Yesterday I wrote about the case of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a man well connected politically and socially, getting to agree to a sweetheart plea deal even though the crime that was alleged against him, (running what seemed like a sex slave ring that included underage girls to serve his influential set of friends) is a horrible crime. He was sentenced to just 18 months in prison (he was released after 13 months) and even then he was only required to report to the prison each night, providing us with yet another glaring example of our two-tiered justice system which throws the book at poor people for minor offenses but coddles the wealthy even when they commit major ones. He was also required to pay the legal costs and an undisclosed sum (reportedly around $150,000) to each of the defendants.
Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting gives the background to the sordid case in the Miami Herald.
A wealthy Wall Street money manager who had once attempted to purchase New York magazine, Epstein traveled the world in circles that included President Bill Clinton and businessman Donald Trump. Despite his vast fortune and mansion in Palm Beach, Epstein kept a low profile and wasn’t a regular in the wealthy island’s social scene. [Prominent physicist and atheist Lawrence Krauss was also one of Epstein’s friends who vouched for his good character-MS]
The low profile vanished in 2005, when a woman contacted the Palm Beach police fearing that Epstein had molested her 14-year-old daughter. The girl told detectives she’d been invited to Epstein’s mansion, where she was paid $300 after stripping to her underwear and massaging Epstein as he masturbated. Police then located a community college student who gave a sworn statement that she had taken six girls, all between the ages of 14 and 16, to Epstein.
Police referred the case to the FBI. In September 2007, Dershowitz helped Epstein negotiate a then-secret non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which deferred to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office for criminal charges, court records show.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting prostitution with a minor and served 13 months of an 18-month sentence.
After his conviction, Epstein’s story grew even more bizarre, with anonymous women accusing him in federal court of conspiring with Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late British media baron Robert Maxwell, to operate an international underage sex ring.
It is that last point that has caused this case to reappear in the public eye and it gives an interesting insight into the legal system.
We know that in criminal cases, it is the state, not the victim of the crime, that prosecutes the alleged perpetrator. But the state has discretion in whether to prosecute and what charges to bring. So how do we ensure that the victims’ rights are protected since they are not directly part of the process?
It turns out that there is something called the Crime Victims Rights Act (CVRA) that was passed by Congress in 2004 to ensure that the victims are kept fully abreast of how the case is being handled and that their concerns and interests are properly taken into account, and allows them to go to court if they feel that this was not the case. And it is this that has caused the latest action.
It turns out that in the original plea deal, Epstein’s lawyers (which included Alan Dershowitz) had obtained a:
“non-prosecution agreement” promising that any alleged co-conspirators in Epstein’s dubious activities would be safe from criminal prosecution.
At the urging of his lawyers, the billionaire’s victims were not informed of the 2007 deal. But in July 2008, an appeals court found that Florida prosecutors had thus violated the US Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), ruling that “the government should have fashioned a reasonable way to inform the victims of the likelihood of criminal charges and to ascertain the victims’ views on the possible details of a plea bargain”.
In 2008, two of the victims (Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2), through their lawyers Paul Cassell and Bradley Edwards, filed a lawsuit against the US government before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra stating that the non-prosecution agreement (NPA) violated their rights because they were not told about it. The government responded that since no federal charges had been brought, the CVRA did not apply. The judge rejected that defense and a federal Appeals court upheld him, stating that the victims did have a right to sue. The actual case has now been pending in the legal system for six years.
A new suit was filed by the same two lawyers on January 2, 2015 in which two more women (Jane Doe #3 and Jane Doe #4) asked to be added to the original suit and requesting that some of the sealed documents in the Epstein case plea deal be released. It is this new suit that names Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz as people who also abused Jane Doe #3 and has catapulted this case back into the media spotlight.
The filing of this new suit can be seen here and it claims that Epstein and his friends ran essentially a sex ring involving dozens of girls, some underage, to many powerful men for the purposes of ” business, personal, political, and financial gain, as well as to obtain potential blackmail information.” These powerful men included “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders.”
The filing says that the government kept the victims in the dark about these deals and thus violated their rights under CVRA. It also explains why the NPA was controversial and should have been disclosed.
Thus, Dershowitz helped negotiate an agreement with a provision that provided protection for himself against criminal prosecution in Florida for sexually abusing Jane Doe #3. Because this broad immunity would have been controversial if disclosed, Dershowitz (along with other members of Epstein’s defense team) and the Government tried to keep the immunity provision secret from all of Epstein’s victims and the general public, even though such secrecy violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
As this article in TalkLeft points out:
The suit is not against Epstein. All four have settled civil claims against Epstein and received payouts. It is a suit against the United States. The Jane Does claim the Government violated the federal Crime Victims Act by not informing them it had entered a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein. It advised them of other things, just not that such an agreement had been made or was in the works.
One of the new women (Jane Doe #3) has revealed herself and given interviews describing in detail what she said Epstein put her through. She is Virginia Roberts who is now 30 and married and has four children and lived in Australia before moving to Florida recently
As I said in my earlier post, Dershowitz has typically gone ballistic and accused the lawyers for the women of unethical conduct and of intentionally filing false court documents, a serious offense. He has sued to be also allowed to be a party to the new lawsuit by Jane Doe #3 and Jane Doe #4 so that he can protect his interests.
Meanwhile the lawyers for the four women have sued Dershowitz saying that his charges against them in various public forums constitute false and defamatory statements.
So this promises to be a long-drawn out legal-media circus with all the necessary ingredients for longevity: sex, money, politics, famous people, and corruption.