Long before #MeToo became the catalyst for a women’s movement about sexual assault — and a decade before the fall of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and U.S. Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — there was Jeffrey Edward Epstein.
Epstein, a multimillionaire hedge fund manager whose friends included a constellation of entertainers, politicians, business titans and royalty, for years lured teenage girls to his Palm Beach mansion as part of a cult-like sex pyramid scheme, police in the town of Palm Beach found.
The girls arrived, sometimes by taxi, for trysts at all hours of the day and night. Few were told much more than that they would be paid to give an old man a massage — and that he might ask them to strip down to their underwear or get naked. But what began as a massage often led to masturbation, oral sex, intercourse and other sex acts, police and court records show. The alleged abuse dates back to 2001 and went on for years.
In 2007, despite ample physical evidence and multiple witnesses corroborating the girls’ stories, federal prosecutors and Epstein’s lawyers quietly put together a remarkable deal for Epstein, then 54. He agreed to plead guilty to two felony prostitution charges in state court, and in exchange, he and his accomplices received immunity from federal sex-trafficking charges that could have sent him to prison for life.
He served 13 months in a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade. His alleged co-conspirators, who helped schedule his sex sessions, were never prosecuted.
The deal, called a federal non-prosecution agreement, was sealed so that no one — not even his victims — could know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes and who else was involved. The U.S. attorney in Miami, Alexander Acosta, was personally involved in the negotiations, records, letters and emails show.
Acosta is now a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet. As U.S. secretary of labor, he has oversight over international child labor laws and human trafficking and has recently been mentioned as a possible successor to former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned under pressure in early November. [Continue reading…]