Vic­tims of Ep­stein still seek­ing pros­e­cu­tion

Af­ter death, they want al­leged con­spir­a­tors held ac­count­able

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Marc Free­man

The death of Jef­frey Ep­stein spurred some of his sex­ual abuse vic­tims on Mon­day to re­new calls for his ac­cused “co-con­spir­a­tors” — four women and un­named oth­ers — to face pros­e­cu­tion in South Florida.

An­gry that Ep­stein and his as­so­ci­ates avoided fed­eral charges through his “sweet­heart” deal over a decade ago, the vic­tims urged a judge to clear the way for the al­leged ac­com­plices to be held ac­count­able.

They asked U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ken­neth Marra to im­me­di­ately re­scind the por­tion of Ep­stein’s deal that pro­vided im­mu­nity for the peo­ple who al­legedly aided Ep­stein’s ef­forts to abuse dozens of un­der­age girls at his Palm Beach man­sion.

Ep­stein’s much-crit­i­cized “non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment” pre­vented charges against Sarah Kellen, Adri­ana Ross, Les­ley Groff and Na­dia Marcinkova, as well as any other “po­ten­tial co-con­spir­a­tors,” records show.

“It would be un­fair to the vic­tims if Ep­stein not only man­aged to cheat jus­tice

through his death, but also left be­hind some kind of le­gal is­sue pre­vent­ing the vic­tims from ob­tain­ing the … rem­edy to which they are plainly en­ti­tled,” wrote at­tor­neys Bradley Ed­wards and Paul Cas­sell.

Five months ago, Marra found Ep­stein’s deal with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment vi­o­lated a fed­eral crime vic­tims’ rights law.

The judge said the vic­tims were “de­lib­er­ately” kept in the dark about Ep­stein’s deal, which re­sulted in his plead­ing guilty in 2008 to two state pros­ti­tu­tion charges, avoid­ing the chance of a lengthy prison sen­tence.

Prose­cu­tors re­cently ar­gued that Ep­stein’s deal could not be scrapped un­der the law and that even some vic­tims wor­ried about los­ing their anonymity if the ar­range­ment was un­done.

So the gov­ern­ment lawyers pro­posed it would be best to let all of the vic­tims have a court hear­ing in West Palm Beach to pub­licly tell their sto­ries, if they wish.

The lawyers for the two vic­tims in their 11-year-old civil case against the gov­ern­ment ar­gued Mon­day that prose­cu­tors now should have no ob­jec­tion to bring­ing charges against the “crim­i­nals” who con­spired with Ep­stein.

Ed­wards and Cas­sell also called for the court to promptly hold the pro­posed pub­lic hear­ing to “give the vic­tims at least some kind of day in court” fol­low­ing Ep­stein’s sud­den death in New York, where he was fac­ing fed­eral sex traf­fick­ing counts.

“Be­cause Ep­stein is now dead, there will never be a crim­i­nal trial to hold him ac­count­able, ei­ther in the South­ern Dis­trict of Florida, the South­ern Dis­trict of New York, or else­where,” they wrote. “Ac­cord­ingly, the vic­tims (and the pub­lic) will never wit­ness his pub­lic trial where the facts con­nected to sex­ual abuse will be fully aired.”

The lawyers for years have slammed the “se­cret jus­tice” Ep­stein re­ceived in the deal put to­gether with­out his vic­tims’ knowl­edge.

Along with the state felony con­vic­tions, Ep­stein also reg­is­tered as a sex of­fender and agreed to pay con­fi­den­tial set­tle­ments to more than two dozen teenage girls.

The vic­tims’ coun­sel pre­vi­ously urged Marra to keep Ep­stein’s pun­ish­ments and con­fi­den­tial financial set­tle­ments with vic­tims in place, while re­mov­ing Ep­stein’s and his ac­com­plices’ im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion in South Florida.

They ar­gued it was an ap­pro­pri­ate so­lu­tion in light of such a “dis­turb­ing il­le­gal­ity — i.e., the Gov­ern­ment and a crim­i­nal work­ing to­gether to de­lib­er­ately im­pair the pro­tected rights of in­no­cent crime vic­tims.”

In June, the fed­eral prose­cu­tors ac­knowl­edged their of­fice “should have com­mu­ni­cated its res­o­lu­tion of the fed­eral crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Ep­stein to his vic­tims more ef­fec­tively and in a more trans­par­ent man­ner.”

Ep­stein at­tor­ney Roy Black of Mi­ami last month urged the court to up­hold his client’s deal and block the pos­si­bil­ity of new fed­eral charges in South Florida.

In an email to the South Florida Sun Sen­tinel on Mon­day, Black wrote the “im­mu­nized ‘co-con­spir­a­tors’ were never” in­cluded in the vic­tims’ rights case and can’t be­come tar­gets af­ter Ep­stein’s death.

“This vi­o­lates the ba­sic tenets of civil pro­ce­dure and law,” Black wrote.

While Ep­stein was charged last month in New York, the prose­cu­tors in South Florida had ar­gued it wasn’t pos­si­ble to pros­e­cute Ep­stein here.

“The past can­not be un­done; the gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted it­self to the terms of the (non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment), and the par­ties have not dis­puted that Ep­stein com­plied with its pro­vi­sions,” the prose­cu­tors wrote.

The con­tro­ver­sial pact has come un­der in­tense scru­tiny in re­cent months.

Pub­lic­ity over Ep­stein’s deal led to the July 12 res­ig­na­tion of U.S. La­bor Sec­re­tary Alexan­der Acosta, the for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney who over­saw the money man­ager’s im­mu­nity from fed­eral crimes.

Ep­stein wound up serv­ing 13 months of his state pun­ish­ment in a spe­cial wing of the Palm Beach County Jail. He also was per­mit­ted to leave the facility dur­ing the day and spend up to 12 hours a day in his West Palm Beach of­fice.

Sher­iff Ric Bradshaw, re­spond­ing to al­le­ga­tions that Ep­stein had sex­ual re­la­tions dur­ing his work re­lease, started a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But he later agreed that in or­der to main­tain the pub­lic’s trust, it was for the best for the Florida Depart­ment of Law En­force­ment to con­duct a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into all as­pects of Ep­stein’s treat­ment from 12 years ago.

This re­view, or­dered by Florida Gov. Ron DeSan­tis, is con­tin­u­ing, of­fi­cials say.

Be­fore his death at age 66, Ep­stein was fac­ing a pos­si­ble June 2020 trial on al­le­ga­tions he ex­ploited dozens of girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. The two counts against the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire were pun­ish­able by up to 45 years in prison.

His lawyers ar­gued the “non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment” in Florida pre­vented the fil­ing of the new sex traf­fick­ing counts in New York. But the lawyers for the Florida vic­tims — in the crime vic­tims’ rights case — hoped they would fi­nally get jus­tice here too.

Ep­stein sex­u­ally abused more than 30 mi­nor girls, some as young as 14, be­tween 1999 and 2007, ac­cord­ing to “facts” de­scribed by Judge Marra ear­lier this year.

UMA SANGHVI/AP 2008

Jef­frey Ep­stein is shown in cus­tody in West Palm Beach. Ep­stein’s death spurred some of his sex­ual abuse vic­tims to re­new calls for his ac­cused “co-con­spir­a­tors” to face pros­e­cu­tion in South Florida.

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