A federal judge has decided that federal prosecutors working under former Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta broke the law in their handling of the 2008 case against convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, according to the Miami Herald. The judge found that prosecutors had illegally concealed Epstein’s plea agreement from 30 of Epstein’s underage victims.
The judge, Kenneth A. Marra, gave prosecutors 15 days to talk to Epstein’s victims and their lawyers in order to decide on a settlement. The victims didn’t seek damages as part of the suit.
From the Herald:
It’s not clear whether the victims, now in their late 20s and early 30s, can, as part of the settlement, demand that the government prosecute Epstein. But others are calling on the Justice Department to take a new look at the case in the wake of the judge’s ruling.
“As a legal matter, the non-prosecution agreement entered into by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida does not bind other U.S. Attorneys in other districts. They are free, if they conclude it is appropriate to do so, to bring criminal actions against Mr. Epstein and his co-conspirators,’’ said lawyer David Boies, representing two of Epstein’s victims who claim they were trafficked by Epstein in New York and other areas of the country.
Marra found that prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not informing the victims of the plea deal and that they misled the victims into believing the FBI was still investigating the case long after the secret plea deal was sealed.
“Particularly problematic was the Government’s decision to conceal the existence of the [agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,” Marra wrote in his decision. “When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [agreement] with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims.”
Epstein was granted an incredibly light sentence for trafficking women, who were referred to in the case as “prostitutes” despite being underage. Epstein was in jail for a total of 13 months, much of which he spent at his office on “work leave.” The sentence did not address many other claims of sexual assault and pedophilia made against him.
Earlier this month, in response to new reporting on the case by the Herald, the Department of Justice announced it would open a probe into prosecutorial misconduct in the case. Today, Sen. Ben Sasse, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee, called for the DOJ to re-examine Epstein’s generous plea deal.
“The fact that it’s taken this long to get this far is heartbreaking and infuriating,” Sasse said. “The Department of Justice should use this opportunity to reopen its non-prosecution agreement so that Epstein and anyone else who abused these children are held accountable.”
Brad Edwards, who represents Courtney Wilds, one of Epstein’s victims and Jane Doe No. 1 in the case, said he was relieved by the ruling but angry that it took so long to come about.
“The government aligned themselves with Epstein, working against his victims, for 11 years,” Edwards told the Herald. “Yes, this is a huge victory, but to make his victims suffer for 11 years, this should not have happened. Instead of admitting what they did, and doing the right thing, they spent 11 years fighting these girls.”
Acosta is now the Secretary of Labor for the Trump administration. He issued a statement through a spokesperson:
“For more than a decade, the actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures. This matter remains in litigation and, thus, for any further comment we refer you to the Department of Justice.”
One of Epstein’s victims, Michelle Licata, who was molested by Epstein at the age of 14, said the decision was a “step to justice.” But she also wondered by authorities haven’t opened a new case against Epstein.
“They should see if they can prosecute him for something,” she told the Herald. “I mean, really prosecute him—instead of giving him 13 months where he was allowed to come and go as he pleased. I just want to see him face some consequences for what he did.”
Marra’s decision references another controversial aspect of the case: Epstein’s co-conspirators. Epstein has many powerful friends, and his notorious private jet logs listed names including Bill Clinton.
“Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others,” Marra wrote. But those people were never prosecuted or identified. Perhaps the new DOJ probe will help bring some of these unnamed collaborators to justice.
Update, 11:43 a.m. ET, 2/22/19: A previous version of this story made the claim that a woman had told the Miami Herald that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz—who has had both personal and professional ties to Epstein—had “raped her repeatedly when she was 16.”
The Herald has reported on previous claims made by the woman, Virginia Roberts, and interviewed her, but she did not make that specific claim in the interview. We have deleted the sentence from our story.
On Friday morning, Dershowitz contacted Splinter with a lengthy statement denying the rape allegation set out against him in a Miami Herald story. Here is an excerpt of the statement:
These allegations were made in 2014 and formally withdrawn in 2016.
Not only have I repeatedly denied the claims, I conclusively disproved them. I produced my travel, phone, credit card, and TV appearance records conclusively proving I could not have been and was not in any of the places Roberts claims I was during the time that she knew Epstein. The former Director of the F.B.I., assisted by a former assistant U.S. attorney and a chief federal marshal, reviewed these records and the other evidence and concluded that “the totality of the evidence found during the investigation refutes the allegations.”The judge struck Roberts’ affidavit and sanctioned her lawyers for filing it, and her lawyers then withdrew their accusation admitting that it was a mistake.
Update, 3/13/19, 8:01 a.m. ET: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly said that the Herald had not, to our knowledge, interviewed Roberts about her claims against Epstein.