SIX DEGREES FROM JEFFREY EPSTEIN: WASHINGTON GRAPPLES WITH A WEB OF EMBARRASSING ASSOCIATIONS

Below is my column on the charging of Jeffrey Epstein and the complex connections raised by his prosecution. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta gave a press conference where he attempted to show that 2007 was a different century where victims rights did not exist and transparency was just a word used in window glazing. It was a ridiculous performance as Acosta sought to justify a sweetheart deal that has been universally condemned. Acosta attempted to shift the blame to state prosecutors who came out after the press conference to angrily contest his account. Previously, in 2011, Acosta insisted he yielded in the case because of  “a year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors” by “an army of legal superstars” like Dershowitz and Starr.  He also wrote “The defense strategy was not limited to legal issues. Defense counsel investigated individual prosecutors and their families, looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.”  That is bizarre. Most prosecutors would have the backbone to double their efforts in the face of such pressure. Instead, Acosta’s defense came off as a whining or whimpering excuse for letting these big bad lawyers scare him off.

Here is the column:

Hollywood has long played the game of “six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon,” exploring the connections between the actor and other celebrities and individuals. The rage in Washington this week is exploring all the degrees of separation from disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, following his federal indictment in New York on sex trafficking charges.

The degrees involving Epstein are closer, and the names include more highly placed figures, by design. Epstein has collected art, cars, planes, mansions, and, of course, underaged girls. However, the thing that the billionaire spent most of his time and money collecting was powerful men, many of whom flew on his infamous plane, known as the “Lolita Express” for its crew of underaged girls. He referred to them as his “collection” and told friends, “I invest in people, be it politics or science. It is what I do.”

They were, in effect, his insurance policy. No one would want to see him prosecuted when plane logs or island guest books listed top names in the political and business worlds. None of the people Epstein collected and cultivated for years will acknowledge any real connection. These degrees of closeness could well prove as important legally as politically. So while Epstein warrants little sympathy, his prosecution may raise more troubling issues of double jeopardy, made worse by a new Supreme Court decision.

For the record, I have long criticized the secret deal that Epstein secured in 2007 with former United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and current United States labor secretary, Alexander Acosta. The deal was a disgrace. It not only allowed Epstein to avoid a lengthy prison stint but, as recently found by a federal court, it violated federal law by hiding the details from more than 30 identified victims of Epstein.

However, one does not have to like Epstein to acknowledge the curious posture of the prosecution. In the Southern District of Florida, the Justice Department still defends the deal Acosta put together as valid despite the illegality of his actions. In the Southern District of New York, the Justice Department claims it is not bound by the agreement. Epstein, of course, insists his nonprosecution agreement and criminal plea covered much of the same period as the latest two count New York indictment this week.

Under the extraordinary agreement, Epstein pled guilty to state charges, accepted 13 months in jail, and registered as a sex offender. He not only avoided a life sentence but secured an agreement to spend 12 hours a day, six days a week, out of jail on “work release.” He simply had to sleep in jail. Moreover, the Southern District of Florida also agreed that he would not be prosecuted federally. Now, the Justice Department is insisting that was a deal with just one district and does not count in another district.

The fact that Acosta cut such a ridiculous deal with a serial sex abuser does not mean the deal is invalid. Cutting such nonprosecution deals are also usually meant to bind the Justice Department as a whole. Yet, this agreement said “in this district,” three words likely to come back to haunt Epstein. The Justice Department is basically saying his legal team failed to close a major loophole, since the agreement “expressly referred to that federal district” and did not “purport to bind any other office or district.” There is also Second Circuit case law enforcing such limiting language.

The fact that there are only two counts in the new federal indictment this week may indicate that New York prosecutors are looking for crimes not covered by the earlier agreement, including new charges connected to photos of allegedly underaged girls that were reportedly found in the safe of Epstein. To that end, they displayed a huge photo of Epstein at their press conference and encouraged any unknown victims to contact them.

Epstein has raised another possible claim under the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment, that he is being prosecuted twice for the same underlying conduct in both cases. The timing for that argument could not be worse for him. The Supreme Court ruled in Terance Gamble versus United States last month that “dual sovereignties” like Florida and the federal government can prosecute individuals for the same underlying acts without violating protections of the Constitution.

Some of us have been highly critical of that practice as effectively gutting the protection. Indeed, the danger of that happening applies not only to despised individuals like Epstein. As Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his dissent, “When governments may unleash all their might in multiple prosecutions against an individual, exhausting themselves only when those who hold the reins of power are content with the result, it is the poor and the weak, and the unpopular and controversial who suffer first, and there is nothing to stop them from being the last.” This is a key point.

Faced with rising disgust over its prior agreement with Epstein, the Justice Department has decided to ignore the obvious purpose of the original nonprosecution agreement and take another shot at him. Weirdly, Acosta, the man who approved the sweetheart deal in the first place, applauded the indictment as creating the possibility to “more fully bring” Epstein to justice. That was his very job as United States attorney in the first place.

Attorney General William Barr is also placing great significance on the separate offices in the two districts. Barr has recused himself from an ongoing review of the plea agreement under the Southern District of Florida because his old law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, represented Epstein, although Barr himself had no role in the case. However, Barr will not recuse himself from the New York case, which is proceeding outside of the plea agreement. It could prove a precious distinction in the case, since the earlier agreement will be raised in New York proceedings.

It is a fitting level of chaos surrounding a man who actively sought to intermingle people in different aspects of his life. Indeed, the strange degrees of separation include the family of the attorney general. Epstein was a college dropout but was still hired in 1973 to teach calculus and physics at the prestigious Dalton School in Manhattan. The man who hired him for the job was headmaster Donald Barr, the father of William Barr.

The six degrees of Kevin Bacon is premised on the idea that everyone is connected by six people or less. As the list of interested parties grows, that seems true in the case of Epstein. But there is a great danger in creating a law of a different kind. The law should not depend on how powerful or unpopular a defendant may be. Epstein twisted the law in his favor with the help of Acosta. The law became more twisted when the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. argued in court eight years ago that Epstein should not be registered as a top level sex offender despite his dozens of victims, a leniency angrily rejected by the judge.

With the New York case, there is an effort to twist the law to get a second chance at prosecuting Epstein, despite his nonprosecution agreement and earlier plea agreement. It is quite likely to succeed, given the recent Supreme Court ruling. But prosecution by popular demand comes with its own dangers. Epstein made our criminal laws a matter for his personal convenience. We should care to not make it a matter of legal contrivance.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley

45 thoughts on “SIX DEGREES FROM JEFFREY EPSTEIN: WASHINGTON GRAPPLES WITH A WEB OF EMBARRASSING ASSOCIATIONS”

  1. Acosta made the deal but wouldn’t a judge have had to accept the deal? Where is that person?

    Who was being protected? This happened toward the end of the GW Bush administration. But didn’t GHW Bush develop a near father/son relationship with Bill Clinton?

    1. Don’t know about that, but Clinton did manage to insinuate himself into the circle of friends of the elder Bushes. You’d think they’d have better taste. I think Jimmy Carter has made a point of avoiding the Clintons over the years.

  2. why do all these white men have so much more to say about other white men, then either they or the victims can say about their one-degree-of-separation experiences with Epstein in court?

    1. Because this is White Western Civilization? … would you have BLACK MEN deciding? … um, that’s how Africa works…. want some here too? OH, right, Obola gave us a bit of African governance didn’t he? Want some more?

    2. Minor quibble: from the few photographs I’ve seen, most of the victims look white, too. But the point is, most of the power at the national level, despite rare exceptions like Nancy Pelosi, is held by rich old white men.

  3. Question back to Prof. Turley: Assuming the Southern District of New York is retrying Epstein on the same acts as he committed in Florida, how’s this really different from Federal trials of people acquitted of murder or other violent acts for violations of their civil rights (under Federal civil rights legislation)?

    Not that I oppose those trials, necessarily. If a local DA finds it necessary not to push a local trial of a murderer with lots of friends and relatives in the area who “only” killed someone whose friends and relatives weren’t the same color, by all means, let’s bring the Leviathan of strong federal government into the fray to work justice.

    The law’s clearer on the Federal civil rights act retrials, sure. But SDNY wants to essentially do the same thing to defend women raped and molested as underage girls. Might they explore trying Epstein under civil rights laws?

  4. The USDoJ’s original deal with Epstein appears to have been legally defective in more than one way. The degree to which it was lenient to Epstein and entirely unsatisfactory to Epstein’s victims, while protecting “co-conspirators” (like Ghislaine Maxwell) demands the case be reopened and re-litigated in the light of day. I’m sure that in their haste to sweep everything under the rug, Acosta’s team and Epstein’s defense failed to cover one or more victims of Epstein’s lechery for children.

  5. Double jeopardy? To be investigated but not indicted doesn’t qualify as jeopardy. In a plea deal situation where the state has evidence of running a criminal enterprise in sex-traffiicking, and the plea is one charge of soliciting a prostitute, where is the jeopardy? Epstein’s NPA in 2007 is an example of “zero-jeopardy”, very unusual, where the government foregoes prosecuting unspecified ancillary crimes and criminal collaborators. Who has heard of such a ridiculous NPA? Thankfully, the deal broke federal CVRA law, and on that basis, could be reopened.

    The SDNY Public Corruption Unit is interested in the extensive criminal enterprise run by Epstein, with paid employees, hundreds of victims, and a wide net of statutory rapists. The question is whether the racket was a compromat operation. Were there secret partners using Epstein to run the operation? Were there secret relationships protecting Epstein? Involving the clandestine parts of US Govt. (CIA, FBI)???

    On Monday, it is essential that US Atty. Berman convince the Judge that Epstein “knows too much” having been at the center of an extensive criminal enterprise, and the case integrity requires him to be held in protective custody pending completion of a trial. It is reasonable to assume that powerful actors would want to see Epstein die, as a means of silencing him, and getting SDNY to drop the case before names are named in Court. The argument for keeping him safely locked up is case integrity. Flight risk should be understood in those terms.

  6. Unsavory characters nevertheless raise troubling questions: Are there statutes of limitations on these charges? What about double jeopardy when the feds come in with a separate charge (e.g. “violation of civil rights” – a slippery description at best) when a defendant has been found not guilty in state courts? I wish Jonathan Turley would give his thoughtful insights into these issues.

    1. he has talked about the erosion in double jeopardy protections in the past

      probably these charges bring forward important new factual allegations and new elements to be considered.

      1. I thought protection from double jeopardy to supposed to protect an accused from the possibility that prosecution could continue ad infinitum. If the prosecution can’t make it’s case the first time, it can’t keep hunting for new “evidence” If that were the case, the govt could bankrupt anyone in its sights.

        1. yes but there are dual sovereigns. so state and federal charges may not implicate double jeopardy even when they seem the same

          also it relates to what precise elements are in a crime to be proven, and what facts are alleged in support of that to make a prima facie case. it’s pretty complicated, not in my precise wheelhouse, sorry that’s all I can offer

          there’s a know it all on here called Mark M who could probably spell it out better than me. we’ll see if he shows up or not.

          1. You’re confusing mespo, who is an actual trial lawyer in Richmond, with Mark M., who is a posing public defender. (Natacha is another posing lawyer).

            1. no, not confusing, i dont mean honored Mespo,

              I mean Mark M the jerk who’s always talking about grifters etc. i really believe that he is a public defender from what i’ve read. they are very keen on how those rules work., so he could explain this if he wanted to bother making a substantive post., but, as we know he just pops in her to insult us from time to time without adding much of value

    2. Florida amended their statute of limitations two years before Epstein was charged the first time to remove the limit from sexual abuse cases, so there is no limitation. However I read in earlier reports that SDNY was charging him with crimes committed since that earlier agreement.

  7. The rage in Washington this week is…..

    Meanwhile Americans on the street could not care less.

    Do you realize you are talking about very wealthy individuals who regularly flew to the Caribbean on a private jet ? Do you have any idea how out of touch you appear by arguing about such extravagances? People like Epstein, Clinton, Acosta, Barr’s father / Headmaster and elite Manhattan school….where the majority of Americans are depressed, anxious, insomniacs, desperate for jobs with just wages, health benefits, reasonable real estate prices and reliable education for their children, safe cities and wholesome communities, not that any exist in this lost country?

    Come out of your towering perch and walk with regular Americans to learn what real concerns they have. Epstein is no where on their list. Get real, JT

    The rage in Washington indeed

    1. where the majority of Americans are depressed, anxious, insomniacs, desperate for jobs with just wages, health benefits, reasonable real estate prices and reliable education for their children, safe cities and wholesome communities, not that any exist in this lost country?

      You’re living in just about the world’s most affluent country. Perhaps 10% of the population lives in slum neighborhoods or points adjacent.

      1. You’re living in just about the world’s most affluent country.

        and that country leads the world in many of the maladies I listed.
        Americans use the lions share of antidepressants, anti-anxiety agents, et al for a reason. America is rich in material goods but when it comes to pathologies, we lead the world

        1. but when it comes to pathologies, we lead the world

          In your imagination only. Violent crime is more common in Latin America and Russia by a factor of 2 to 5. Property crime is more common in Britain and other western European countries (especially auto theft). As for the consumption of psychotropics, show me the numbers.

    2. Even the plebs don’t like it when “some animals are more equal than others” in terms of treatment before the law.

      Let’s uncover this rock and see who all hide beneath.

    3. Ordinary folks in Twitter are and have been for some time alive to the issue that the rich and influiential get away with destroying kids’ childhoods. “Pizzagate” is probably crap, but Epsteingate probably isn’t.

      Bill Clinton flew a four-leg trip to Asia sans his Secret Service detail on the plane Epstein equipped with a bed and other accoutrements for joining the Mile-High Club. Clinton’s record of using his power and influence to get away with victimizing women makes all the hoopla about Trump boasting about pudenda-grabbing in a locker room cruelly cynical.

      If Democrats wanted to demolish a Presidential despoiler of women, they had one in their party all during the 1990s, and they knew he was just that at the time.

      Now, we’ll see if the SDNY, largely leftovers from the Obamaschina, will keep ignoring evidence of actual misdoing by prominent Democrats while hammering away on indictments of prominent Republicans.

  8. The big question is who was Acosta protecting. The other interesting item is a report that Epstein was offering up the names of those that “paid” for underage sex in return for a very light sentence, indicates to me that this is very large with a lot of very powerful people and that Epstein probably passed the girls around like candy at Halloween. So what did he get in return? Since this reaches into the White House, expect Barr to limit the investigation to protect Trump.

    1. maybe the US used Epstein to get “underage sexual liason” dirt on foreign officials like his buddy the Saudi prince. remember “kompromat?” do you think only the Russians can play that game?

      wouldn’t be the first time the US spooks used utterly worthless garbage to do their bidding

  9. Jeffrey Epstein, like Harvey Weinstein, used to be a coveted party giver or attendee.

    Having known or attended one of the events of either does not indicate knowledge or participation. However, Weinstein’s sexual misconduct was an open secret in Hollywood, and the source of many casting couch jokes. The same might be true for Epstein. Then you have the circle of fallout of those who heard bad things about them but just ignored it. Closer in are the circle of people who witnessed illegal acts, and ignored, enabled, or aided them.

    Connection with Jeffrey Epstein, just like Weinstein, will singe those on the periphery who did not know he was abusing girls. He is now a toxic social liability. Since that impacts thousands of people, the effect might be mitigated somewhat.

      1. A known ‘pedo’? The most voluble accuser was between the ages of 17 and 42 when Levine was supposedly making use of him for frottage. (And as far as I can tell, his pretense is that his own will and agency aren’t implicated in this).

  10. “SIX DEGREES FROM JEFFREY EPSTEIN”

    It’s closer than that with many powerful Democrats the most prominent figure being former President Clinton.

    After his release from jail who was at his party? Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos, Chelsea Handler, and Woody Allen to name a few. Loads more Democrats and perhaps a few Republicans have had an involvement with Epstein some involving underage sex. All of these rich and famous people have a reason to protect Epstein.

    Even the universities such as Harvard, Yale, Brown and Stanford have deep seated connections and one starts to wonder about those of importance at these universities.

    With billions, has the professor considered that these young women that were willing to deal with Epstein in the first place couldn’t be bought off? That is the problem from what I have heard. The Grand Jury only came back with one case. The pressure on the prosecutorial team must have been amazing because of all the powerful people involved. Acosta was a relatively small fish so the pressure would have been placed higher up. A seasoned prosecutor used to these types of cases stated this one could have easily been lost so the settlement was a good deal even though Epstein got off easy.

  11. Once again the mantra applies and always has in Florida……money talks and the poor do the perp walk. Hence, Epstein and Book. The Florida notorius creation of crime, where there was no intent, in the form of their stings. How is that possible? They hover over many chat sites. Sites that are clearly designated ’18 years of age or older’ where they groom individuals. Many are seeking someone to relate to, talk to after a divorce, etc.. They are not seeking underage children or teens. These task forces start a conversation and the details of the entire ‘event’ are NEVER revealed. Why? Per these people it deminishes their work but in reality it would divulge their grooming process. They begin a conversation and OVER TIME the conversation gets sexual and when they have the person, usually young guys, on the hook (bait and switch) they change the age to that of a minor. One task force member braged that she talked with a person for 12 months before they got him. The public is groomed by these task forces when they, via media, tout we ‘SAVED A CHILD or MANY CHILDREN TODAY’ when there was none. These groups operate in all the states, but in Boca Raton Florida, you will find the largest private prison corporation in the U.S.. Guess who is the lobbyist for that corporation? Ron Book who himself has broken the law twice now. The latest was a DWI involving a crash with another vehicle and he received a misdomenor. Per the NCMEC, there are over 912,000 men, women and children (young as 6, 8 and 10 in some states) who are required to registery as sexual offenders. That impacts 2.5 million family members who are ostricized, property damaged, houses burned, registered parent not allowed to attend graduation of their child and many debilitating events. In Florida felons are NOT allowed to vote as the governor and politicians are fighting that.

  12. Again, you neglect to note that the State of Florida was flaccid in pursuing Epstein and entirely responsible for his ‘work-release’.

    You’re not asking the right question, which is why Acosta signed off on this agreement. U.S. Attorneys can be brutal with people (recall Bruce E. Ivins committed suicide because his legal costs had already consumed most of his savings).

    1. yeah the why may lead a lot of places the government does not want to go

      the worthless mass media is almost always lazy and incapable of fleshing out the story fully

      i see it was miami herald that worked on this story, while epstein’s pals at the snooty NYT utterly failed

  13. In the past you have written articles about President Clinton and Laurete Education. I was surprised that Doug Band of Laurete and friend oF President Clinton went with Clinton on Epsteins airplane

      1. “Look over there it is a Clinton; so tiresome, GTFU.”

        Yes, YNOT wherever bad things are happening the Clintons are frequently around. That is not the problem of those mentioning these facts but the problems of the Clintons.

        Rape, underage sex is a Clinton problem. Note that Bill Clinton might have been the most frequent traveller on the Lolita express. Clinton has power and that could help Epstein should he ever get into trouble.

        When one thinks of money laundering or illicit payouts one has to consider the Clintons again who used their power and the security of the American people to get rich.

        If one talks about bumbling again the Clintons are at the top with Benghazi and Libya.

        When one thinks of security who can not think of Hillary’s email pecadillo.

        The Clintons, rightfully so are still being investigated and likely will be until all the messes are straightened out. This latest mess with Epstein and the Lolita express might once again incriminate Bill Clinton.

        So YNOT with so many horrible acts by the Clintons many yet to be resolved and their constant publicity along with their relationships with unsavory people any intelligent person recognizes that the Clintons will occupy a lot of the landscape for a long time. You however are YNOT, the idiot on the list, so we expect you to make this comment over and over again.

      2. one of the great things about having a low reputation is a lot of people will not bother to investigate minor stuff. like mafia figuresl why bust them on a trifle? so they get a lot of passes

        does the same thing operate with Slick Willy? I don’t know, but maybe some people see it that way.
        like ynot.

  14. No matter how this goes down, there will be unhappy people. But somehow, I think there’s an ulterior motive – someone wants someone in those six degrees and this looks like how to go about getting that person. Epstein may just be legal collateral damage here – not that, if what we are being told is true, he doesn’t deserve it.

      1. I strongly suggest you take a course in reading comprehension. I am not standing up for the man. Your partisan bias is clearly affecting your ability to understand plain English. Grow up.

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