Ghislaine Maxwell ambushed prosecutors by asking for a gag order on witnesses in her criminal trial, court documents seen by DailyMail.com claim.
Maxwell's lawyers filed an affidavit in her child sex trafficking case on Monday (US time), asking a New York judge to prevent prosecution witnesses from publishing information about the case online.
Prosecutors scrambled to file a letter to Judge Alison Nathan in response, claiming they had been negotiating with Jeffrey Epstein's alleged madam's legal team "as recently as 6pm last night" and were surprised by the gagging request.
The British socialite's attorney wrote to Judge Nathan asking her to keep discovery materials from being published, but wanted permission to identify witnesses and Maxwell's alleged victims who have already come forward in the case.
Maxwell, 58, currently faces trial over criminal child sex trafficking charges in New York, accused of procuring girls as young as 14 for paedophile Epstein to abuse. She has pleaded not guilty and has denied any wrongdoing.
Maxwell's lawyer Christian Everdell wrote: "The defence believes that potential government witnesses and their counsel should be subject to the same restrictions as the defense concerning appropriate use of the discovery materials – namely, if these individuals are given access to discovery materials during trial preparation, they may not use those materials for any purpose other than preparing for trial in the criminal case, and may not post those materials on the internet," the affidavit said.
"The defence believes it should not be restricted from publicly disclosing or disseminating the identity of any alleged victims or potential witnesses referenced in the discovery materials who have already identified themselves by speaking on the public record," the lawyer wrote.
The affidavit said Maxwell's legal team had been negotiating with assistant US attorneys Alison Moe, Alex Rossmiller and Maurene Comey - the daughter of former FBI director James Comey.
Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, shot back a one-paragraph letter to the judge, asking for a day to respond to Maxwell's gagging request.
She said the two sides had been working through the weekend towards an agreement before the surprise filing by the defence.
The US Attorney's office and Everdell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Judge Nathan had already slapped down a request from Maxwell's lawyers to bar prosecutors from speaking to the media about the case.
But the court told the attorneys to tread carefully in interviews, writing it "warns counsel and agents for the parties and counsel for potential witnesses that going forward it will not hesitate to take appropriate action in the face of violations of any relevant rules".
The legal spat follows news that a bombshell cache of previously sealed documents in a civil case against Maxwell are set to be turned over to the public this week – and are reportedly set to expose the details of her allegedly sordid sex life.
US District Judge Loretta Preska unsealed the documents during a Thursday teleconference and gave Maxwell's defence team a week to file an appeal.
The files come from a 2015 defamation lawsuit by Virginia Roberts, who accused Maxwell of lying and sexually abusing her as a teenager and pimping her out to rich and powerful men including the Queen's son Prince Andrew.