Notably, the Eleventh Circuit’s ‘random panel’ included two senior judges and only one active judge in this highly political case. Sex, lies and cover-ups.
Appeals court sides with feds on Jeffrey Epstein deal
Divided ruling savages prosecutors, but says victims did not have legal right to be consulted
Originally Published; 14 Apr., 2020
Federal prosecutors won what may amount to a pyrrhic victory Tuesday in a long-running legal battle over their handling of a sex-trafficking investigation into wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, with judges coming down on both sides of the case savaging the prosecution team over its conduct.
The 2-1 decision from the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said prosecutors did not violate a federal victims rights law by leaving victims in the dark as a deal was cut a decade ago that headed off potential federal sex-trafficking charges against Epstein in exchange for guilty pleas to lesser state charges.
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The decision overturns the core of a judge’s ruling last year that contributed to the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was U.S. Attorney for Southern Florida at the time the controversial non-prosecution agreement was hammered out with Epstein’s high-powered legal team in 2007 and 2008.
Epstein died of an apparent suicide in a New York jail last August as he was awaiting trial on newly filed federal charges that he trafficked underage teenage girls for sexual purposes.
The majority on the appeals court panel said the federal trial court judge in Florida erred when he ruled that prosecutors — including Acosta — violated the Crime Victims Rights Act by keeping victims in the dark about the deal where federal officials agreed not to charge Epstein if he pleaded guilty to a pair of related charges in state court of soliciting prostitution.
However, the 11th Circuit’s ruling was far from a complete vindication for Acosta, as it found that prosecutors appeared to have intentionally misled victims about the deal, even though the court ultimately concluded that deceit is not illegal.
“We hold that at least as matters currently stand — which is to say at least as the CVRA is currently written — rights under the Act do not attach until criminal proceedings have been initiated against a defendant, either by complaint, information, or indictment,” Judge Kevin Newsom wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Gerald Tjoflat.
“Because the government never filed charges or otherwise commenced criminal proceedings against Epstein, the CVRA was never triggered. It’s not a result we like, but it’s the result we think the law requires,” Newsom added.
Newsom called the case “beyond scandalous” and “a tale of national disgrace.” He also ascribed fault in various directions, accusing prosecutors of apparent “mistreatment” of the victims.
And the judge even swung at the “national media” for having “essentially ignored” Epstein’s case for more than a decade, notwithstanding numerous reports about it in POLITICO, the Daily Beast and elsewhere.
The dissenter on the three-judge panel, Judge Frank Hull, said the actions by Acosta’s office constituted “egregious” violations of the victims’ rights law.
“The Majority’s contorted statutory interpretation materially revises the statute’s plain text and guts victims’ rights under the CVRA. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in the CVRA’s plain text requires the Majority’s result,” wrote Hull.
The decade-plus litigation challenging prosecutors’ action and seeking to overturn Epstein’s deal with the Feds was brought by Epstein victim Courtney Wild and another woman who remains anonymous in court papers.
A lawyer for the women, Brad Edwards, expressed disappointment in the decision and vowed to ask the full bench of the appeals court to weigh in.
“It is clear that even the majority detested the government’s treatment of the victims but apparently felt there was a loophole in the CVRA that the prosecutors and Epstein successfully exploited,” Edwards said in an email to POLITICO. “For all the reasons given in the 60-page dissenting opinion, we strongly disagree with today’s ruling — which leaves victims like Ms. Wild without any remedy, even for victims like her who have been ‘affirmatively misled’ by federal prosecutors. We will be seeking rehearing en banc before the full Eleventh Circuit.”
Newsom was appointed by President Donald Trump. Tjoflat is an appointee of President Gerald Ford. Hull was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigation into the handling of the Epstein probe a decade ago is ongoing.
In 2006, the FBI investigated Epstein and his sexual abuse of several minor girls. Not only did the United States neglect to confer with the victims before it entered into a non custodial agreement with Epstein, it also failed to notify them of its existence. #EpsteinCoverUp pic.twitter.com/T3xQWB6Ibg
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) August 13, 2019
Victims’ lawyers react to court upholding Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘sweetheart’ deal
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 Tuesday, upholding billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s deal with federal prosecutors and ruling prosecutors did not need to alert his victims to what some called a “sweetheart deal” that allowed Epstein to plead to state charges in 2008 and wind up on work release.
Entering into what’s called a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors, Epstein pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges, including procuring a minor for sex. The plea deal also provided immunity from federal prosecution for Epstein and at least four other co-conspirators, according to the News Service Florida.
Epstein’s deal remains in place, even after his death, and still protects his alleged co-conspirators from facing federal charges in Florida.
Epstein’s victims were never alerted to the deal and argued they were entitled to be notified under the 2004 Crime Victims Rights Act. Two of the three federal appellate judges Tuesday ruled the law only forces prosecutors to divulge those details to victims when the alleged perpetrator is being indited.
But Epstein was never indicted in federal court.
US failed to disclose that Epsteins pleas to those state charges arose from his non-prosecution agreement and that the pleas would bar a federal prosecution. In 2008, Jane Doe 1 filed a petition alleging that she was a victim of crimes committed by Esptein. #EpsteinSuicide #FBI pic.twitter.com/sfIMlBe4sp
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) August 13, 2019
“I was disappointed because it’s the wrong decision,” said attorney Brad Edwards, who represents Courtney Wild, one of Epstein’s victims who brought the suit to overturn his non-prosecution agreement.
Edwards has pursued Epstein for more than a decade and authored the book “Relentless Pursuit” about his fight for victims. He said Wild will be appealing Tuesday’s ruling.
“No matter how many cards are stacked against you and how much power is on the other side, if you have a will and determination, you can overcome these things,” he said.
Spencer Kuvin, another attorney who represented several of Epstein’s victims, worries the decision sets a precedent that will allow prosecutors to cut victims out of the legal process when alleged perpetrators haven’t been indicted.
“The act was put in place to protect victims of criminals,” he said. “[The ruling] takes away victims ability to play a part in those discussions prior to the federal government charging someone with a crime.”