The New York Academy of Art hired an outside law firm recently to investigate artist Maria Farmer’s accusation that the chair of the board of trustees, Eileen Guggenheim, introduced her to Jeffrey Epstein and encouraged her to maintain a relationship with the pedophile because he was a big donor. But the investigation has instead ended up smearing Farmer and blaming her for her sister Annie’s abuse at the hands of the late billionaire. Epstein allegedly assaulted both Farmer, an academy graduate, and Annie, who was then 15, in the 1990s.
The academy’s report, released on Tuesday, paints Farmer as an unreliable narrator and uses discrepancies in her court testimonies to prove her “dubious credibility.” It says that Guggenheim “played no role” in Farmer’s relationship to Epstein. It also suggests that Farmer is responsible for her younger sister’s assault, claiming that when she worked as Epstein’s assistant she must have seen several young girls going to Epstein’s apartment. The report says she “ignored this and the many other red flags, which would have suggested to a reasonable person that introducing her 15-year-old sister to Epstein might end badly.” The academy asked Guggenheim to retain her position as chair of the board of trustees.
UPDATE: After publication, Jim Walden, a representative for the law firm that produced the report, issued a statement to The Daily Beast. “In a world where people’s lives and reputations can be forever ruined by untested allegations, it is not ‘victim blaming’ to hold people—even the victims of crime—accountable for their words,” Walden said. “Here, without taking away from Ms. Farmer’s terrible experiences with Epstein, her allegations against the Academy and Ms. Guggenheim are false, and the record in this regard is quite clear.”
“The investigation into allegations related to the New York Academy of Art and Eileen Guggenheim included interviews with over 20 witnesses (former and current Academy board members, Academy staff and former Academy students), review of emails and hard copy documents, and extensive searches of social media sites,” said Walden, of the firm Walden Macht & Haran. “My firm was given full authority to follow the facts no matter where they led, and we did. Through its review of documentary evidence and witness testimony, the investigation found that Ms. Guggenheim did not introduce Ms. Farmer to Epstein, that Ms. Guggenheim played no role in Ms. Farmer’s decision to sell one of her paintings to him, and that Ms. Farmer did not in report sexual abuse to Ms. Guggenheim in 1995-96. The investigation discovered sworn testimony in federal court by Ms. Farmer stating that she independently agreed to sell Epstein a painting.”