Lawyers for two of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers are urging a federal court to tear up the highly controversial plea deal that allowed the disgraced financier to skirt federal charges and let any possible co-conspirators off the hook.
The women have support in Congress too.
In a letter dated Tuesday, Sen. Ben Sasse, the Nebraska Republican who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee’s judicial oversight subcommittee, urged Attorney General William Barr to nullify the plea deal.
Epstein apparently died by suicide early Saturday while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges in a high-security Manhattan prison facility, but officials believe there may be others who knew of or participated in his alleged illegal activities.
A trove of documents released on Friday provided upsetting details of abuse allegedly perpetrated by Epstein and his longtime associate, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who was involved in a defamation suit with one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre. The financier was known for the high-profile company he liked to keep, having socialized with renowned scientists, wealthy business leaders including Trump, former President Bill Clinton and other heads of state.
“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 rescission remedy to which they are plainly entitled,” read the court document, filed Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Sasse argued further that Epstein’s deal set a troubling legal precedent, writing, “The notion that one individual’s plea could shield a whole class of potential co-conspirators of uncertain size and identity from legal liability would — if treated as enforceable — pioneer a new model for one fall guy to shield all other members of a criminal enterprise from accountability to the law.”
“The Department of Justice should rip up the non-prosecution, non-investigation agreement” Epstein signed with then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta’s blessing in 2008, Sasse said.
“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. Accordingly, the victims (and the public) will never witness his public trial where the facts connected to sexual abuse will be fully aired,” attorneys for Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 wrote in the filing.
Jane Doe 1 has identified herself as Courtney Wild, who says she was 14 years old when Epstein first abused her.
More than a decade ago, an FBI investigation returned a 53-page indictment against Epstein for abusing underage girls including the Jane Does. Instead of taking the case to federal court, however, Epstein’s lawyers negotiated a plea deal with Acosta that required their client to plead guilty to state child prostitution charges. It led to a 13-month, slap-on-the-wrist jail sentence.
The deal offered immunity to Epstein and “any potential co-conspirators” from federal charges in the Southern District of Florida.
During his sentence, the wealthy prisoner was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail and permitted to leave up to 12 hours per day on a work permit, six days per week. A lawyer for his accusers has claimed that Epstein continued to abuse girls during the permissive jail sentence.
Details of the plea became public in November with a series of articles in The Miami Herald. Critics lambasted Acosta, who had since become President Donald Trump’s labor secretary, for signing off on an agreement that appeared to value wealth and status above the law. Epstein’s July 6 arrest on suspicion of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls in New York and elsewhere prompted a new wave of calls for Acosta to step down, which he did the following week.
Prior to his death, Epstein was being held without bail due to his status as a flight risk and the danger he posed to the public, according to prosecutors with the Southern District of New York.
His apparent suicide has prompted a slew of questions from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Multiple investigations into how Epstein was apparently left unsupervised long enough to kill himself are underway at the FBI, the New York medical examiner’s office and the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office.
Sasse has made sure his voice is heard in the controversy. On Saturday, he told Barr that “obviously, heads must roll” over the incident.
Although Epstein was placed on suicide watch last month, he was reportedly taken off it prior to his death. Reports indicate that staff at the Metropolitan Correctional Center ― the fortresslike building where the likes of Bernie Madoff and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán have been held ― were overworked at the time.