‘Perversion of Jus­tice’ is the right name for what hap­pened

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Mi­ami Her­ald

No one even knows how many girls there were. Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors iden­ti­fied 36. In “Perversion of Jus­tice,” a stun­ning piece of in­ves­tiga­tive work by Julie K. Brown that was pub­lished last week, the Mi­ami Her­ald re­ported that it has found 80. But ac­counts given by the girls them­selves sug­gest there may be hun­dreds. Hun­dreds.

We’re talk­ing un­der­age girls, some as young as 13, trou­bled chil­dren, chil­dren liv­ing in fos­ter care, chil­dren of ad­dicts and abusers, chil­dren of poverty and mo­lesta­tion, chil­dren who were home­less run­aways, chil­dren who, in the early 2000s, were lured by prom­ises of easy money to the Palm Beach es­tate of Jef­frey Ep­stein, a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire money man­ager whose friends in­cluded Bill Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump. There, they say they would mas­sage him or watch him mas­tur­bate, per­form oral sex or have in­ter­course. Ep­stein, they say, went through as many as three girls a day. Then those girls were sent to re­cruit oth­ers.

And as re­tired Palm Beach Po­lice Chief Michael Reiter, who su­per­vised the 2005 po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this crime, told the Her­ald, “This was not a ‘he said, she said’ sit­u­a­tion. This was 50-some­thing ‘shes’ and one ‘he’ – and the ‘shes’ all ba­si­cally told the same story.” More­over, the sto­ries were backed up by a trove of phys­i­cal ev­i­dence. Ep­stein could have been put away for life.

In­stead, Mi­ami fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor Alexan­der Acosta of­fered the rich man a deal.

He would plead guilty to just two charges of pros­ti­tu­tion in­volv­ing one 14year-old girl. An on­go­ing FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be shut down. He would serve 13 months.

Hun­dreds of girls. Thir­teen months.

You lit­er­ally don’t know who or what to be an­gri­est about.

There’s Ep­stein, of course. There’s Sarah Kellen Vick­ers, who al­legedly sched­uled his “mas­sages.” There’s Bri­tish so­cialite Ghis­laine Maxwell, who al­legedly (she de­nies it) or­ga­nized sex par­ties and taught girls to per­form to Ep­stein’s sat­is­fac­tion. There’s a cul­ture that, when faced with acts of ex­ploita­tion and rape against women and girls, pon­ders how it can make the prob­lem go away so as not to in­con­ve­nience the men.

And there’s Acosta, who worked with Ep­stein’s at­tor­neys to shield this from the press, who failed to no­tify vic­tims about the deal, though fed­eral law re­quired him to, who called a 14-year-old vic­tim a “child pros­ti­tute.” As hu­man-rights at­tor­ney Yas­min Vafa told the Her­ald, “There is no such thing as a child pros­ti­tute. Un­der fed­eral law, it’s called child sex traf­fick­ing.”

And that 13-month sen­tence? Ep­stein served it in a pri­vate wing of the lo­cal jail. Though sex of­fend­ers aren’t al­lowed work re­lease, he was per­mit­ted to spend 12 hours a day, six days a week, at his of­fice.

Fi­nally, save some fury for a sys­tem – and so­ci­ety – that ob­vi­ously re­gards some of us as throw­away peo­ple to be given throw­away jus­tice, the elo­quent lies of the blind­folded lady with the scales not­with­stand­ing.

As Court­ney Wild, who met Ep­stein when she was 14 and still wear­ing braces, told the Her­ald, “He went af­ter girls who he thought no one would lis­ten to, and he was right.”

For the record: Vick­ers went on to marry a NASCAR driver. Maxwell runs an en­vi­ron­men­tal non­profit. Acosta is our sec­re­tary of la­bor. Ep­stein, who faces a civil suit on Dec. 4, lives on a pri­vate is­land and trav­els by pri­vate jet.

Mean­time, Court­ney Wild grew up to work as a strip­per and be­came ad­dicted to drugs. In 2016, she was ar­rested for traf­fick­ing am­phet­a­mines.

She was sen­tenced to three years.

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