Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Judge: Federal Prosecutors Violated Victim Notice Law in Jeffrey Epstein Case

Article Placeholder Image
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 22, 2019 12:41 PM

The crimes which financier Jeffrey Epstein has been suspected of, charged with, and pleaded guilty to, are myriad, but all center around the sexual exploitation of underage girls. In 2008, Epstein entered into a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors, allowing him to plead only to a lesser state charge while conceding to molesting dozens of minor girls at his residence in Florida and on his private plane (and also registering as a sex offender).

Prosecutors, however, failed to disclose the plea agreement to victims, violating a federal victims' right statute and perhaps invalidating the entire agreement.

Victim Notification

While U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra detailed extensive correspondence between federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's office in South Florida and Epstein's defense counsel, prosecutors were less forthcoming about the proposed non-prosecution agreement ("NPA") with Epstein's victims. "From the time the FBI began investigating Epstein until September 24, 2007 -- when the NPA was concluded -- the Office never conferred with the victims about a NPA or told the victims that such an agreement was under consideration," Marra noted. "The Office did not consult or confer with any of the victims about the NPA before it was signed."

This, obviously, was part of Epstein's lawyers' plan. "Epstein's counsel was aware that the Office was deliberately keeping the NPA secret from the victims and, indeed, had sought assurances to that effect." Such coordination, and negotiations about whether the victims would be told about the NPA "was a deviation from the Government's standard practice to negotiate with defense counsel about the extent of crime victim notifications."

Ultimately, the deviation proved illegal, violating the Crime Victims' Rights Act (CVRA). Two of Epstein's victims who had cooperating with federal investigators sued Epstein in civil court, also claiming the government violated the CVRA:

The Government violated Petitioners' right to confer under the CVRA: (1) when the Government was negotiating and signing the NPA; (2) when the Government sent letters telling Petitioners to be patient while the Government completed its investigation and (3) when the Government did not tell the victims that the state plea would extinguish the federal case. Petitioners also claim the Government violated their right to be treated with fairness under the CVRA by concealing the negotiations of the NPA. Additionally, Petitioners contend the Government violated their rights to reasonable and accurate notice when it concealed that the NPA and the federal investigation were implicated in the state court proceeding.

Marra agreed: "Under the facts of this case," he ruled "once the Government failed to advise the victims about its intention to enter into the NPA, a violation of the CVRA occurred."

Political Connections

Epstein has boasted close relationships with influential political figures, from former President Bill Clinton to current President Donald Trump. In fact, Trump's Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, makes a damning cameo in the Epstein ruling. Acosta was the United States attorney in Miami while Epstein's NPA was negotiated, and played a key role in keeping it secret:

On about November 30, 2007, U.S. Attorney Acosta sent a letter to one of Epstein's defense attorneys, Kenneth Starr [yes, that Ken Starr], stating: "I am directing our prosecutors not to issue victim notification letters until this Friday at 5 p.m., to provide you with time to review these options with your client." The letter also explained that the line prosecutor had informed U.S. Attorney Acosta "that the victims were not told of the availability of Section 2255 relief during the investigation phase of this matter" despite the fact that the "[r]ule of law ... now requires this District to consider the victims' rights under this statute in negotiating this Agreement."

The White House has acknowledged it is "looking into" Acosta's role in the Epstein negotiations. In the meantime, Epstein's non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors has been invalidated, perhaps opening the door for federal charges, or another plea deal.

Related Resources: