More than a decade after wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein signed a plea agreement that protected him from prosecution for allegedly molesting dozens of underage girls, his accusers were to finally have their day in court. Before jury selection was set to begin on Tuesday, a last-minute settlement kept Epstein out of court once again — but the work of unraveling his alleged abuses isn’t over yet, and Epstein could potentially still end up serving hard time.
In November, the Miami Herald published an in-depth investigation into Epstein’s alleged crimes, alleging that he molested as many as 80 teenage girls between 2001 and 2005, trafficking them in for parties at his opulent mansion, and paying them to bring more underage girls to him. They also delved into the suspicious arrangement to cover it up, which was approved by Alexander Acosta, who at the time was Miami’s top federal prosecutor and is now President Trump’s secretary of labor. (The Herald wrote that Epstein did not respond to numerous requests for comment; Epstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone either.)
Epstein was facing a 53-page indictment that could have sent him to federal prison for the rest of his life; instead he pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. He served 13 months and signed an agreement that essentially shut down the investigation into his litany of other crimes, protecting him and “any potential co-conspirators” from future prosecution. The deal was then sealed, so that his alleged victims were not informed and didn’t have the opportunity to object, and even the judge who approved the agreement was not aware of how many girls police and the FBI suspected Epstein of abusing. While it’s not certain why exactly Acosta gave Epstein such an extraordinary deal, the Herald suggested that it could have had something to do with testimony Epstein provided in the federal prosecution of executives at Bear Sterns, where he used to work, related to the 2008 market crash.
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The civil lawsuit that was set to start proceedings on Tuesday was a countersuit against Epstein by attorney Bradley Edwards, who represented several of Epstein’s accusers. Epstein previously sued Edwards, claiming that his pursuit of Epstein for sex crimes charges was really a way to divert attention away from a Ponzi scheme led by the head of Edwards’ former law firm, Scott Rothstein. After Rothstein said that Edwards was not involved with the scheme, Epstein withdrew his suit against Edwards, who then countersued. Edwards hoped that this suit would be a forum for Epstein’s victims to finally be heard, but it was settled with an apology from Epstein (to Edwards, not to the victims), and an undisclosed monetary settlement. (Edwards did not respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone.)
A second lawsuit is still pending, however, and seeks to invalidate the non-prosecution agreement Epstein entered into with Acosta, claiming it was illegal. The suit, filed by two of Epstein’s accusers, claims that not only was the deal against the law, but federal prosecutors, including Acosta, conspired with Epstein to cover up his crimes. If this suit is successful, the deal will be invalidated, and Epstein could be vulnerable to criminal prosecution.
“As soon as that deal was signed, they silenced my voice and the voices of all of Jeffrey Epstein’s other victims,’’ one of the plaintiffs told the Herald. “This case is about justice, not just for us, but for other victims who aren’t Olympic stars or Hollywood stars.’’