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How Did Jeffrey Epstein Escape Justice?

The case of super-rich sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is so disturbing, not only because dozens of women say he victimized them as young girls, and not only because he went almost unpunished, but because his wealth appears to have enabled his criminality for years. While the sources of Epstein’s enormous fortune remain mysterious and may never be fully revealed, it is vital that we learn how he eluded justice until now.

The answer may not lie among the prominent politicians, businessmen, scientists and entertainment figures once cultivated by Epstein. Names like Donald Trump and Bill Clinton always make titillating copy, especially in this sordid tale, and it isn’t surprising that coverage has focused on the two presidents. Perhaps seeking to deflect attention from Trump, Trump’s henchmen, such as political consultant Roger Stone (now under indictment) and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker (who narrowly escaped indictment), have long tried to use Epstein to smear Clinton. And they have succeeded in spreading urban legends about Clinton and Epstein that bear little resemblance to the known facts.

Epstein loaned his airplane for several Clinton Foundation trips abroad, including at least one to Africa that he joined. He also gave financial assistance to the foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Clinton’s spokesman says that whenever they met, Clinton’s staff and Secret Service detail accompanied him. There is no evidence that Clinton knew of Epstein’s crimes or maintained the connection after those offenses were revealed.

As for Trump, he never needed Epstein to exercise his own troubling predilections and fantasies. He owned a modeling agency and a beauty pageant, often bragging how those enterprises gave him access to young girls without clothes. Indeed, he became infamous for intruding on the dressing rooms of the Miss Teen USA pageant. “You know, they’re standing there with no clothes,” he told radio personality Howard Stern in 2005. “And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.”

Getting away with things like that and much worse is what Trump has done all his life. The question of the moment is how Jeffrey Epstein could have gotten away with raping and trafficking minors — even after the authorities collared him.

At the center of that scandal is neither Clinton nor Trump but a trio of right-wing lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis, one of the nation’s most powerful law and lobbying firms. One of those lawyers is Kenneth W. Starr, who achieved a kind of fame as the independent counsel who pursued Clinton and sought his impeachment. Another was Starr’s partner Jay Lefkowitz, who joined Starr to defend Epstein against the charges he faced in Florida. And then there is Alexander Acosta, their old friend, hired to work at Kirkland & Ellis by Starr before winning appointment as U.S. attorney in Florida — and brokering the plea deal that saved Epstein from life in prison.

Although there is nothing unusual about lawyers negotiating with former colleagues who go on to work for the Justice Department, the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s deal deserve the most searching scrutiny. Undoubtedly, Epstein hired Starr and Lefkowitz to take advantage of their friendship with Acosta — but what remains to be determined is whether they violated ethical boundaries in securing his undeserved freedom.

According to the Miami Herald, Acosta met with Lefkowitz in October 2007 to negotiate a way out of his office’s 53-page draft sex trafficking indictment of Epstein. “Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men … convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away,” where “a deal was struck,” the Herald reported. Epstein would plead guilty to state prostitution charges that freed him after only 13 months and allowed him to leave jail for his office six days a week. Moreover, according to a letter Lefkowitz wrote to Acosta, Acosta agreed not to inform “any of the identified individuals, potential witnesses or potential civil claimants” against Epstein about the sweetheart deal.

Legal ethics experts told The American Lawyer that the circumstances of the breakfast between Lefkowitz and Acosta were “troubling.” New York University law professor Stephen Gillers, a top legal ethicist, said that their meeting outside work hours at a “remote location … will inevitably suggest special treatment in the public’s mind and the appearance that Acosta was trying to hide his conduct.”

As Epstein’s prosecution finally moves forward in New York, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate why justice was delayed and almost denied. The career attorneys there must stand firm against any interference by Attorney General William Barr, another Kirkland & Ellis partner who has already proved himself untrustworthy. Both he and Trump must back off — and let the truth emerge at last.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

 

 

At Press Conference, Acosta Refuses To Apologize For Epstein Leniency

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Fighting fierce criticism over his handling of a high-profile sex trafficking case from 2008, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta took to a lectern before cameras Wednesday to field questions from the press.

He has come under scrutiny for the extraordinary non-prosecution deal given to Jeffrey Epstein, a financier accused of trafficking dozens of underage girls and sexually abusing them. In 2008, rather than pressing federal sex trafficking charges as a U.S. attorney in Florida, Acosta oversaw an agreement with Epstein that resulted in his pleading guilty to a lesser state charge. He served only 13 months in a local jail and scored a work release program that allowed him to go to his office 12 hours a day, six days a week. A judge has since ruled that the prosecutors violated the law in the agreement by not informing the victims about the deal.

During the press conference on Wednesday, Acosta defended his actions and refused to apologize to the victims despite multiple opportunities. Acosta placed the blame for the light sentence on state prosecutors and suggested that he only care about putting Epstein in jail. He said he was only concerned with avoiding letting a sex offender walk free.

But while he spoke forcefully in his own defense, he remained light on the details of the case at crucial points. And he didn’t explain why the state prosecutor’s inclination to go easy on Epstein would have prevented him from bringing more serious federal charges and or forced him to accept such a lax plea deal.

Ken White, a former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney, said Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement was “the deal of the millennium, one utterly unlike anything else I’ve seen in 25 years of practicing federal criminal law.”

In perhaps the most revealing moment of the press conference, a reporter asked about one particular charge — which is now part of the case being brought by the Southern District of New York against Epstein — that Acosta didn’t bring: obstruction of justice.

“Are you aware of alleged obstruction of justice by Jeffrey Epstein?” a Daily Mail reporter asked. “It seemed to be mentioned in a bail memo by New York prosecutors. Did he take efforts to intimidate prosecutors, and if he did — or harass witnesses, tamper with witnesses — why would he get what’s been called a sweetheart deal?”

“I can’t comment on the New York case, that would not be appropriate,” Acosta said.

“But were you aware of that in Florida?” the reporter asked. “I’m talking about in Florida — ”

“Sir, there’s a pending case in New York, I can’t talk about that,” Acosta shot back.

It was an odd response since he spent the whole hour-long press conference talking about charges against Epstein. It suggested that this was a line of inquiry Acosta is not inclined to go down, even while he talked extensively about other aspects of the case. So why won’t he address the potential obstruction of justice that went uncharged?

He also offered similarly obfuscatory answers when pressed on why Epstein’s agreement included a provision that said prosecutors would not pursue charges against any potential “co-conspirators.” Acosta gave vague references suggesting this was necessary to get Epstein in jail, but it’s far from clear why this would be the case. He also indicated that there wasn’t evidence of co-conspirators who were themselves abusing girls, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t others involved in the trafficking itself.

And if there weren’t any other people involved in the trafficking, why would it have been necessary to include this provision in the non-prosecution agreement?

Acosta’s press conference did little to allay doubts about his credibility or answer these remaining questions about the case.

Trump Defends Acosta Over Lenient Plea Deal For Sex Offender

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

While the fallout from the arrest and indictment of financier and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein continues to rattle the administration, President Donald Trump made rambling and tone-deaf remarks on Tuesday about the case and its ties to Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.

Acosta was the U.S. attorney who oversaw a remarkably lenient plea deal Epstein received in 2008 in Florida while facing federal scrutiny for trafficking underage women. A judge has since ruled that the plea deal — which gave Epstein just 13 months in custody, served in a jail that he was reportedly allowed to leave for 12 hours a day, six days a week — violated the law because the victims were not informed.

But in Trump’s telling, Acosta is the victim.

“I feel very badly, actually, for Secretary Acosta — because I’ve known him as being somebody who works so hard and has done such a good job,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday. “I feel very badly about that whole situation. But we’re going to be looking at that and looking at it very closely.”

Even for Trump, painting Acosta — whose role in the dubious sentencing remains unexplained — as the victim and ignoring the actual women who were abused was stunningly callous. As callous as he can be, he is typically careful enough to express sympathy for broadly sympathetic victims. But reading into his comments a bit, it seems Trump doesn’t actually care much about Acosta. There’s little reason to think Trump cares anymore about him than he does about anyone else. What Trump really means is that he feels bad for himself, he feels bad that Acosta’s past is reflecting badly on him as president, and he feels bad that the labor secretary has become yet another glaring stain on an outrageously corrupt and conflicted Cabinet.

The White House has previously claimed that it was “looking into” the Epstein case when Acosta’s role came under scrutiny in February. But then, as now, this claim was likely just a stalling tactic to see if the controversy will die down like all the others.

Trump’s other remarks about his own personal ties to Epstein made little sense. He claimed that he knew Epstein “like everybody else in Palm Beach knew him … he was a fixture in Palm Beach.” But then Trump immediately went on to say he had a “falling out” with Epstein, which is hard to understand if Trump only knew him as a prominent figure in the neighborhood. You have a “falling out” with someone you’re close to or have some kind of relationship with, someone you would have reason to fight or disagree with, not just some notable “fixture” in town.

Trump added: “I was not a fan of his. I was not a fan of his.”

Of course, this contradicted a widely cited quote from Trump in New York magazine, which even seems to suggest that he was potentially aware of Acosta’s criminal behavior:

“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” Trump booms from a speakerphone. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Watch the clip below:

 

 

Epstein, Starr, Acosta And Male Privilege In The Age Of Trump

In the Age of Trump, it often seems that powerful, entitled men have taken to imitating the behavior of the great man himself: forcing themselves upon reluctant women (and sometimes girls), relying upon their power and money to protect them from the consequences. So go ahead and grab them, boys, because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

Maybe you could even let them touch your Super Bowl trophy — assuming that illegal Asian immigrants working 15-hour shifts in West Palm Beach “massage” parlors would have any idea what it represented. Apart from “big, strong me,” compared to “little, insignificant you,” that is.

Not a subtle message, actually.

“It’s unbelievable but apparently true,” comments feminist author Amanda Marcotte. “America’s intensifying wealth inequality has created a class of hyper-rich men who act like cartoon villains.”

She’ll get no argument from me. Trump hardly invented such practices, although he surely embodies them.

See, if women threaten to tell, there’s always a Michael Cohen around to bribe them into silence. And if things go seriously wrong, a randy billionaire can avail himself of the services of an Alan Dershowitz or Kenneth Starr — the brilliant advocates revealed last week as the brains behind convicted sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s secret sweetheart deal with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida.

Think about it: the eponymous puritan scold behind the Starr Report (largely written by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh), humiliating Bill Clinton for his sweaty sexual sins. Then in 2008, Starr helped to arrange what a federal judge called a “calculated plan by the prosecutor” to allow billionaire financier Epstein to serve a mere 13 months in a private Palm Beach jail he left daily to visit his office, while keeping the arrangement secret from the teenaged girls who’d been his victims. (Not notifying them was the illegal part.)

Miami-based U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, it’s reliably reported, “did not want bad publicity for Epstein, they did not want other perpetrators exposed and/or they did not want the victims to object.”

Acosta currently serves as President Trump’s secretary of labor.

Kenneth Starr, of course, subsequently went on to greater glory as president of Baylor University, where he distinguished himself by running on the football field in cheerleader garb before being removed in 2016 for helping cover up sexual assaults by football players.

Anyway, what a cast of characters: Kenneth Bleeping Starr, the perpetually indignant Alan Dershowitz, a Trump Cabinet secretary, and Epstein himself: a sleek, billionaire sex offender jetting about in his private airplane (which cynics dubbed the “Lolita Express”) with pals like Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew.

I ask you: If we can’t have televised congressional hearings about a scam like that, what’s the point of paying taxes?

But enough raillery. Back to the Super Bowl trophy and its humiliated owner, Robert Kraft: business tycoon, philanthropist, owner of the New England Patriots and longtime Trump crony. His company donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration; he’s a frequent guest at Mar-a-Lago, the very fattest of cats.

Humiliated, because until he asked his chauffeur to drive him from his $29.5 million Palm Beach mansion for a couple of furtive visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, a strip mall “massage” joint in nearby Jupiter, Florida, Kraft was a well-respected (if not universally beloved) man.

Now, at age 77, he’s the punchline of a national joke. His seemingly inevitable election to the NFL Hall of Fame has been delayed indefinitely; he may never live to see it. I know: boo hoo-hoo.

The legal penalties are derisory for somebody of Kraft’s wealth. He and a couple of hundred other men (less prominent billionaires among them) are charged with misdemeanors. Fines of up to $1,000 and no jail time are the likely outcome — not much worse than a speeding ticket.

Indeed, the mystery is why a person of his means would frequent a sad-sack joint like Orchids of Asia. At $79 for an hour’s entertainment, if you’ve got the price of a modest lunch at a Palm Beach restaurant, they’ve got to let you do it — whatever it is you want these powerless victims of human trafficking to do.

And smile while they’re doing it.

Local cops have persuasively depicted the women as victims of a cynical, corrupt industry. “These girls are there all day long, into the evening. They can’t leave, and they’re performing sex acts,” a Vero Beach officer told The New Yorker. “Some of them may tell us they’re OK, but they’re not.”

Marcotte thinks it’s about the sadistic exercise of power. “At a certain point,” she writes, “it’s about being able to inflict cruelty.”

Absolutely. But it’s also about the many powerful men who are emotional cripples: incapable of experiencing the love of mature women they know first as the dearest of friends — the only form of sexual intimacy worth having.

IMAGE: Attorney Kenneth Starr speaks during arguments before the California Supreme Court in San Francisco, March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Sakuma.