Columbia Professor and Huff Post Blogger Accused of Incest

In academia, we often like to study and report on the crimes and controversies in society as if our world is separate and apart from matters. The arrest of well-known Columbia professor David Epstein, 46, has shattered any such illusions. Epstein, who teaches political science and writes for Huffington Post, is accused of incest –stemming from a sexual relationship with a relative over a three-year period. Some are reporting that it was a relationship with his daughter, 24.

Epstein teaches American politics and voting rights and previously taught at Harvard and Stanford. The relative is not a minor. However, Epstein can still face four years behind bars.

Here is the New York provision:

§ 255.27 Incest in the first degree.
A person is guilty of incest in the first degree when he or she
commits the crime of rape in the first degree, as defined in subdivision
three or four of section 130.35 of this part, or criminal sexual act in
the first degree, as defined in subdivision three or four of section
130.50 of this part, against a person whom he or she knows to be related
to him or her, whether through marriage or not, as an ancestor,
descendant, brother or sister of either the whole or half blood, uncle,
aunt, nephew or niece.
Incest in the first degree is a class B felony.

What is interesting is that there is no report of the woman being arrested even though she was an adult.

Source:NY Daily News

Incest arrests are unfortunately not uncommon in our country (here and here). However, they are usually cases involving minors where abuse is also alleged. It is less common, but certainly not unheard of, to have consensual incest among adults. The alleged ten-year incestuous relationship between former child-star Mackenzie Phillips and her father, rock star John Phillips is a notable example.

Jonathan Turley

59 thoughts on “Columbia Professor and Huff Post Blogger Accused of Incest”

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  2. Cato,

    I am a retired biologist. I chose that specific botanical species because it has the ‘ae’ diphthong in both the genus and species (epithet) nomenclatures. The epithet further illustrates the juxtaposition of a Latin vowel ‘i’ followed by the ‘ae’ diphthong (grossular*iae*folia) which is most euphonically and correctly pronounced as eh-eye with the ‘i’ a short sounding ‘e’ (in Latin) and the ‘ae’ as a long sounding ‘i’. The short ‘i’ sounds like the ‘i’ in the word ‘bit’.

    I first learned the species Sphaeralcea almost 40 years ago and I observe other species of Sphaeralcea on a daily basis. The genus also illustrates the c = a hard K sound we earlier discussed as in Caesar/Kaiser, hence, one more reason I chose the species.

    Desert Mallow (that English common name includes several species) is a desert adapted native perennial low shrub species within the Mallow Family (Malvaceae). The most commonly recognizable and well-known ornamental species of Mallow are within the showy-flowered Hibiscus genera.

  3. Tootie is frustrating on a number of levels. She strikes me as an intelligent person with an awful lot of anger. She spits out generalizations on every issue like so much chewing tobacco. She has an historical view of the greatness of western civilization that seems to come straight from mid-20th century high school history texts. And she has some very sour attitudes about men, as she demonstrated in an early comment on this thread. Nevertheless, I have always found something appealing about ornery people, and Tootie is no exception.

  4. FFLEO:

    the more trivial the information the more I seem to remember it.

    What kind of science do you do?

    And by the way what is a Desert Mallow and why did you mention it specifically? (I looked it up)

  5. I thank you for mentioning the topic and that anyone did somewhat surprised me; however, not too much since there are some very informed and educated people accessing this fine blawg, including most of the regular posters. The majority of people are likely uninterested in such information, although the Internet is doing a good job encouraging people to learn and share such knowledge and information. I still need my many books within my private library to read and reference—as an inveterate bibliophile—but the Internet is an abundant and valuable resource if you are careful to verify online information, use proper citations, and avoid plagiarism—at all costs.

  6. FFLEO:

    very interesting and that was my understanding as well for the terms Kaiser and Tzar, they came from Caesar.

    Thank you for the lesson, I havent looked at a latin text in 30 years but found Latin to be extremely enjoyable.

  7. Mespo727272:

    if you had not read the pages regarding rainfall you would think rain just magically fell from the sky. Now you know that basically clouds are water vapour and rain drops condense on tiny bits of dust, etc. And boom it rains.

    I strike a pool ball and it moves. Newton explained why it moved.

    I look at it as a complex universe and science and philosophy help me understand the things I cannot figure out on my own. It demystifies my world. Even the savage has a natural inclination to explain complex events in terms of easily understood principles. The forges of Hephaestus, the Chariot of Apollo, although the Greeks were pretty good at figuring things out and by no means savages.

    By the way I don’t agree with Galen Strawson and think he is wrong. Men are rational and can think and direct their actions. The very existence of our society is evidence of that. Men didn’t start out desiring computers because they had no idea what they were. To say there is no free will is to take away the very thing that should be guiding men, reason.

    If there is no free will there is no need for reason, since men are rational and depend on reason for survival, there must be free will to allow men to take the necessary steps for survival.

    A want is created by conscious thought.

  8. Cato wrote, in part:

    “But I believe there was limited use of K in the Roman Alphabet and c sufficed. If I am not mistaken Caesar was pronounced Kaysar or approximately so.”


    Actually Cato, Caesar most likely pronounced his name, K-eye-sar (Kisar with a long i). The two juxtaposed vowels ‘ae’ constitute a true diphthong in Classical Latin and produce the long “i” sound. Pronunciations of non-diphthongal digraphs—such as ‘ii’ are different, usually with the first letter being short in sound and the second being long, although pronounced fluidly and quickly so they almost sound diphthongal. There are 6 diphthongs in Latin and the most correct pronunciation comes from applying the “reformed/restored academic” standard used by classical scholars and many scientists. I learned Latin because it occurred daily in my scientific work involving botanical and zoological binomial nomenclatures (scientific names, e.g. Sphaeralcea grossulariaefolia var. pedata).

    The confusion with pronunciation occurs when most people use the traditional English pronunciations and/or employ a mixing in of the ecclesiastical or ‘church Latin’ sounds for vowels and consonants. The important aspect for scientists is to ensure correct spelling so there is a worldwide understanding of a specific scientific name in any language, the real value of using the ‘dead language’ of written Latin. This is a good subject for attorneys, including those here, like Mespo, (and also some teachers, like Elaine M.) since most are required to take Latin. My knowledge of Latin centers on its scientific utility.

    I have numerous books on the esoteric topics of Greek/Latin/English transliterations, Latin grammar, including correct declensions, proper orthography from Latin and Latinized stems, et cetera…

    As a final note, etymologists consider the German word Kaiser (German emperor) a derivation from the Classical Latin word Caesar (with that long-sounding ‘i’ for both words.)

  9. Mespo,

    So you’re honestly trying to tell me that our lives are more complex than hunter gatherers? I mean, if they wanted to talk to somebody they had to walk over to where the other person was, laboriously putting one foot in front of the other, all the while making sure that they didn’t run into anything by ‘looking at their surroundings.’ We on the other hand, just dial them on our cell phone. What could be simpler?

  10. ILT:

    “So science figured out how rain forms. It is a complex process but science figured it out and made it understandable.”


    The point was that science took a simple observation and made it more complex, not less so. That is the reverse of what you said when you told us: “The entire history of mankind has been taking the complex and making it simple to understand.”

    Newton’s Second Law of Motion is not simple to understand. Accurate, and explanatory maybe, but far from simple to understand:

    “A body of mass m subject to a force F undergoes an acceleration a that has the same direction as the force and a magnitude that is directly proportional to the force and inversely proportional to the mass,…”

  11. Mespo727272:

    So science figured out how rain forms. It is a complex process but science figured it out and made it understandable.

    Logic and epistemology do the same for philosophy.

    There isn’t much you can learn from lying on a couch. Perception is consciousness.

  12. I Love Tootie:

    “The entire history of mankind has been taking the complex and making it simple to understand. Science does that and so does philosophy.”


    You and I must be reading different science and philosophy books. To explain the process by which a drop of rain falls takes about 30 pages in most college text books; to explain the the difference between things that we know just from “laying on the couch” from things we know through experience or experimentation took me a whole semester of philosophy class.

  13. I love Tootie,

    “Personality is something that is probably hard wired.”

    How an individual is raised can have a great impact on one’s innate personality.


    “People use tools to make the complex understandable.”

    One should make sure to use all the right tools when attempting to make the complex understandable. One also has to be careful not to oversimplify things that can be extremely complex. The devil is often in the details.

    Tootie was not careful when he/she read what Frank–a self-described “died in the wool leftist” wrote. Maybe Tootie felt he/she knew what Frank thought because he’s a leftist. Maybe that’s why Tootie misunderstood what Frank said and made a bad judgment. Tootie probably wasn’t “listening” because of his/her preconceived ideas about the beliefs of leftists.

    One has to keep an open mind. One should not presume to know things when one is only making assumptions. One has to listen to what others are saying–not what they “think” they’re saying.

  14. Ealine M.

    I cant speak for Tootie since I am not that person. The entire history of mankind has been taking the complex and making it simple to understand. Science does that and so does philosophy.

    People use tools to make the complex understandable. Or at least they should. I would define personality as whether someone is likable or has a good sense of humor, is neat or messy, etc.

    A philosophy is something that is different. You don’t have to be a humorless socialist or a messy capitalist or a cranky libertarian. Philosophical positions are something that are typically acquired through learning and thinking. One typically expends intellectual effort to come to some conclusion about how the world works. Personality is something that is probably hard wired.

    If a persons views are properly integrated, it should be a fairly simple task to determine how they will come down on a particular idea.

    As far as being an ideologue, no one is suggesting you are. I doubt most people blindly hold their views unless they have the brains of a parrot. Most people think about what they believe and study the pros and cons to come to a particular view of existence. I think very few hold their beliefs blindly. The very fact that arguments get personal when dealing with politics and religion is fairly indicative of that. Who wants to spend years learning and thinking about something only to be told they are wrong?

    Since most people do not hold their beliefs blindly it should be relatively easy to get an idea of their political/moral outlook from a few questions.

  15. I love Tootie,

    In regard to “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck it must be a duck”: It could also be a Disney cartoon character.

    I guess you and Tootie look at things simplistically–no complexities of issues or personality need enter into your thinking when you make judgments about people and their political and/or economic beliefs or the approaches/stances they’ll take on issues.

    BTW, I’m not an ideologue.

  16. I doubt Tootie can read minds or has ever claimed she reads minds, she is probably going on the principle of “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck it must be a duck”.

    It is not mind reading at all, it is applying political/philosophical principles and coming to a conclusion. If one says they believe in redistributing wealth, chances are they are socialists/Marxists. If one says they believe in free trade then they are most likely capitalists.

    If you can determine someones philosophy, assuming they apply it consistently, you can “read” someones mind.

    Maybe that is what she is talking about.

    Elaine tell me what you think about taxes and abortion?

    Mespo727272 tell me what you think about health care and licensing of professionals by the state.

    By your answers I can pretty much then tell how you will approach most any issue, assuming of course your philosophy is consistent.

    Tootie is actually somewhat inconsistent as her religious views are at odds with her libertarian views. She loves free trade but not free love among those of the same sex. She is inconsistent in her application of her beliefs. Although I doubt there are many among us who are fully consistent.

  17. Elaine M:

    I see. It’s all so clear now. I forgot Tootie could read minds. She read frank’s, explained what he was thinking, and now knowing I forgot that, knew you would be thinkiing to remind me of it. All very Svengali-like.

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