The Miami Herald is continuing its amazing coverage of multimillionaire hedge fund manager, Jeffrey Epstein, and the disgusting deal made with then-future Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
I covered this 2007 deal, in all its gory details earlier in the week, and if you haven’t read it yet, you can (and should) do so, here.
The gist of the deal was that Epstein, who investigators determined was trafficking very young girls (16 years old and under), and was also using teen girls to go out and recruit other young girls for sex parties with wealthy pals, agreed to plea guilty to several prostitution charges, and got only 13 months in the county jail (including work release).
He got nothing for ruining the lives of desperate, young runaways or, in some cases, children from foreign nations trafficked into the United States.
Acosta, who was the top federal prosecutor in Miami, was supposed to be working for the victims. The very nature of his job was to prosecute crime, but after meeting with a former colleague, Jay Lefkowitz, he agreed to the sweetheart deal that was basically written up by Epstein’s attorneys and did very little to address the horrific crimes he was guilty of.
This is where I remind everyone that among Epstein’s high powered pals would be President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump.
Acosta would become Trump’s Labor secretary years later, and what’s more, he was up to fill the position of attorney general, after Jeff Sessions was forced out.
The good news is, after this story broke, his name was removed from the running for attorney general.
The bad news is, he’s still Labor secretary.
In delving back into the travesty of justice that was the Epstein case, the Miami Herald provides us with more details, including those details most important: The stories of the victims, who were denied a chance to be heard in court.
Epstein was sentenced on June 30, 2008. The 68-minute hearing went through the motions of a normal court proceeding, but as the Herald points out, in a state (Florida) with some of the toughest laws against sex offenders in the nation, Epstein’s treatment was anything but ordinary.
But Epstein — who had a long list of powerful, politically connected friends — didn’t go to state prison like most sex offenders in Florida. Instead, the multimillionaire was assigned to a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, where he was able to hire his own security detail. Even then, he didn’t spend much time in a cell. He was allowed to go to his downtown West Palm Beach office for work release, up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, records show.
He was permitted to hire his own private psychologist for his required sex-offender counseling, and after his release from jail, his subsequent year of probation under house arrest was filled with trips on his corporate jet to Manhattan and to his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands — all approved by the courts with no objections from the state.
On the morning of his sentencing in 2008, none of Epstein’s victims were in the courtroom to protest his soft jail term or the unusual provisions of his incarceration and probation — and that was by design.
And let’s refresh your memory on exactly what investigators found out about Epstein’s activities, just as a backdrop to that super-privileged sentencing.
Beginning as far back as 2001, Epstein lured a steady stream of underage girls to his Palm Beach mansion to engage in nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and intercourse, court and police records show. The girls — mostly from disadvantaged, troubled families — were recruited from middle and high schools around Palm Beach County. Epstein would pay the girls for massages and offer them further money to bring him new girls every time he was at his home in Palm Beach, according to police reports.
The girls, now in their late 20s and early 30s, allege in a series of federal civil lawsuits filed over the past decade that Epstein sexually abused hundreds of girls, not only in Palm Beach, but at his homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and in the Caribbean.
Middle school, so up to about 14 years old, max.
High school would be up to 18, in most cases, but as some of the victims suggested, after about 16 years of age, Epstein began to lose interest.
The next thing that needs to be pointed out is how court filings for his case contain emails and letters between the prosecutors and his powerful attorneys. They were all very cozy, so this was a matter of the good ol’ boys club on steroids. The victims were not a consideration.
Acosta’s office failed in their duty, astoundingly.
Part of Epstein’s deal, besides keeping it very quiet, included allowing him to plea to the prostitution charges, so rather than victims of his pedophilia, these young girls were “prostitutes.”
Take a moment to throw up, or scream into a pillow.
Ok, so what about the young women who acted as accomplices?
Four accomplices named in Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement — Nadia Marcinkova, Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross and Lesley Groff — were also given immunity from federal prosecution. Marcinkova was a young girl when Epstein brought her from Yugoslavia to live with him. Several victims told police that she was involved in orgies with Epstein and underage girls. Ross, Groff and Kellen, now known by her married name Vickers, were schedulers who arranged his underage sex sessions, according to the FBI and police.
Acosta was asked about his role in Epstein’s case during his confirmation hearings. He claimed at that time that he didn’t realize the serial pedophile would receive such a lenient sentence.
You were the head of the prosecutor’s office. It was your job to know.
The Herald goes on to call this deal one of the most lenient deals for a child sex trafficker in history.
Keep in mind that this was a decade before the #MeToo movement. There are a lot of little girls that needed advocates back then, who are, today, women recovering, with mixed success.
One victim claims to have met Epstein when she was 14, and has joined with other victims to sue the federal government to overturn his plea agreement. The basis for their suit insists the deal made with Epstein violates the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
They may have a case. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act gives victims the right to know about any plea deals, sentencing, and the right to talk with prosecutors about the case.
They received none of those considerations under the deal made with Acosta’s office.
So, meet “Jane Doe No. 1”:
“I can’t remember how I found out that he had taken a plea,’’ said Courtney Wild, identified by the FBI as one of more than three dozen underage girls — some of them as young as 13 — who had been molested by Epstein at his waterfront estate between 2001 and 2005.
“We were purposefully misled into believing that his sentencing [in state court] had nothing to do with the federal crimes he committed against me or the other girls.’’
If the lawsuit is successful, it will not only expose all of Epstein’s crimes, but will uncover the names of others who participated in his pedophile sex parties.
An unrelated case is set to go into court on December 4. This will set the ball rolling.
Another former victim of Epstein’s is Virginia Roberts.
Roberts says that she was molested by a family friend at the age of 11.
As happens with many kids who are victimized young, she acted out. By 12 years old, she was smoking pot and cutting school.
She found herself in the foster system by 13, and by 14, she was on the streets, where she was scooped up by a 65-year-old sex trafficker, Ron Eppinger.
She was held captive, sexually abused, and pimped out to other pedophiles.
In 2000, the law caught up with Eppinger. He was sentenced on trafficking charges, so Roberts went home to West Palm Beach, Florida.
That summer, when Roberts was 16, she said her father helped her get a job as a locker room attendant at the spa at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, records show. Her father worked at the resort as a maintenance man.
There she said she met Ghislaine Maxwell, an Epstein friend and socialite daughter of the late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. She offered Roberts an opportunity to become a massage therapist, working for Epstein.
And by “massage therapist,” she says in a sworn affidavit that they (Epstein and Maxwell) began grooming her to be a sex slave to them and others.
“It started with one and it trickled into two and so on,’’ Roberts told the Herald. “And before you know it, I’m being lent out to politicians and academics and royalty.’’
By “royalty,” she likely means Prince Andrew (brother of Prince Charles), who was also one of Epstein’s wealthy friends. There are photos of Roberts with the prince.
Roberts, too, was ordered to find Epstein girls — the younger, the better — by trolling areas where teenagers congregated, such as shopping malls, to lure girls to whatever residence Epstein was staying in at the time, she told the Herald.
She also traveled with Epstein and Maxwell to his other homes in New Mexico, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as indicated by flight records.
“His appetite was insatiable. He wanted new girls, fresh, young faces every single day — that was just the sickness that he had,’’ Roberts said.
She also claims Epstein kept cameras hidden all over his homes, used to record the sexual activities of his powerful friends and the little girls he provided for their sexual deviancy.
Epstein liked to be told the tales of the powerful men he lent Roberts out to.
“Epstein and Maxwell also got girls for Epstein’s friends and acquaintances. Epstein specifically told me that the reason for him doing this was so that they would ‘owe him,’ they would ‘be in his pocket,’ and he would ‘have something on them,’ ” Roberts said in a court affidavit. “I understood him to mean that when someone was in his pocket, they owed him favors.’’
And then there were the models.
Epstein, who was close to Les Wexner, the owner of Victoria’s Secret, often talked about his connections to people in the modeling, fashion and acting industries, Roberts told the Herald.
“He would tell the girls, ‘Hey, I will give you a modeling contract if you go have sex with this man,’ ’’ she said.
Roberts’ story about the modeling agency is supported, to a degree, by the sworn statement of a Miami woman named Maritza Vasquez, who was later interviewed in New York by an FBI agent from Miami. Vasquez worked as a bookkeeper for Mc2, owned by Epstein associate Jean-Luc Brunel. He employed scouts in South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union to find him models to bring to the United States, Vasquez said in a 2010 sworn court deposition obtained by the Herald.
Vasquez handled the books for Brunel from 2003 to 2006. She said he employed 200 to 300 “models” at a time, most of them from 13 to 15 years old, and kept in an apartment building owned by Epstein at East 66th Street in New York.
Usually, four girls were housed in each apartment, with the younger, more appealing girls in the more luxurious apartments, and the older girls in the less luxurious units.
Epstein didn’t charge them rent, but Brunel charged $1,000 a month.
Vasquez testified it wasn’t unusual for the agency to send girls to an assignment with a wealthy client for $100,000 or more, but the girl wouldn’t be paid the full amount — or anything at all — if she refused to be “molested.’’
Vasquez considered herself a mother figure and often coached the youngest girls to stick to the 9-to-5 modeling assignments because she didn’t think it was appropriate for them to be having sex.
She said she met Epstein only once, but she often helped arrange for girls — many of them underage — to be sent to his homes in New York, Palm Beach and his island in the Caribbean for parties. She heard salacious rumors about Epstein’s parties, but testified she had no firsthand knowledge about whether they involved sex.
For his part, Brunel claims Epstein’s sex scandal destroyed his business, and said in a 2015 statement that he had no part in the sex trafficking exploits of his former friend.
Roberts goes on to say that by the time she was 19 (in 2003), it was clear that she was no longer appealing to Epstein. He was ready to kick her to the curb.
She was able to convince him to pay for her training, so she could become a legitimate, professional masseuse.
We can assume that means no sex was involved.
In an interview, she explained that Epstein arranged for her to take a class in Thailand, but it came with a hitch: She said she was instructed to pick up a Thai girl he had arranged to come to the States.
One last trafficking mission, for old times sake.
Roberts, who showed the Herald the written instructions for the rendezvous, never picked up the girl because Roberts met a man on the trip who would become her husband. The couple married and moved to Australia, where they currently live.
In 2007, Epstein and Maxwell tracked Roberts down, fearing she’d talked to authorities about their activities. She assured them she had not, and that was it.
When the FBI actually did catch up to her, she was afraid to speak with them, fearing the man she was speaking to on the phone was actually a friend of Epstein’s setting her up.
That agent, identified in court papers as Timothy Slater, confirmed that he and the other agent on the case, Nesbitt Kuyrkendall, called Roberts in January or February 2007. In a sworn statement, Slater said he informed Roberts that they suspected she was a victim of Epstein’s.
The agent said Roberts answered basic questions, but became uncomfortable and “asked that I not bother her again.’’
Roberts said the agent didn’t try too hard to convince her to talk, and she was surprised when he hung up after asking her a few graphic questions about her sex life. She said she was suspicious, but would have cooperated had the FBI talked to her in person and explained why they were asking about Epstein.
“I was still scared to death,’’ Roberts said. “Jeffrey used to tell me that he owned the entire Palm Beach Police Department. I just didn’t want my family harmed.’’
Understandable. Considering how easily the top prosecutor rolled over for Epstein’s lawyers, she had every reason to believe him.
It was becoming the mother of a little girl that pricked Roberts’ fears and conscience about the crimes of Epstein (by then released, was he still committing his crimes?), spurring her to come forward in 2011 and tell her story to the British tabloid, The Daily Mail.
I suppose that was the perfect place to say one of her “clients” was Prince Andrew, who she claims to have slept with several times, while still only a teen.
He wasn’t the only name you may be familiar with.
In her 2015 affidavit, she discussed in detail some of her alleged sex encounters with the prince and Epstein’s other friends, including lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Edwards included the affidavit in the court file as part of the Jane Does’ Crime Victims’ Rights Act case, at which time it became public.
That would be the liberal, legal mind, Alan Dershowitz, who so often appears on Fox News to go to bat for Donald Trump, these days.
In the affidavit, Roberts claimed that Epstein and Maxwell directed her to have sex with Andrew and Dershowitz and others. She had sex with Andrew three times, she alleged — once in London, when she was 17, again in New York, when she was 17, and a third time, as part of an orgy on Epstein’s island, when she was 18. By law, at 17, she would have been above the age of consent in New York and England, but not in Florida, where the age of consent is 18.
The photo she presented of herself with the prince were from that time in London, she says.
And back to Dershowitz, did I mention he was a part of Epstein’s high powered legal defense at his trial?
“I had sexual intercourse with Dershowitz at least six times,’’ Roberts wrote in the 2015 court affidavit. “The first time was when I was about 16, early on in my servitude to Epstein and it continued until I was 19.’’ She detailed some of those trysts, which she said happened at Epstein’s homes in Palm Beach, New Mexico and on Epstein’s island.
One of Epstein’s housemen, Juan Alessi, testified in a 2009 sworn deposition that Dershowitz visited Epstein’s Palm Beach home four or five times a year. He said that Roberts was a frequent visitor as well, but he never placed Dershowitz and Roberts at the house at the same time.
Alessi went on to mention that in his time working for Epstein, he knew there were a lot of young girls giving massages at his home, but he only knew the approximate age of one, because he had to pick her up from high school.
I can’t even…
He also said he was Maxwell’s driver, and he recalls waiting outside of Mar-a-Lago the day Maxwell met Roberts. He testified he saw Maxwell talking to Roberts and recalls Roberts coming to Epstein’s mansion later that day. One of Alessi’s jobs was to drive Maxwell to various spas in Palm Beach where she left business cards in order to “recruit’’ more masseuses, he said in the sworn deposition.
Dershowitz, of course, has been denying Roberts’ claims, from the beginning.
Nope. Never happened. He never had sex with that little girl. He never saw Epstein with underage girls, and the only time he had a “massage” at Epstein’s home was from a professional masseuse.
Of course, I can’t help but think of Donald Trump’s comments about his friend, Epstein. He mentioned something about the women surrounding Epstein, and added, “some of them pretty young.”
“The story was 100 percent flatly categorically made-up,’’ he said, adding that Roberts and her attorneys fabricated the assertion in order to get money from other powerful, wealthy people she alleges she had sex with.
“The only possible reason to accuse me in public and [them] in private is so she could get money,’’ Dershowitz said.
“I never had any knowledge of Jeffrey Epstein having any contact with any underage women — ever,’’ Dershowitz told the Herald.
But, you say Epstein had no underage girls around, and investigators say something very different. We can’t trust you, Dersh.
Edwards and his co-counsel in the Crime Victims’ lawsuit, University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell, sued Dershowitz for defamation and Dershowitz countersued in 2015. The case was settled out of court.
Apparently, Edwards and Cassell added Dershowitz to a lawsuit that he wasn’t directly involved in. It was an error that kept them from pushing further with the case against him.
Roberts, now 35, said it has taken her a long time to stand up to Epstein. She and 20 other victims received settlements from Epstein, ranging from $50,000 to more than $1 million. The exact amounts have been kept confidential.
“It takes so long until you are able to speak about it. It took me having a daughter and looking at this young beautiful innocent baby to say I want to speak out about it now. I’m hoping that this will bring out more girls so that they say, Me Too.’’
I hope it empowers more, as well.
What was done in this case was such an injustice.
So since this one has gone long, I’ll be talking about that sham of a court hearing in a separate piece.