Editor's note: Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York on July 6, 2019, and faced federal charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. On August 10, 2019, he died in an apparent jailhouse suicide. For more information, see The Daily Beast's reporting here.
It was supposed to be a probe into the first family’s finances. But when independent counsel Judge Ken Starr mounted an investigation into the Clintons’ real-estate deals, the “Whitewater” probe took a peep-show turn. Starr and his team began to obsess over every lurid detail of Bill Clinton’s philandering, issuing a 473-page report that was a catalog of misuse of funds but mostly torrid sexcapades in the White House and the president accused of committing perjury to cover it up.
The Starr Report came out in 1998. And all of this would be history, if it weren’t for the fact that Starr, the legendary moral ninny now serving as the chancellor at Baylor University, was handpicked nearly a decade later to negotiate a sweetheart plea deal with state and federal prosecutors for billionaire pederast and Clinton crony Jeffrey Epstein.
On Wednesday, some of Epstein’s lawyers were back in court, arguing that the negotiations over that deal must remain secret.
“I had given [Epstein] a list of lawyers I worked with in the past that had been exceptionally able and Jeffrey picked from the list,” Alan Dershowitz, the world-famous criminal attorney and Harvard professor, told The Daily Beast. He also worked on Epstein’s behalf. “Starr had experience in investigating sex investigations,” Dershowitz said. “He had experience as the solicitor general and as a judge. He had all the bases covered.”
The acquisition proved to be a panacea. In 2006, Jeffrey Epstein was hauled in by Palm Beach police for violating scores of underage girls for years and was facing federal charges for trafficking them across state lines. He was formally sentenced to 18 months prison, but only served 13 of them and was allowed to travel between his various mansions frequently. He was also forced to register as a sex offender.
Many believe Epstein dodged certain doom—he could have remained behind bars for the rest of his life given the number of alleged victims (some say it’s as many as hundreds, while his attorneys suggest it’s barely double-digits). But ask the client and he believes the plea agreement was lousy.
“Jeffrey didn’t think it was a good deal,” Dershowitz said. And that may have been because Epstein’s all-star legal team—which included Starr, Dershowitz, Miami lawyer Roy Black, New York power esquires Jay Lefkowitz and Gerald Lefcourt, and Martin Weinberg in Boston—apparently couldn’t seal an even sweeter deal.
“It was with the [Florida] state attorney,” Dershowitz said. “It was only after the federal government came in that this deal was struck. But we originally had a better deal.”
Still, in retrospect, Dershowitz is pleased with the result. “We got the best deal we thought we could get,” he said. “I’m proud of the role I played in getting Jeffrey Epstein the deal. He wasn’t happy with it. He thought perhaps we could have done better.”
Why couldn’t the prosecutors nail Epstein to the wall with all of his statuatory rapes? Dershowitz says the evidence against Epstein “was virtually nonexistent.”
Nevertheless, Epstein’s attorneys have been fighting to this day to keep the negotiations around that plea deal hidden from the public.
Martin Weinberg told The Daily Beast there’s an understanding that such correspondence among lawyers is privileged and shouldn’t be for public consumption.
“Our effort to maintain the privacy of our legal communications leading up to the Non-Prosecution Agreement in the Epstein case is completely consistent with the traditional privacy and confidentiality accorded to such negotiations in every case that I have participated in for over 40 years as a practicing criminal defense attorney.”
Asked about the decision to suppress the legal correspondence that pertains directly to the plea deal, Dershowitz suggested he was out of the loop. “I was not consulted on that decision,” but refused to expand.
Starr refused to answer questions submitted by The Daily Beast for this story.
But whatever innuendo one might draw about Starr coming on board, Dershowitz believes the former puritan prosecutor was effectively an ace. “He helped negotiate the plea bargain,” Dershowitz said. “He made proposals and made counterproposals.”
And the elocutionary trial lawyer in Dershowitz said he was blown away by Starr’s powerful delivery. “I was with him at a planning session for Epstein and his input was extraordinary.”
Starr, as one of Epstein’s hired guns, managed to give the legal team insight into federal law and used his Justice Department seasoning to steer the team to avoid potential pitfalls. “He a was significant part.”
Weinberg confirmed that Starr, who was then a partner at Kirkland & Ellis (as was Epstein’s other attorney, Jay Lefkowitz) “was a core participant” for the defense. “Judge Starr joined the defense team because of his skills, experience, and legal wisdom and for no other reason.”
What’s more is on Wednesday, Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyers moved to keep sealed what is potentially thousands of documents (including correspondence among Epstein’s lawyers and state and federal attorneys) hashing out a plea deal. The convicted sex offender’s lawyers want that information to be sealed “until the court can make a considered determination of these traditionally confidential plea negotiations should be made part of this public record.”
And according to sources, Starr’s handprints are on some of those documents.
Starr served as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. and later became the country’s solicitor general back in the 1980s. But he became a household name in the ’90s when he went after a president. As a self-appointed moral sheriff, Starr almost seemed to trumpet Clinton’s fall from grace—winning him friends on the Christian right and turning him into a witch-hunting pariah with the left.
After the Starr Report landed, Ken Starr was torched for portraying the White House as some sort of bordello.
At one point there are pages and pages of at least 10 incidents involving President Bill Clinton trysting with former intern Monica Lewinsky at 1600 Pennsylvania. She would usually give Mr. Clinton oral sex in the “windowless hallway outside the study” or got it on “against the doorway of the bathroom across the study, which he told Ms. Lewinsky, eased his sore back.” Her famous stained dress turned out to contain “the president’s semen.” A cigar was used as a dipstick sex toy back in 1996 where Clinton began kissing her bare breasts and fondling her genitals. “At one point, the president inserted a cigar into Ms. Lewinsky’s vagina, then put the cigar in his mouth and said: “It tastes good.”
And despite the fury for reenacting all of the sordid sex details in excruciating detail, Starr said that was the cost of doing business. In the Starr Report, he wrote: “The details are crucial to an informed evaluation of the testimony, the credibility of witnesses, and the reliability of other evidence. Many of the details reveal highly personal information; many are sexually explicit. This is unfortunate, but it is essential.”
The son of a preacher man, Starr’s Texas upbringing is something he routinely falls back on while describing growing up in San Antonio, Texas. For Starr, “church and scripture and church events were a regular part of life.”
Starr propped himself up to Diane Sawyer as someone who remains faithful to his wife. “The answer to the big question is no. I have not been unfaithful to my spouse. I try to, and I, you know, I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but I’ve tried to live by what I believe is my obligation and my responsibility.”
When Epstein’s defense team notched such a nuclear name in Ken Starr, sources tell The Daily Beast it was to balance the political scales.
But Dershowitz dismisses that. “I did not know anything about the political affiliations of the lawyers,” he said. “I never recommend lawyers based their political affiliations. That’s just not the way I go about things. That’s not my style.”
Still, there are plenty who will wonder how the self-proclaimed Boy Scout managed to go to bat to get a sex fiend off. “Many lawyers would say that they pass no moral judgment on their clients, but I’m not sure that Kenneth Starr can plausibly offer that excuse,” said Joe Conason, editor in Chief of the National Memo, who co-wrote the book The Hunting of the President. “As for why Starr would represent Jeffrey Epstein, you will have to ask him—certainly not because he thought it would improve his reputation. Then again, perhaps he assumed nobody would find out.”