PALM BEACH — The plea deal that allowed Palm Beacher Jeffrey Epstein to walk away from serious charges he sexually abused numerous suburban West Palm Beach teenage girls ten years ago may soon be invalidated.
What took so long?
Lawyers for two of the billionaire’s alleged victims have just filed court documents requesting that U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra order federal investigators to reopen the case, according to records.
The documents charge that the U.S. government knowingly violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not informing the Wall Street financier’s victims of the terms of the sweetheart deal he was offered.
The case could set precedent. Fort Lauderdale lawyer Bradley Edwards and Paul Cassell, lawyers for the girls who were 13 and 14 when Epstein allegedly paid them for sex, say that if the judge dismisses the lawsuit, “then the government will never have to give any information in any case to any victim.”
But if Marra decides that prosecutors violated the act, he might toss out the plea deal as well.
Miami attorney Roy Black, who represented Epstein, doesn’t consider that possibility fair, saying it would deny the billionaire’s constitutional right to due process.
“If a defendant lives up to his end of the bargain, the government is bound to perform its promises,” Black said.
As part of the deal, Epstein was able to walk away from charges of sexually abusing as many as 40 girls in exchange for pleading guilty in a Palm Beach County court to two criminal charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution and soliciting prostitution.
The billionaire, known for rubbing shoulders with Brit blue blood Prince Andrew, President Bill Clinton, actor Kevin Spacey and filmmaker Woody Allen, served 13 months of an 18-month sentence in an empty wing of the county jail.
His privileges included an open cell policy, which allowed him to go to his Palm Beach mansion 16 hours a day, six days a week.
Epstein was also forced to register as a sex offender.
Epstein, who has settled civil suits with 30 of the alleged victims as part of the deal, now lives on a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“The undisputed facts of this case prove that, rather than forthrightly discharging its obligations to numerous child sexual assault victims, the government chose to enter into a secret deal with the man who had victimized them,” Edwards and Cassell wrote in court documents.
“The government’s conduct here was particularly egregious, because it repeatedly found time to confer with attorneys for Epstein — the man who sexually abused the victims,” they added.
Epstein was repeatedly contacted by federal prosecutors, who included Alex Acosta, a former U.S. attorney for South Florida who is now the Trump administration’s U.S. Labor Secretary.
Edwards stated in an affidavit that Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafana, who was in charge Epstein’s case, had plenty of time to inform the young women of the sweetheart deal that Epstein had been offered.
However, federal officials waited four months after it was signed to notify the victims!
“This can be a lengthy process and we request your continued patience while we conduct a thorough investigation,” officials wrote to the victims in January 2008.
Villafana claims she informed Edwards of the deal a day before Epstein plead guilty in circuit court in hopes the victims would be present at the hearing. Edwards said they were unaware that the deal would allow Epstein to escape federal charges.
“The victims (and their attorneys) could hardly have expected that the prosecutors and the man who had sexually abused them would be working together to conceal an arrangement that would prevent his prosecution for crimes against them,” Edwards and Cassell wrote.
Prosecutors are hoping Marra will throw the case out. They believe the women are entitled to be heard and to seek compensation for their pain and suffering
If the judge orders federal prosecutors to reopen the investigation, it could set a national precedent.