Two women who in February convinced a judge that South Florida federal prosecutors violated the rights of Jeffrey Epstein’s underage sex victims a decade earlier aren’t eligible for any major relief, according to a new ruling issued Monday.
The relief they wanted was to have the original charges against Epstein restored.
The reason they won’t get that: Epstein, 66, died last month.
But U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra left open the possibility that another request by the victims could be fulfilled. They want to meet with prosecutors and get an explanation for why the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Florida didn’t seek a sex trafficking indictment against Epstein and why they kept the status of the case secret from the victims.
Attorneys for the victims had wanted Epstein’s decade-old non-prosecution agreement with the feds formally rescinded because it protected not just the wealthy investor but also people close to him who were suspected of recruiting underage girls for sex at his Palm Beach mansion. And because the victims were deliberately kept in the dark.
In February, Marra found that federal prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act in 2007-08 when they failed to confer with the two women and other victims before executing a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein.
At that time, he was allowed to plead guilty to state charges of soliciting minors for prostitution, leading to the filing of the victims’ rights lawsuit by Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2.
But Marra said in a 15-page ruling that because of Epstein’s death last month, the women’s requests for certain remedies — such as filing the original 53-page federal indictment that was drawn up and then shelved — must be denied as “moot.” The judge reiterated what he ruled before Epstein’s death — that the court did not have the authority to order federal prosecutors to bring such charges after they declined to do so initially.
Marra’s decision closes a 2008 civil case that propelled the Miami Herald and other news media to spotlight Epstein’s alleged serial sex offenses and federal prosecutors in New York to file new sex-trafficking charges against him this past July. The fallout caused the resignation of the Trump administration’s labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in Miami. Acosta gave final approval to the non-prosecution agreement with Epstein and his team of high-profile defense lawyers.
The two women’s lawyers who pursued the case for more than a decade said they are considering an appeal of Marra’s decision.
“We are disappointed that no action will be taken to remedy the government’s proven violation of the victims’ rights in this case,” said Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who represented the women along with South Florida attorney Bradley Edwards. “We are reviewing all options, including the possibility of an appeal to the [U.S.] Eleventh Circuit [Court of Appeals in Atlanta].”
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
Local Reporting Makes a Difference
In her year-long investigation of Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown tracked down more than 60 women who said they were victims of abuse and revealed the full story behind the sweetheart deal cut by Epstein’s powerhouse legal team.
Since the Herald published ‘Perversion of Justice’ in November 2018, a federal judge ruled the non-prosecution agreement brokered by then South Florida U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta was illegal, Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges in New York state, Acosta resigned as U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Epstein killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell.
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In early July, more than a decade after he was first investigated for alleged sex trafficking of minors, Epstein was arrested by federal agents in New Jersey. He was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell on Aug. 10 while awaiting trial. It was one day after nearly 2,000 documents in a separate Epstein civil case in New York City were unsealed as a result of litigation by the Miami Herald and others.
In the victims’ rights case, the women asked Judge Marra for a variety of remedies, including rescinding provisions in the non-prosecution agreement that barred the federal prosecution of Epstein and various suspected co-conspirators in South Florida.
Another request: ordering a meeting between Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and other Epstein victims with members of the current U.S. Attorney’s Office and former U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Acosta. The victims also sought a court hearing, requiring the attendance of Acosta.
Lastly, they sought information from South Florida federal prosecutors on why the office didn’t prosecute Epstein’s sex crimes, including grand jury and FBI materials.
Epstein’s lawyers contend that since he can no longer be prosecuted, the victims’ request to rescind the non-prosecution agreement was moot. The women said because he is dead, his objection is moot “and therefore he should no longer have a voice in this proceeding.”
Marra concluded that because of Epstein’s death, “there are no present or future CVRA rights of victims to protect.”
But not every request made by the two women must be rejected, Marra ruled.
“As to any alleged [Epstein] co-conspirators, the United States [Attorney’s Office] has agreed to confer with the victims regarding its decision relative to Mr. Epstein’s case,” Marra wrote. “It is further willing to participate in a forum where the victims may express how their interaction with Mr. Epstein and his alleged co-conspirators affected them.
“The government has also agreed to provide training to its prosecutors regarding the rights of victims under the CVRA,” Marra added. “The court has no reason to doubt the government’s representations to the court, and no reason to believe that it will not follow through with these commitments.”