Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of L Brands Inc., can’t be held liable for once owning the Manhattan townhouse where a woman alleges she was raped as a teenager by Jeffrey Epstein, a federal judge ruled. 

US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Jennifer Araoz against Wexner, who had employed Epstein as a financial adviser and previously rented the East 71st Street property to him. The judge also tossed Araoz’s claims against Wexner’s wife, charities and other defendants.

Donnelly concluded that Araoz was barred from filing the federal lawsuit because she made similar claims in a New York state court case that was dismissed with prejudice, which means it can no longer be pursued. She’d sued Epstein’s estate in 2019, claiming she was 15 when he raped her almost two decades earlier. Epstein killed himself in jail while facing sex-trafficking charges.

Last month, Araoz’s lawyer argued newly-unsealed documents related to a separate case filed by another accuser against Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, showed “Wexner knew or should have known that Epstein was sexually trafficking underage girls.” Maxwell was convicted in 2021.

But the Brooklyn-based federal judge found Araoz “has not shown that new evidence was fraudulently concealed.” Donnelly said the material she cited was publicly available at the time of the state court dismissal and couldn’t be used to justify a “negligent supervision” claim against Wexner.

In earlier court filings, Wexner’s lawyers called the claims “utterly devoid of merit.” Wexner said in a sworn affidavit last year that he rented the townhouse to Epstein in the 1990s, but sold his shares in the corporation that owned title to the property in 1998, well before the alleged rape, which Araoz said occurred around 2001.

Robert Hantman, a lawyer for Araoz, said she is considering filing an appeal, “While I have the highest regard for the judge we are disappointed our client won’t have her day in court,” Hantman said.

Epstein was a long-time money manager for Wexner. The billionaire cut ties with Epstein in 2007 and later accused the financier of deception and misappropriating “vast sums of money from me and my family.” 

Marion Little and Guy Petrillo, lawyers for Wexner, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment about the ruling.

The case is Araoz v. New Albany Company, 22-cv-0125, US District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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