Judge Rules Abortion Records Can Be Subpoenaed In Multimillionaire's Sexual Assault Case

Illustration for article titled Judge Rules Abortion Records Can Be Subpoenaed In Multimillionaire's Sexual Assault Case

"I want you to tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury whether or not aborting three fetuses is more traumatic than giving a man a massage in the nude?" a lawyer for Jeffrey Epstein asked one alleged victim.


The attorney was attempting to discredit the woman's charge that she had been suffered emotional distress from her contact with his client. She reluctantly said the abortions had been more traumatic, according to the Palm Beach Post. And now a Palm Beach judge has ruled that the line of questioning should be enabled with the opening of the plaintiffs' medical records.

Epstein, a financier who lived in New York and Palm Beach, served 13 months of an 18 month sentence, having pled guilty to two state charges: procuring a minor for prostitution and soliciting prostitution. That was despite an investigation by the Palm Beach police department that turned up shocking stories of Epstein paying girls as young as 14 for nude massages and, it was alleged, sexually assaulting some of them. A report in The New York Times suggested Epstein's massive fortune and legal team that included Kenneth Starr and Alan M. Dershowitz had something to do with his abbreviated jail time.

Now several of the women involved are suing Epstein in civil procedures. That's where their personal medical histories come in — because Epstein's lawyers are dragging them in. From The Palm Beach Post:

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele said the records could help Epstein refute the women's claims that they suffered psychological ills after being paid to give him sexually-charged massages at his Palm Beach mansion when they were as young as 14.

Hafele told Epstein's attorneys they couldn't go on a fishing expedition. The medical records, he said, can't be sought until the women are asked whether they have ever had an abortion, how many and where. Further, he said, the records wouldn't be made public and may not be admissible during trial.

But, he said, since the women claim Epstein, now 57, is responsible for their emotional distress, his attorneys can explore the impacts of other events. Medical records, Hafele said, are a better source of information than a person's memory.

It's hard to imagine that privacy advocates will take this one lying down. One attorney, for a West Palm Beach clinic where abortions are performed, already "warned Hafele that he was stepping on shaky constitutional grounds." He was referring to the Florida Constitution, the paper says. We'll keep you updated.

Judge: Multi-millionaire Epstein Can Subpoena Abortion Records Of Women Suing Him [Palm Beach Post]
Related: Billionaire In Palm Beach Sex Scandal [The Smoking Gun]
Financier Starts Sentence In Prostitution Case [NYT]



Well. The attorney subpoenaing the records does not mean that the information will be admissible at trial, so there's at least that. Whatever evidence the defendant seeks to introduce will have to comply with the federal rules of evidence, including relevance - even if relevant, which this judge seems to believe, evidence can't be introduced if it's more prejudicial than probative. I think the plaintiff has a strong argument there.

But I question the relevance of obtaining abortion records. Measuring psychological injury by subpoenaing previous medical records is not as simple as determining whether the physical injuries a plaintiff complains of are the effect of the defendants' actions or an earlier injury. The difference being that with a physical injury, there would be evidence that the injuries the plaintiff alleges were caused by the defendant actually occurred at an earlier time. There is no way to look at medical records and say, "Well this woman has been traumatized since she was a teen prostitute and had to abort the pregnancies caused by her prostitution, so the emotional distress she suffered at the hands of the defendant are actually a result of the earlier abortions." Just because a plaintiff has suffered prior traumas or tragedies does not mean that the defendant's actions did not cause a separate injury.

This just seems really dangerous.