre) January 2, 2024
The list of names is real, and will indeed be released as part of a lawsuit filed against Epstein's associate Ghislaine Maxwell. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell on Aug. 10, 2019, while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking of minor girls. An autopsy ruled it was a suicide by hanging. His death set off a wave of conspiracy theories. Maxwell, meanwhile, is serving a 20-year prison sentence after she was convicted in December 2021 of helping Epstein recruit and sexually abuse underage girls.
By the wording of the December court order, anyone named in the documents had 14 days to appeal the decision. That placed the deadline on Jan. 1, 2024, meaning that the list could be released as soon as Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, as reported in the Guardian.
However, the release is not likely going to be the bombshell some people are claiming it will be. According to the story from the AP, the judge's rationale for ordering the unsealing was that most of the names were already public knowledge outside of the official court record. The story continued:
The people whose names are to be disclosed, including sex abuse victims, litigation witnesses, Epstein’s employees — and even some people with only a passing connection to the scandal — have until Jan. 1 to appeal the order, signed Monday by Judge Loretta A. Preska.
Given Epstein's notoriety and the exact natures of his crimes, many claims purport to connect him with various powerful and influential people. Snopes has fact-checked photographs showing Bill Clinton and Donald Trump with Epstein, purported lists of his connections, one of which supposedly came from actor Corey Feldman (this was not real), and claims that members of Congress like Adam Schiff had visited Epstein's island.