Do you remember Jeffrey Epstein? He’s the billionaire hedge fund manager who got a sweetheart deal that put him behind bars (part-time) for about a year after he sexually abused dozens of underage girls in his Florida mansion and on his private island. This is another case where it was obvious to everyone that a) Epstein was guilty and b) he was going to mostly get away with it because he had unlimited money and a dream team of lawyers including Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr.
When Epstein’s most notable political connection was Bill Clinton the national media had barely a passing interest in this story. Fortunately, one of the central players in the deal that kept Epstein out of prison for life is now a Trump administration cabinet official which means there is renewed interest. I say fortunately because, to be blunt, I don’t give a damn about the politics motivating this story. Epstein is a genuine monster. Any reconsideration of the case that puts him behind bars for the rest of his life is one worth having.
Today the Miami Herald published a lengthy story, which they spent a year putting together, reviewing Epstein’s unique non-prosecution deal and the possibility it could be overturned by a new lawsuit. To appreciate how sweet this deal was, you have to look at what Epstein would have been facing if he wasn’t a rich, well-connected billionaire:
Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life.
But on the morning of the breakfast meeting [between Miami’s federal prosecutor and Epstein’s attorney], a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.
As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.
The Miami prosecutor who made the deal with Epstein’s lawyers was Alexander Acosta, who is now Trump’s Secretary of Labor. As mentioned above, the deal Acosta agreed to allowed Epstein to plead guilty to two felony prostitution charges. But as the Herald points out, the actual deal shouldn’t have been possible because the girl labeled a prostitute for purposes of the agreement was only 14 years old.
Despite substantial physical evidence and multiple witnesses backing up the girls’ stories, the secret deal allowed Epstein to enter guilty pleas to two felony prostitution charges. Epstein admitted to committing only one offense against one underage girl, who was labeled a prostitute, even though she was 14, which is well under the age of consent — 18 in Florida…
“It’s just outrageous how they minimized his crimes and devalued his victims by calling them prostitutes,’’ said Yasmin Vafa, a human rights attorney and executive director of Rights4Girls, which is working to end the sexual exploitation of girls and young women.
“There is no such thing as a child prostitute. Under federal law, it’s called child sex trafficking — whether Epstein pimped them out to others or not. It’s still a commercial sex act — and he could have been jailed for the rest of his life under federal law,” she said.
There were two people who wanted to see Epstein behind bars: Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter and Detective Joseph Recarey. As they turned up more and more girls who had been abused by Epstein, word eventually got back to him what was happening. That’s when he hired Alan Dershowitz and a team of private investigators who began digging up dirt on all of Epstein’s potential accusers. That material was used to convince Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer that the girls’ stories wouldn’t hold up in court:
“Alan Dershowitz flew down and met privately with Krischer,’’ Recarey said. “And the shenanigans that happened, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of before.’’
Police reports show that Epstein’s private investigators attempted to conduct interviews while posing as cops; that they picked through Reiter’s trash in search of dirt to discredit him; and that the private investigators were accused of following the girls and their families. In one case, the father of one girl claimed he had been run off the road by a private investigator, police and court reports show…
The defense team’s investigators compiled dossiers on the victims in an effort to show that Epstein’s accusers had troubled pasts.
Dershowitz met with Krischer and Recarey, sharing with them the results of an investigation into one of the girls whom Dershowitz described as “an accomplished drama student’’ who hurled profanities at his investigator at “a furious pace.’’…
“Our investigation had discovered at least one of her websites and I am enclosing some examples … the site goes on to detail, including photos, her apparent fascination with marijuana, ’’ Dershowitz wrote in an undated letter to Recarey.
And the pressure worked. Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer lost confidence in the case:
Recarey said Krischer told him he didn’t believe Epstein’s accusers, and only two of them were called before the state grand jury investigating the case — even though police had lined up more than a dozen girls and witnesses at that time.
Believing that the case had been tainted, Reiter — that same month, May 2006 — took a very public stance against Krischer, writing a letter, which was released to the news media, calling on Krischer to remove himself from the case. The chief then referred it to the FBI, which opened its own investigation in July 2006, FBI records show.
But as mentioned above, the plea agreement eventually reached with Epstein shut down the FBI investigation. Detective Joseph Recarey told the Herald, “I always hoped that the plea would be thrown out and that these teenage girls, who were labeled as prostitutes by prosecutors, would get to finally shed that label and see him go to prison where he belongs.” Recarey died in May at age 50 after a short illness.
There’s a lot more in the lengthy piece published by the Herald but this 12-minute video sums up some of it. Politics aside, I sincerely hope Epstein’s victims get a second chance at justice. One case seeking to overturn his plea deal is scheduled to begin next week.