FEBRUARY 21, 2019
Federal prosecutors, under former Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
While the decision marks a victory for crime victims, the federal judge, Kenneth A. Marra, stopped short of overturning Epstein’s plea deal, or issuing an order resolving the case. He instead gave federal prosecutors 15 days to confer with Epstein’s victims and their attorneys to come up with a settlement. The victims did not seek money or damages as part of the suit.
It’s not clear whether the victims, now in their late 20s and early 30s, can, as part of the settlement, demand that the government prosecute Epstein. But others are calling on the Justice Department to take a new look at the case in the wake of the judge’s ruling.
“The fact that it’s taken this long to get this far is heartbreaking and infuriating,’’ said Sasse. “The Department of Justice should use this opportunity to reopen its non-prosecution agreement so that Epstein and anyone else who abused these children are held accountable.”
Epstein’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, did not return a call from the Miami Herald.
Brad Edwards, who represents Courtney Wild — Jane Doe No. 1 in the case — said he was elated at the judge’s ruling, but admitted he is troubled that it took 11 years to litigate. He blamed federal prosecutors for needlessly dragging it out when they could have remedied their error after it was brought to their attention in 2008.
“The government aligned themselves with Epstein, working against his victims, for 11 years,’’ Edwards said. “Yes, this is a huge victory, but to make his victims suffer for 11 years, this should not have happened. Instead of admitting what they did, and doing the right thing, they spent 11 years fighting these girls.’’
Marra, in a 33-page opinion, said prosecutors not only violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not informing the victims, they also misled the girls into believing that the FBI’s sex trafficking case against Epstein was still ongoing — when in fact, prosecutors had secretly closed it after sealing the plea bargain from the public record.
The decision follows a three-part series published by the Miami Herald in November, “Perversion of Justice,’’ which detailed how federal prosecutors collaborated with Epstein’s lawyers to arrange the deal, then hid it from his victims and the public so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes and who else was involved.
The 66-year-old mogul lured scores of teenage girls from troubled homes — some as young as 13 — as part of a cult-like scheme to sexually abuse them by offering them money to give him massages and promising some of them he would send them to college or help them find careers. Future president Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew and other world leaders, scientists and academics were friends with Epstein, who also owns a vast home in Manhattan, a private jet, and an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he now lives.
Marra, noting that he reviewed affidavits, depositions and interrogatories — presumably some of them sealed — showed “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others, ’’ the judge said.
Instead of prosecuting Epstein under federal sex trafficking laws, Acosta allowed Epstein to quietly plead guilty in state court to two prostitution charges and he served just 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail. His accomplices, some of whom have never been identified, were not charged.
Epstein’s victims were not told the case was closed until it was too late for them to appear at his sentencing and possibly upend the deal. Two of them filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in 2008, claiming that prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which grants victims of federal crimes a series of rights, including the ability to confer with prosecutors about a possible plea deal.
Marra said that while prosecutors had the right to resolve the case in any way they saw fit, they violated the law by hiding the agreement from Epstein’s victims.
“Particularly problematic was the Government’s decision to conceal the existence of the [agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,’’ Marra wrote. “When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [agreement] with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims.’’
The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami declined to comment.
Acosta, who was nominated as labor secretary in 2017, issued a written statement through a spokesman:
“For more than a decade, the actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures. This matter remains in litigation and, thus, for any further comment we refer you to the Department of Justice.”
Michelle Licata, who was molested by Epstein when she was 14, said the judge’s decision was “a step for justice.’’ But she still questions why federal authorities have failed to open a new case against Epstein, given that more victims and evidence has come to light in recent years.
“They should see if they can prosecute him for something. I mean, really prosecute him — instead of giving him 13 months where he was allowed to come and go as he pleased. I just want to see him face some consequences for what he did.’’
Francey Hakes, a former federal prosecutor, said the Crime Victims’ Rights Act doesn’t spell out any punishment for violating its terms, so it would set a precedent to re-open Epstein’s agreement.
“Epstein will surely argue he complied with the agreement, relied upon it, and plead guilty under it so it can’t be overturned in fairness to him,’’ she said. “I will be very interested to see what the parties say the remedy for the violation should be. Ultimately, it is simply shocking the Government went to the lengths they did to keep the victims in the dark in order to make a serious predator’s high priced defense team happy. Justice should not, and does not, look like this.’’
There has been no statute of limitations for sex trafficking since 2002, but Edwards and other lawyers involved in the case said they tried without success to get federal authorities to investigate whether Epstein’s crimes went beyond Palm Beach.
In an op-ed published Sunday in the Herald, Jeffrey H. Sloman, the former first assistant U.S. Attorney under Acosta during the Epstein case, defended their decision to give Epstein federal immunity. He claimed that many of the victims were too frightened to testify against Epstein.
He also noted that there were “significant legal impediments to prosecuting what was, at heart, a local sex case.’’
Marra suggested otherwise in his decision, saying: “Epstein and his co-conspirators knowingly traveled in interstate and international commerce to sexually abuse Jane Doe 1 and Doe 2 and others, [and] they committed violations of not only Florida law, but also federal law.‘’
The bulk of his opinion quoted emails exchanged during the tense negotiations between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team, which included Roy Black, Jack Goldberger, Alan Dershowitz, Jay Lefkowitz and former Whitewater and Clinton prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
Those emails suggested ways in which both parties tried to keep Epstein’s victims in the dark, he said.
“The CVRA [Crime Victims’ Rights Act] was designed to protect victims’ rights and ensure their involvement in the criminal justice process…’’ Marra wrote.
“…Under the facts of this case, once the Government failed to advise the victims about its intention to enter into the [non-prosecution agreement], a violation of the CVRA occurred.’’
Victims advocates applauded the judge’s decision.
“This is a tremendous victory for crime victims and for the rule of law. The Court made clear that the statute was enacted to make crime victims full participants in the criminal justice system,’’ said Jeff R. Dion, executive director of the Zero Abuse Project. “And when the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. The Government’s conduct was a clear violation of the CVRA, and the court must now consider a remedy.’’
New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Charged With Soliciting Hookers
Update: A spokesperson for Robert Kraft has released the following statement:
“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
The video that the police have must be a ‘deep fake’ then?
Just when you thought the day couldn’t get any worse for the Kraft family name – with Kraft Heinz’ share price down 25% to a new record low this morning – it just did…
As part of a takedown of a human trafficking ring, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was busted in Florida on two counts of soliciting prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Spa in Jupiter, Florida.
Curiously, earlier this week, local media reported that the infamous Orchids of Asia Day Spa was one of several businesses targeted in a human trafficking and sex investigation that apparently began in Martin County, and to top it off, had online reviews identifying it in slang terms as a provider of sexual services.
Postings from February 2015 to March 2018 on a forum-based website detailed visits involving Asian women supplying sex acts, massages and body rubs for pay. Investigators found evidence of bodily fluids and got video of sex acts inside the Palm Beach County business.
These were among the details in a 16-page affidavit obtained Wednesday supporting the arrests of Hua Zhang, 58, and 39-year-old Lei Wang, in connection with the spa at 103 S. U.S. 1 in Jupiter.
Records supporting criminal charges at Orchids in Jupiter show an investigation began in October after Martin County sheriff’s detectives reported “they were working several cases of prostitution and possible human trafficking at Asian massage parlors in their county,” records state.
Which brings us to today, when as DeadSpin.com reports, in a press conference Friday morning, Jupiter Police chief Daniel Kerr said Kraft was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution roughly a month ago, and that a warrant for his arrest is with the state’s attorney’s office.
Wall Street Legends Identified In Florida Prostitution Sting
While the big news of the day was that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was been named as one of those involved in a prostitution sting in Florida, NBC News reported that he’s far from the only one named in the Orchids of Asia Spa bust, and may in fact “not be the most famous person involved.”
According to ESPN, while Kraft’s naming in the prostitution bust prompted shocked gasps – with many asking why a billionaire would resort to a $75/hour day spa to satisfy his basic urges – he is reportedly not the most famous person, as “there’s someone else whose name hasn’t surfaced yet who’s better known than Kraft.”
“I’m also told that Robert Kraft is not the biggest name involved down there in South Florida,” Schefter said.
According to Schefter, another 175 names to be revealed, in addition to the 25 people already named in the police report with up to 200 names in total involved in the investigation.
“This is an investigation that has been going on for months,” Schefter said.
“What I have been told is that there are other people involved. There are other names that will come out in this particular investigation,” Schefter added.
“We got 25 names today, there are 175 more names coming. Now some will just be regular people whose names we don’t know. But there could be other names that we do know, and that’s how it was explained to me,” Schefter said.
As reported earlier, Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting a prostitute. He has categorically denied those charges and say they are untrue.”
Meanwhile, by its very location – Jupiter is one of the world’s most exclusive zip codes with Tiger Woods living just a few miles away in a house which cost over $40 million back in 2006 – the list of clients virtually assures to be the “who’s who” of high society.
Sure enough, shortly after the Kraft news broke, Bloomberg reported that Wall Street legend John Childs, whose name was not on the list released by Jupiter police, was also charged with solicitation of prostitution.
Childs, who of course is the founder of the iconic private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates, was among 165 people that were charged by the Vero Beach Police Department in Florida as part of the multijurisdiction criminal investigation, according to the police website. His was among the photographs released by the department.
Childs, 77, hasn’t been arrested.
“I have received no contact by the police department about this charge,” he told Bloomberg in a telephone interview. Childs founded the Boston-based private-equity firm in 1995. The firm has invested about $3.7 billion of equity capital in more than 50 businesses. Childs has owned a home in Vero Beach for more than a decade, according to public records.
“The accusation of solicitation of prostitution is totally false. I have retained a lawyer” Childs said.
Vero Beach Police Public information Officer Bradley Kmetz said “we are working in conjunction with numerous jurisdictions and local agencies to try to arrest all subjects we have active charges on. We encourage people who have active arrest warrants to turn themselves in”, although for some of the billionaires on the list that may be a generous, if unacceptable, offer.
And while there will hardly be any criminal consequences for Childs, his wife may have some plans to make his life rather complicated.
He is not the only one who will lose some sleep over the coming days. One other Wall Street icon who will wish he never heard the name of Orchids of Asia Spa, is John Havens, the former president and COO of Citigroup, who has also has been caught up in the prostitution bust.
The names of Havens and Kraft were on the original list of 25 men being charged for soliciting prostitution from the infamous Jupiter day spa. The entry on the list released by police matches Havens’ middle initial and date of birth. Havens has a home in Florida near Jupiter.
When Bloomberg called Havens, a man who answered the listed phone number said “I have no idea what you are talking about.” He then hung up and additional calls weren’t answered.
Havens, 62, took over as Citigroup’s president in 2011 after leading the bank’s investment banking and trading arm. Havens rose through the ranks in a two-decade career at Morgan Stanley, where he worked closely with Vikram Pandit. The pair started the hedge fund Old Lane Partners LP and then joined Citigroup when it bought the fund in 2007, with Pandit rising to chief executive officer of the bank shortly after.
As Bloomberg reports, havens helped navigate Citigroup through the 2008 financial crisis, which it survived with the help of a $45 billion taxpayer bailout. After Havens resigned from Citigroup – on the same day Pandit quit in 2012 under pressure from the bank’s board- he has served as chairman of Citigroup’s former hedge-fund arm, Napier Park Global Capital, and joined the board of advisers of Money360, a commercial real estate lender.