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”

  1. mespo,

    Remember that Tootie is a self-described mind reader. He/she claims to know what/how other people think. Tootie wasn’t reading what frank wrote–Tootie was “reading” frank’s mind. Tootie has something called ESM–Extrasensory Misperception

  2. Frank:

    I am not a libertarian. And I do agree, they are a little kooky. Anarchy isnt my cup of tea.

    I thought Cato would be timely considering the new Green Hornet movie with Seth Rogen. Granted that Kato is with a K.

    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.

  3. frank:

    The reading public understood your comments, the “reacting” public, not so much.

  4. tootie – is English a second language? I did not justify/support/endorse incest in my post. Quiet the opposite.

    I will use your tactic and ascribe a belief to all rightists
    All rightist believe that women & children belong to their husbands and fathers and can be beaten at will. This claim can be defended with OT Bible verses. Defend yourself!

    As for Cato, I assume from its handle that Cato is a libertarian – therefore mostly free from connection with reality and certainly not a spokesperson for leftists.

  5. Tootie”

    “for most of the Roman history marriage was sacred (albeit pagan sacred). In Rome’s beginning, and during its rise to power, marriage was considered essential and divorce considered evil.”


    This is a simplistic view of Roman life. Marriages varied greatly in Rome and usually according to status or wealth. No ceremony was required merely assent of the husband and the father of the bride. Arranged marriages were common, as were ones based on genuine love and affection. Status for women was derived from such unions and it was enhanced upon child birth, but affairs were common among both sexes. Marriages could be dissolved by the parties upon repayment of the dowry (less a 10% handling charge), and there was little religious context for the union. Adultery was a basis for divorce, but it meant only that the dowry need not be repaid.

  6. I agree with Elaine and Buddha. The mental and physical seduction by the parent who is supposed to be the adult usually starts at a much earlier age. They set this situation up when the child is much younger. Therefore the parent is the one who should be accountable legally.

  7. Elaine,

    I’m with you 100%. Some things are just wrong. Incest is one of them. mespo’s pointing to the indeed ironically titled “It’s the Betrayal of Trust, Stupid.” goes straight to the point. It’s an abuse of a position of trust and power.

  8. Call me old-fashioned–but stories about parents having sexual relations with their children give me the creeps. One has to wonder how the authorities were informed about this case of incest.

    From Salon (12/13/2010)

    Will Switzerland allow incest?
    A Swiss law proposes decriminalizing consensual sexual relationships between parents and their adult children

    Recent international scrutiny of Sweden’s rape laws certainly hasn’t resulted in legislative timidity among its European neighbors: Switzerland is now considering a controversial new bill to decriminalize incest. A Justice Department spokesperson explains, “Incest continues to be a taboo in our society, but it’s not up to criminal law to stop every morally reprehensible aspect of behavior. Rather, the law should be for punishing behavior that’s particularly socially damaging.”

    Marriage between second-degree relatives (aunt/uncle, niece/nephew) is already legal in Switzerland, but the new measure would overturn the ban on consensual sexual relationships between siblings, and between parents and their adult children. (Sexual relationships with underage children would, of course, remain illegal.) The text of the bill has yet to be released, but skeeved-out opponents have heard more than enough. Barbara Schmid Federer, a member of The Christian People’s Party of Switzerland, told the Telegraph that the proposal was “completely repugnant” and that she “could not countenance painting out such a law from the statute books.”

    As I reported Friday in response to news about a Columbia professor’s arrest on incest charges, some U.S. courts prosecute incestuous adult relationships on the grounds that the government has a legitimate interest in preventing inbreeding. Other courts view children as forever-and-always minors when it comes to sexual relationships with their parents: Law professor J. Dean Carro, told me, “Regardless of the age of the child, there’s still a theory that a parent is always a parent, a child is always a child and, as a result, there truly can’t be a consensual sexual act.”


    IMO, a parent is a parent and should always act as one in regard to his/her children–and not ever as the lover of his/her offspring.

  9. In what is sure to be cited with incredible irony, Professor Epstein once wrote an article for HuffPo Blog entitled, “It’s the Betrayal of Trust, Stupid.”

  10. What is remarkable here is not that incest was committed, but that it did not involve a priest or a family values republican.

  11. Typical libertarian/wingnut thread hijacking. Call it for what it is, make fun of it, but don’t try to treat it as serious attempt at rational argument.

  12. @kay sieverding

    Not too many people are going to murder other people either but some will. The only reason some people don’t murder other people is that they are afraid they will be criminally prosecuted. If murder were legal, there would be more murder. Same with incest, bribery, money laundering or any other crime.


  13. Shanekwa,

    I said chimps seemed to avoid incest, not cannibalism.

    Humans tend to avoid cannibalism (except in a limited ceremonial sense). Sorry if that was unclear.

    From The Bononbo Conservation Website (as much research as I have time for right now, plus I really don’t want to know what comes up when you google “Chimpanzee incest”)

    “Like chimps, bonobo society is “male philopatric,” meaning that the females migrate to other groups when they reach puberty. This eliminates the chance of incest and increases genetic diversity. ”

  14. Gyges:

    I think you are wrong about chimps, I am pretty sure they do eat their own kind and I believe the bonobo chimps screw each other male/female, male/male to reinforce tribal bonds.

    This primate is mainly frugivorous, but supplements its diet with leaves and meat from small vertebrates such as flying squirrels and duikers,[24] and invertebrates.[25] In some instances, Bonobos have been shown to consume lower-order primates.[26][27] Some claim that Bonobos have also been known to practice cannibalism in captivity, a claim disputed by others.[11][12] However there is at least one confirmed report of cannibalism in the wild as reported by researchers Gottfried Hohmann and Andrew Fowler.[28]

  15. kay,

    It’s not a matter of whether it might theoretically cause one or two more people to engage in the conduct, it’s a matter of whether the increase is likely to be widespread or damaging to society (which was your whole point). We could probably further reduce the number of cases by punishing it with life imprisonment, but that isn’t a valid reason to do so.

    Fear of punishment is a big factor in why a large class of people (the rich) don’t commit bribery, and another (the poor) don’t commit property crimes like theft. There’s no large class of people who are being deterred from adult incest because it is illegal.

  16. The only person I can think of off hand that endorsed incest is Heinlein, and even he had the caveat about only if it was guaranteed not to result in children without genetic deformities. Am I missing somebody? If I remember correctly even chimps seem to have prohibitions against incest. Like Cannibalism, there’s a very good reason for this nearly universal Taboo.

    That being said, I’m much less concerned about consensual adult relationship than I am about cases of abuse.

  17. Not too many people are going to murder other people either but some will. The only reason some people don’t murder other people is that they are afraid they will be criminally prosecuted. If murder were legal, there would be more murder. Same with incest, bribery, money laundering or any other crime.

  18. Tootie:

    I am a libertarian prostitute. We haven’t contributed to the fall of western civilization and I could tell you a thing or 2 about some really kinky stuff.

    Actually we perform a service that keeps western society together and what do we get? Not a thing. I am waiting for prostitution to become legal so I can rid of my worthless pimp.

    Son of a bitch is worse than the government, at least they only take a maximum of 35%.

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