Wednesday 21 August 2019

Charges against millionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein 'are a re-do of case'

Jeffrey Epstein: If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Photo: New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP
Jeffrey Epstein: If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Photo: New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP

Devlin Barrett

Lawyers for multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein have argued that new charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life are an unwarranted "re-do" of a case he settled years ago, but the law gives federal prosecutors wide discretion to bring such prosecutions.

Epstein, a jet-setting financier whose friends once included US President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton, has faced accusations that his wealth and connections got him a sweetheart deal from prosecutors in the earlier case in Florida.

Epstein's newest lawyer, Reid Weingarten, argued that prosecutors were trying to get a "do-over" of the old case that has become something of an albatross for the US Justice Department.

"There was a belief that there was a global agreement" to resolve all potential federal charges against Epstein, Mr Weingarten said at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan. "This is essentially a re-do. That's how it feels to us."

As part of that earlier deal, Epstein (66) signed a non-prosecution agreement with federal authorities in 2007 and pleaded guilty in state court. During his 13-month sentence in a Palm Beach jail, Epstein was allowed to work out of his office six days a week.

In the years since that plea deal, public outrage has grown as more details of Epstein's conduct - paying minors to perform massages that often escalated to sex acts - became known. As part of his plea deal, prosecutors promised not to charge Epstein's employees who they say recruited and scheduled the girls' meetings with him.

Non-prosecution agreements are a long-standing, albeit controversial, practice by the US Justice Department. Best known as a tool for punishing companies for alleged misconduct, they can be used against individuals - typically they are applied to bit players in criminal investigations. Such people may have had small roles in a conspiracy but are considered primarily witnesses to criminal conduct by others.

The charges mark another strange twist in a long-running legal saga full of unexpected moves by prosecutors.

It's common for criminal investigations to examine conduct in multiple federal districts, said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, "but it's highly unusual for one US attorney's office to take a look at similar conduct that has already been reviewed and adjudicated by a US attorney's office in another district".

Mr Mintz said the new case sends a message to federal prosecutors in both Florida and US Justice Department headquarters that the Epstein case deserved closer scrutiny.

In announcing the charges, officials praised investigative reporting for sparking renewed interest in the case and asked for any additional victims to come forward. Many of Epstein's victims have argued he got a slap on the wrist for a shocking series of crimes against vulnerable minors.

Epstein was arrested on Saturday when his private jet landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

He was held in jail as he awaited his first court appearance - a stark indication of how the US Justice Department is taking a more aggressive approach to him the second time around.

US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said the indictment is centred on conduct that occurred in Epstein's mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, making it a separate case from the Florida charges. (© Washington Post)

Irish Independent

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