The evolution of the “sweetheart deal” between attorneys representing billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and federal prosecutors is documented in court papers filed today.
The secret deal — signed without notifying more than 30 of Epstein’s underage victims — saved Epstein from facing federal charges that could have resulted in extensive prison time for sexually abusing girls at his Palm Beach mansion from 1999 to 2007, documents show.
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The court filing paints a picture of then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta and then-State Attorney Barry Krischer bowing to pressure by Epstein’s powerful cadre of attorneys to keep the victims in the dark about the deal until after Epstein pleaded guilty to two minor state charges.
Representing victims Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2, attorneys Brad Edwards and Paul Cassell filed the 56-page document, along with 140-plus exhibits, seeking a ruling in their favor before trial. The case is before U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach.
The motion refers to the deal was “one of the most extraordinarily lenient plea arrangements in American history.”
“There is good reason to believe that if the prosecutors had exposed their dealings to scrutiny by Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and other victims, they would not have reached such a sweetheart plea deal, ” the motion says. “Despite the fact that this case has been in litigation for more than seven years, spanning several hundred pleadings, the government does not write even a single sentence explaining why it entered into an NPA (non-prosecution agreement) with a sex offender who had committed hundreds of federal sex offenses against young girls.”
Edwards and Cassell are seeking to invalidate the agreement through a federal civil lawsuit filed in 2008. The lawsuit says the U.S. Attorney’s Office violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act by failing to confer with the victims before signing the agreement with Epstein.
Jane Does 1 and 2 were ages 14 and 13, respectively, at the time of the abuse. They are among more than two dozen victims who received monetary settlements from Epstein. All alleged they were lured to his Palm Beach mansion to give him sexually charged massages and/or sex in exchange for money.
Emails and other correspondence show that prosecutors intended to keep the agreement secret from the victims, giving Epstein and various co-conspirators immunity from federal charges.
Epstein, now 63, pleaded guilty to state solicitation charges. He served 13 months of an 18-month sentence in a vacant wing at the Palm Beach County Stockade with liberal work-release privileges. He is now a lifelong registered sex offender, with homes in New York and Palm Beach among others.
“Our clients have been fighting for nearly eight years to be afforded their federally protected rights, ” Edwards said. “This motion is just one step in the process, and we are hopeful that the court will rule in our favor and ultimately fashion a remedy to cure the injustices committed.”
Epstein’s high-profile attorneys included Roy Black, Jay Lefkowitz, Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz.
According to the court filing and exhibits:
The Palm Beach Police identified numerous underage victims in 2005 and turned the case over to federal authorities in November 2006. By May 2007, the U.S. Attorney’s Office had prepared an 82-page prosecution memorandum and a 53-page indictment against Epstein and his co-conspirators.
At that time, Epstein’s team of lawyers began making legal arguments that his crimes should have been charged in state court and federal court.
Pressuring federal prosecutors to agree to positions they wanted, Epstein’s attorneys began “a year-long assault, ” according to the motion. This was the most aggressive campaign that Acosta or any of his prosecutors had ever seen in their extensive experience, according to a March 20, 2011, letter written by Acosta.
By August 2007, Jane Doe 1 and other victims had provided details to federal agents of the “abuse they endured at the hands of Epstein and his co-conspirators” and everything appeared on track to charge Epstein with federal crimes.
The following month — without telling any of the victims — federal prosecutors and Epstein’s attorneys “shifted gears and began working together” to find a minor state criminal charge for Epstein to plead to instead of sexual abuse of minors. The intent was to avoid a lengthy prison sentence he likely would have faced in the federal system.
The question asked by Epstein’s victims and their attorneys is “why?”
A paper trail
The emails and correspondence in today’s court documents contain a paper trail related to the deal. They show that:
*Epstein’s attorneys, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Krischer “were conferring daily” in an effort to resolve the case through restitution to the victims, but without telling them that Epstein had immunity from federal charges.
*On Sept. 21, 2007, Krischer sent an email to Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Marie Villafana about the proposed deal saying: “Glad we could get this worked out for reasons I won’t put in writing. After this is resolved, I would love to buy you a cup at Starbucks and have a conversation.”
*On Sept. 24, 2007, the non-prosecution agreement was signed, resolving all federal crimes committed by Epstein and co-conspirators.
*For the next nine months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office – “doing Epstein’s bidding” – concealed the non-prosecution agreement’s existence from the victims.
*The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Epstein inserted a confidentiality provision into the agreement barring its disclosure to anyone, including the victims.
*In January 2008, FBI agents met for the second time with Jane Doe 1, gathering additional details of Epstein’s abuse as well as sexual abuse by a co-conspirator, who participated in the abuse of other victims as well. Jane Doe 1 received a victim notification letter, saying “this will be a long investigation” and “be patient.” Other victims were also sent letters, saying it was an ongoing and active criminal investigation. They were not told that the government had already granted Epstein immunity from all federal crimes against each of the victims. These “misleading letters” were sent almost up to Epstein’s state court plea on June 30, 2008, according to the motion.
*In mid-June 2008, Edwards contacted Villafana and discussed the possibility of federal charges being filed against Epstein. He was led to believe federal charges would be filed. The non-prosecution agreement was never mentioned.
*Edwards first saw a reference to the agreement around July 9, 2008, when the government filed its response to an emergency petition for enforcement of Jane Doe 1’s rights. Jane Doe 2 was added to the complaint two days later.
*When the lawsuit was filed, the government conferred with Epstein about how to keep the victims from ever seeing the non-prosecution agreement, how to defend the lawsuit and what to tell the victims.
*Jane Does 1 and 2 learned about the contents of the agreement two months after Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges, when the prosecutor provided a copy to Edwards.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Epstein “conspired to conceal the non-prosecution agreement from the victims to prevent them from voicing any objection and to avoid a firestorm of controversy that would have arisen if it had become known that the government was immunizing a politically-connected billionaire and all of his co-conspirators from prosecution for hundreds of federal sex crimes against minor girls, ” the motion says.