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.
Last month, victims of billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein argued his controversial plea agreement should be tossed aside and that he should face federal charges for allegedly molesting dozens of underage girls in Palm Beach, Florida.
But the government is now fighting back against their proposed remedies to Epstein’s sweetheart deal, which a federal judge ruled was illegal earlier this year because Epstein’s victims were never consulted about the agreement.
In court papers filed late Monday, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office argued “the remedies that Petitioners seek go well beyond what equity allows.” As The Daily Beast reported, the victims’ first priority was for the court to rescind the immunity provisions of Epstein’s secret 2007 non-prosecution agreement, brokered by Alexander Acosta (now President Trump’s Labor Secretary), which shielded the 66-year-old financier and his alleged co-conspirators from federal prosecution.
Instead, Epstein pleaded guilty to a pair of state charges and only served 13 months in the private wing of a Palm Beach jail, though most of his time was spent on work release.
The victims, identified as Jane Does 1 and 2, also requested remedies including a public hearing with mandatory attendance by Acosta and Epstein; monetary sanctions against the U.S. government and attorneys’ fees; training for prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida; and opening of the case file, including grand jury materials.
Their pleading on remedies comes as part of a lawsuit the Jane Does filed against the government in 2008. They claimed federal prosecutors in Miami violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by keeping them in the dark while they collaborated with Epstein and his legal team behind closed doors.
But, according to the government’s latest filing, any remedies the court imposes should “give victims a voice in the criminal justice process, but not decision-making authority over prosecution decisions.”
The government claims that the victims’ request to toss out the plea deal would “cause unintended harm to many of” the victims and jeopardize the settlements more than a dozen of them received.
“As the Court is well aware, the NPA [non-prosecution agreement] guaranteed a felony conviction and more than a year of incarceration for Epstein, which he agreed not to appeal; required him to register as a sex offender; provided for an attorney representative for victims, at Epstein’s expense; and gave victims the equivalent of uncontested restitution by mandating that he waive his right to contest liability for victims who pursued a claim for damages,” wrote Byung J. Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, which is representing the government in the Crime Victim Rights Act (CVRA) case. (Pak was nominated by President Trump in 2017.)
“Rescission could imperil these penalties as well as the benefits and settlements obtained by the more than dozen victims who invoked the NPA terms,” Pak added.
The U.S. Attorney continued, “Based on the conversations with victims to date, it is apparent that any form of rescission would cause unintended harm to many of them.”
According to prosecutors, who in recent weeks held discussions with Epstein’s victims and their counsel, several of the women were eager to see the wealthy sex-offender prosecuted and to be witnesses in any future investigations.
Some victims, through their lawyers, said they “valued anonymity above all and were not willing to speak with law enforcement or otherwise participate in any criminal or civil litigation due to the risk that their involvement may become known to family, friends, or the public,” Pak stated in the newest pleading.
“Several victims previously expressed, during the investigation of Epstein, that they suffered emotional distress and were troubled by the prospect of any involvement in the government’s investigation,” Pak’s court filing added. “For these victims, setting aside the immunity provisions in a partial rescission could only undermine their desire to stay anonymous more than ten years after obtaining settlements from Epstein.”
Federal prosecutors additionally argued that contract law would “prohibit the rewriting of terms when the parties intended the agreement to be fulfilled in its entirety. Such principles bind the government’s hands in this case.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office instead proposed three remedies of its own—including ordering the Department of Justice to designate a representative to meet with Epstein’s victims “to discuss the government’s decision to resolve the Epstein case and engage in an open dialogue about that decision.”
The government said it would also participate in a public court hearing so the women can make victim impact statements. “That hearing would be handled in a manner similar to the way the Court would handle victim impact statements in the context of a criminal sentencing,” Pak’s office stated in the filing.
Lastly, prosecutors proposed that all assistant U.S. Attorneys that handle criminal cases in the Southern District of Florida “will undergo additional training on the CVRA, victim rights, and victim assistance issues to be completed no later than one year from the date of the Court’s final order in this case.”
Jack Scarola, an attorney for the Jane Does, called the government’s remedies into question. “Absent rescission, the victims are wasting their time,” he said of the proposed meeting with the Department of Justice, adding that there’s “nothing to talk about.”
Scarola also said the government’s proposed hearing for the women to make victim impact statements—contrary to the government’s suggestion—would not be similar to a criminal sentencing.“By definition, an impact statement is made under circumstances where it can have an impact,” Scarola added.
The pleading also addressed some other remedies posed by the victims.
Prosecutors appeared to argue against the women’s request for a letter of apology from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, citing one Ninth Circuit case that “recognized that courts ‘are not commissioned to run around getting apologies.’”
“And certainly, a court may not order a defendant to speak in a manner that may contravene the beliefs the defendant holds,” the government added.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also opposed the Jane Does’ request to review all documents in the prosecution’s case file, including FBI and grand jury materials. Prosecutors argued the CVRA allows victims to “confer” with the government, but the government isn’t required to explain “next steps” to victims or to disclose confidential information.
The women’s “request would intrude on the government’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion, which is expressly prohibited by the CVRA,” Pak’s office stated in the pleading. “Moreover, such an order would violate, or fall perilously close to violating, the separation-of-powers doctrine undergirding our democracy.”
“The decision whether to prosecute Epstein lies solely within the Executive Branch, and any order today, by this Court, as to what the government must do in the future would be wholly inappropriate,” prosecutors added.
Sharing law-enforcement’s interview reports of young women sexually abused by Epstein could reveal their identities and “cause additional psychological trauma, disruption of family relationships or professional careers, and possible public release of personal information,” the government stated.
The release of the case file would unveil the FBI’s investigative procedures and techniques and potentially compromise such methods in future cases, prosecutors argued.
Meanwhile, Pak’s office said the CVRA prohibits victims from seeking damages against the government and thus the “monetary sanctions” requested by the Jane Does wouldn’t be permitted under the law. The CVRA also doesn’t provide for attorneys’ fees against the United States, the government said.
“Regardless of what the CVRA required the government to do in this matter, the victims are right to expect better from their Justice Department,” Pak’s office concluded. “The government’s commitment in the decade since this action was filed to combat human trafficking and child exploitation and protect victims of such offenses underscores that its conduct in this matter, no matter how well-intentioned, fell short of the government’s dedication to serve victims to the best of its ability.”
The government argued the three remedies it posed “would give the victims a meaningful opportunity to have their voices heard and to understand, if not accept, the decisions made in this matter.”
Prosecutors claimed that the victims’ requests, however, “run afoul of the remedial scheme contemplated by the CVRA, are contrary to law, and may cause unintended harm to the victims whose interests are also protected by the CVRA.”
According to the court’s briefing schedule, attorneys for the Jane Does have 15 days to file a reply to the government's brief.
Epstein’s lawyers, who previously told The Daily Beast they plan to file a brief of their own in the case, must file pleadings by early July.
Sigrid McCawley, an attorney at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, which represents some of Epstein’s victims, previously told The Daily Beast she hoped the government was “preparing to find a way to prosecute” the billionaire.
“This is an opportunity for the government to show the victims that they stand behind them,” McCawley said last month.