Unlike El Chapo — Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín Guzmán Loera who tunneled out of prisons — federal authorities handed convicted sex-trafficking hedge manager Jeffrey Epstein a key.
They want it back.
The well-connected Epstein, whose former buddies include Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, agreed to a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 after Palm Beach, Fla., police uncovered his sex ring, identifying 36 underage girls.
Epstein pleaded guilty on two prostitution charges in state court. He spent 13 months in a county jail, leaving 12 hours daily, six days per week, to work in his office, then spent nights in a private wing.
The deal — negotiated by then U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta — shut down an FBI probe and gave immunity to “any potential co-conspirators.” Acosta was U.S. secretary of labor, overseeing prosecution of human trafficking cases, until he resigned Friday.
Epstein was arrested again last week in New York City on charges of sex trafficking and abusing dozens of minors, some as young as 14.
Authorities raided his New York City mansion — seven floors and 21,000 square feet — and found “an extraordinary volume of photographs of nude and partially nude young women or girls.”
The indictment alleged Epstein’s employees arranged sexual encounters with “a network of minor girls” to victimize in New York City and Palm Beach. The girls were paid hundreds of dollars to perform nude massages, while Epstein masturbated and touched their genitals with his hands or with sex toys.
Prosecutors reopened the case after a 2018 Miami Herald investigation into sex trafficking included women speaking on the record about Epstein’s “cult-like network of underage girls.”
The Herald disclosed FBI and court records showed Epstein was suspected of “trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties in his Manhattan, New Mexico and Caribbean homes.” The girls reportedly performed sex acts at least three times daily at his Palm Beach mansion. He allegedly used the ironically named Me2 modeling agency to recruit girls as young as 13 from Europe, Ecuador and Brazil.
The Herald identified 80 women and found 60. Some were cheerleaders or involved in band, theater or other activities, lured by payments to give massages and then promises of college or career assistance.
Clinton reportedly was a frequent passenger on Epstein’s jet, “the Lolita Express.” Although he cited only four trips, flight records indicate at least 11. Epstein was a donor to Clinton campaigns and their foundation.
Trump had known Epstein, a frequent guest as Mar-a-Largo, for 15 years, describing him as “a lot of fun” with an interest in women “on the younger side.” After the conviction, he distanced himself. According to Brad Edwards, an attorney for Epstein’s victims, Trump was “the only person” who said, “I’ll tell you what you need to know.’”
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Reports indicate some of his other pals were Woody Allen; Trump adviser Tom Barrack; Leslie Wexner, founder of Victoria’s Secret and The Limited; and Ghislaine Maxwell, a British heiress and his former girlfriend who denied being his “procurer.”
His high-powered 2008 legal team included Harvard professor and O.J. Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater special counsel in the Clinton investigation who, as Baylor University president, was oblivious to a serial rape scandal.
Dershowitz maintained, “We outlawyered (Acosta).”
According to the Daily Beast, though, Acosta told the Trump transition team before his confirmation as secretary of labor that he had only one meeting about Epstein. “He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys,” it reported, “because he had ‘been told’ to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. (Acosta said) ‘I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence and to leave it alone.’”
Acosta is now claiming the guilty plea was a win.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra disagreed, recently ruling the secret agreement violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), guaranteeing victims the right to speak with prosecutors, while a federal appeals court in New York ordered 2,000 pages of documents related to Epstein unsealed.
Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Democrats have demanded the Department of Justice revisit the case.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr, whose father hired Epstein to be a physics and math teacher at an elite Manhattan private school while lacking a college degree, became a partner after the fact in the law firm that defended Epstein.
He recused himself from the internal DOJ investigation, but not the prosecution.
That stinks, just as the handling of the Epstein case has from the outset, reeking of the possibility that his enablers influenced the deal.
Epstein has joked that as a convicted sex “offender,” not a predator, “it’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.”
He could be eating bread behind bars — without another key baked in — if convicted.