Jeffrey Epstein’s victims ask Florida court to allow new federal charges
Victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse called Tuesday for a federal judge to allow the possibility of new charges against the disgraced financier in South Florida.
While Epstein faces federal sex trafficking counts in New York, there’s a continuing battle over whether his controversial 2007 deal to avoid prosecution in Florida should be thrown out.
Tuesday’s push is in response to a February court ruling that Epstein’s “non-prosecution agreement” violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, because underage girls assaulted by Epstein in Palm Beach weren’t told about the deal in advance.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra is expected to rule soon on what steps should be taken to rectify the violation all these years later.
Some of Epstein’s victims, while expressing gratitude for the new charges in New York, say they also want Epstein to be held accountable by federal authorities for offenses that happened in his Palm Beach estate from 1999 to 2007. He abused dozens of minor girls, some as young as 14, during those years, court records show.
The victims are asking Judge Marra to rescind the immunity for Epstein and his unnamed co-conspirators, to clear the way for new charges.
“The Government and Epstein reached a secret non-prosecution agreement and then concealed that agreement until it was firmly in place — and the victims lost any opportunity to object,” wrote victims’ attorney Bradley Edwards. “This secret justice for Epstein and his co-conspirators has led to a national outcry about unfairness and unequal treatment of the wealthy and powerful in the criminal justice system.”
Government prosecutors want the agreement kept in place while offering victims opportunities to air their concerns and stories. And Epstein opposes any move to reopen the 2007 agreement.
The once-private pact, and Epstein’s subsequent 2008 guilty plea to state prostitution charges, has come under increasing scrutiny for being unusually lenient.
In recent weeks, a clamor over Epstein’s deal led to the July 12 resignation of U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the former U.S. attorney who directed Epstein’s immunity from federal crimes a dozen years ago.
Epstein, 66, received an 18-month state sentence, and wound up serving 13 months of the term in a special wing of the Palm Beach County Jail. He also was permitted to leave the facility during the day and spend his time in a West Palm Beach office.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, responding to allegations that Epstein had sexual relations during his work release, called for an investigation.
Bradshaw’s office said Tuesday this review will “determine if in fact the system failed 11 years ago and hold those accountable for any failures and ensure that it won’t happen again.”
Today, Epstein remains in custody in Manhattan, accused of exploiting dozens of girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
In his February ruling, Judge Marra found the U.S. Attorney’s Office “never conferred with the victims about (an agreement) or told the victims that such an agreement was under consideration.” The judge then called for proposed remedies for this injustice.
So lawyers for two Epstein victims, the U.S. attorney’s office, and Epstein, have offered contrasting proposals for how to address the violation of the Victims Rights Act.
Roy Black, attorney for Epstein, has urged the court to block the possibility of new federal charges in South Florida.
He wrote the victims “now seek to impose remedies against Mr. Epstein that would deprive him of the entire consideration he received in exchange for pleading guilty, serving time in jail, registering as a sex offender, and paying substantial money damages and fees to (the victims) and their attorneys.”
Black also argued that Epstein had nothing to do with the government’s violation of the Victims Rights Act, and holding him responsible now would amount to “something that has never been done in the history of American jurisprudence.”
But Edwards, representing victims identified as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, said the government and Epstein’s counsel colluded to keep the non-prosecution agreement hidden.
“That plan to keep the victims in the dark was patently illegal under the (Crime Victims Rights Act),” Edwards wrote. “And the plan was in service of keeping a deal secret that could never have survived public or judicial scrutiny.”
Attorneys for the government last month acknowledged the U.S. attorneys’ office “should have communicated its resolution of the federal criminal investigation of Epstein to his victims more effectively and in a more transparent manner.”
The federal prosecutors said their solution to the mistake would bring finality to all sides.
“While the Court cannot unwind the past, the remedies proposed by the government would give the victims a meaningful opportunity to have their voices heard and to understand, if not accept, the decisions made in this matter,” the lawyers wrote.
Read more at Orlando Sentinel