British newspapers are awash with the type of scandal that they revel in, a sex scandal involving the royal family. At issue is whether Prince Andrew, one of the many unemployed leeches in that corrupt and useless monarchy, and others had sex with underage girls that were provided for them by American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein himself seems to be a real creep who had an obsession with underage girls, threw lavish parties where he supplied them to his friends, and served some time in prison for it.
What struck me about the case is that it illustrates yet again (if one needed more evidence) how rich people get far better treatment than the poor in the US justice system and the mechanism that is most favored for achieving this is the plea bargain, where the prosecutors strike a deal with the defendant for the latter to plead guilty to a reduced charge and the promise of lenient sentencing. While this avoids the time and expense of a lengthy court trial, the trick of course is that wealthy and powerful people get much better plea deal offers than poor. And Epstein had plenty of money and influential friends, including Bill Clinton, to get a really good one, even though as many as 40 young women, many of them under the age of consent, were reportedly recruited by Epstein to provide sexual services for him and his friends.
If Epstein had sex with a minor, he is guilty of rape, a really serious charge. But ultimately that is not what he pleaded guilty to.
When Jeffrey Epstein first faced claims that he had abused multiple underage girls and hosted illicit sex parties for powerful men at his lavish home in Florida, onlookers might reasonably have expected him to face prison time of 10 or more years.
Instead, the disgraced financier agreed to plead guilty to the relatively minor charge of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution, for which he was given an 18-month sentence – he served 13 months – with a “non-prosecution agreement” promising that any alleged co-conspirators in Epstein’s dubious activities would be safe from criminal prosecution.
Not unreasonably, it is thought that this public admission of guilt represents contrition, and that sparing the state the cost of a trial – and sparing witnesses the ordeal of giving evidence – is an act worthy of reward.
But it is hard to see how anyone was spared in Epstein’s case besides the billionaire himself, who, the lawsuit alleges, used his “significant social and political connections” – including with the former US President Bill Clinton – to arrive at a “more favourable” plea deal.
That rich people can get a favorable plea deal is not news. But this case shows how they can also shield their friends and even get key documents sealed so that the public does not get to know exactly what went on. And in this case, the deal allowed all the friends of Epstein to avoid getting details of their involvement publicized. And then the existence of these deals was also kept secret, putting on yet another layer of shielding.
Royal aides have also denied any involvement by the Prince in the second element of the allegations made in court documents filed in Florida last week – that Epstein used his “significant social and political connections” to exert pressure for the plea deal which eventually saw him jailed for soliciting underage prostitutes under state law. More serious federal offences were dropped.
In May last year, prosecutors surrendered 541 pages of correspondence with Epstein’s lawyers leading up to the 2008 non-prosecution agreement as part of an ongoing process by the alleged victims seeking access to almost 15,000 pages of documentation.
But under an unpublicised ruling obtained by lawyers for Epstein, the details of the documents cannot be disclosed after it was argued that the negotiations over his plea deal were confidential and should not automatically enter the public domain.
In a legal paper opposing the order, Brad Edwards and Paul Cassell, the lawyers for Ms Roberts, said: “There is an overriding interest in having these matters exposed to public light.
“There is considerable public interest in the question of how a serial child molester could arrange such a lenient plea agreement.”
Although Epstein was convicted in 2008 and released in 2009, the case has come back in the news due to one of the minors, who is now 30 and married with children and living in Australia, alleging that she and others were unfairly treated in the plea deals with their interests ignored and that key witnesses were pressured by Epstein into withholding key evidence. They are seeking to have those sealed documents released.
The Duke of York’s former friend Jeffrey Epstein used “aggressive witness tampering” on employees who later refused to answer questions about whether the Duke slept with underage girls, according to US investigators.
Epstein is also said to have bankrolled the legal fees of witnesses who invoked their right to silence to avoid answering whether young girls were “provided for sex” to the Duke.
Lawyers representing women who were sexually abused by Epstein have complained bitterly that it became “impossible” to gather evidence from vital witnesses because so many of them had legal representation paid for by Epstein, a billionaire investment banker.
While the British papers have focused on the role of Andrew, another one of the people named by the woman is well-known lawyer and former academic Alan Dershowitz and he has reacted in typical fashion, going ballistic and threatening everyone in sight with legal action, including the lawyers for the woman. Jonathan Turley provides some background on the case and looks at the merits of Dershowitz’s blustering and does not see much merit.
Interestingly, Dershowitz was part of Epstein’s legal team that negotiated the deal that protected any potential co-conspirators of Epstein.
The new court filing says this result is in part due to the fact that Epstein’s legal team — which included such heavyweights as former independent counsel and solicitor general Ken Starr, trial lawyer Roy Black and Dershowitz — negotiated a deal that precluded the feds charging anyone as a co-conspirator.
Lawyers for Jane Doe #3 argue in the new motion that Dershowitz put this language in the agreement to protect himself.
However, the law professor told POLITICO he didn’t negotiate that deal and it wasn’t aimed at protecting him. “I had nothing to do with drafting the nonprosecution agreement,” he said.
Dershowitz added that the last draft of the agreement mentioned four people by name who wouldn’t be prosecuted and he was not among them. All were regular associates or assistants of Epstein, the lawyer said, adding that the final language removed those names and simply barred federal prosecutors in South Florida from going after any potential co-conspirators.
Epstein and his lawyers fought hard to prevent records about his plea negotiations from being turned over to victims’ attorneys. However, U.S. District Court Judge Keith Marra ruled last year that the victims are entitled to examine those records to prepare their case against the government.
Epstein, Black and others appealed that decision to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but it ruled last April that no privilege protects plea negotiations in this sort of dispute.
Dershowitz in his media appearances repeatedly tries to smear the woman who named him and keeps calling her a prostitute. Why he thinks that prostitutes are not credible is not clear. It seems to me that, other things being equal, given the choice between believing a prostitute and Dershowitz, my clear inclination would be to believe the prostitute.