Kenneth Starr, the lawyer known for investigating Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, mishandling sexual assault cases as president of Baylor University, and helping Jeffrey Epstein secure a sweetheart deal, died Tuesday, Sept. 13. He was 76.
Starr’s family confirmed his death, saying he died from complications from surgery at St. Luke’s Medical center in Houston, Texas.
Starr was a stalwart conservative foot soldier throughout his career. He started as a lawyer and was nominated by Ronald Reagan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1983, a post he maintained for about six years before resigning. George H.W. Bush later appointed him solicitor general, and he was even briefly in the running to fill a Supreme Court vacancy later taken by David Souter.
Though always lurking around the right wing, Starr really started to rise to prominence in the mid-’90s, when he was tapped to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged involvement in an Arkansas real estate project. Neither Clinton was prosecuted, but Starr’s probe expanded to include an investigation into Paula Jones’ claims of sexual assault against bill Clinton, as well as Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky.
The “Starr Report,” released in Sept. 1998, claimed Clinton lied about about his affair with Lewinsky and cited obstruction of justice, perjury, abuse of power, and more as reasons for impeaching Clinton. The report led to Clinton’s impeachment in the House of Representatives, but he was acquitted on all counts in the Senate.
After making a name for himself investigating Clinton’s sexual impropriety, Starr returned to his career as a lawyer and found himself involved in a handful of prominent cases. He successfully represented the Juneau, Alaska, school board and principal that suspended a student for unfurling a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” sign as the Olympic torch passed through the the city. He failed to secure constitutional immunity for the mercenary firm Blackwater after its contractors slaughtered four unarmed civilians in Fallujah. And he also failed to uphold Prop 8 in California, the ballot measure banning same-sex marriage that was later overturned in the courts.
Despite being busy defending opponents of same-sex marriage and private military contractors, Starr found plenty of ways to return to the world of sexual impropriety. With his plethora of connections to George W. Bush’s administration, Starr joined Jeffrey Epstein’s legal team and played a crucial part in pressuring the Justice Department to drop its sex-trafficking case against the billionaire. For his efforts, Starr helped his client secure the infamous sweetheart deal that landed him in prison for just 18 months and effectively ensured him immunity from future prosecution.
Epstein wasn’t the only alleged child molester Starr tried to help either. In 2013, he wrote a letter of support for Christopher Kloman, just before he was sentenced to 43 years in prison for molesting five girls while teaching at the elite Potomac School in the Sixties and Seventies.
Three years after that, Starr resigned as chancellor of Baylor University, and a professor at its law school, not long after being removed from his post as president. The reason? An investigation found that Starr and other administrators mishandled numerous accusations of sexual assault — including multiple rape allegations — against the school’s football players.
For his final act, the man who made a name for himself trying to take down one president tried to help another stave off the same fate. First as a TV talking head, he argued against impeaching Donald Trump over the Mueller report, claiming it would be “bad for the country.” Starr later joined Trump’s legal team when he was impeached (the first time) for abuse of power and obstruction of justice after he allegedly tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden.