On Monday, federal prosecutors unsealed new charges against notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in Manhattan, the latest chapter in a long, sordid saga that has threatened to ensnare presidents, high-powered socialites, and at least one royal. A decade after snagging a sweetheart deal that spared him serious jail time for sex crimes involving teenage girls in Florida, Epstein—a mysteriously wealthy fund manager with pals in high places—was arrested in New Jersey Saturday upon returning from Paris. He has since been charged with sex trafficking and sex-trafficking conspiracy, and pleaded not guilty.
In the 2007-2008 case, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life. Instead, he served 13 months in Palm Beach County Jail on state prostitution charges, spending 12 hours a day at an office on work release. (He was also required to pay financial settlements with some alleged victims and register as a sex offender.) More importantly, he and four alleged co-conspirators received immunity from federal criminal charges, as documented by a harrowing 2018 Miami Herald expose that reignited demands for justice against Epstein in the age of MeToo.
The aftershocks of the new case against Epstein could lead to charges against employees who, according to the federal indictment against him, helped him prey on victims. It also renewed scrutiny of powerful people who allegedly had sexual encounters in proximity to Epstein and his entourage, and could even force the resignation of former federal prosecutor Alex Acosta, the Trump administration cabinet member critics say helped the financier escape accountability. That the case was being headed by the public corruption unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also fueled speculation it could reach boldfaced names that have not been previously connected to Epstein.
Elie Honig, a former prosecutor with New York's Southern District for nearly a decade, said the last time he could recall the unit getting involved in a sex crimes case was the 2008 prostitution probe that upended the career of then-Governor Eliot Spitzer.
"The similarity I draw [with Epstein's new indictment] is that the public corruption unit is involved in a case they would normally not be involved in [as opposed to] a kickback or public extortion case," Honig said. "It tells me there is some angle that impacts public officials."
For his part, Epstein remained locked up after prosecutors revealed in court Monday that a search of his Manhattan townhouse produced a trove of explicit images of young women and girls, as the New York Times reported.
But the financier's powerful associates get referred to in passing all the time, making it easy to lose track of who, specifically, we're talking about. Here's a refresher on what's been reported on in the past about people with documented ties to Epstein who might have reason to be nervous about the new case.
Maxwell was living, traveling, and working with Epstein in the late 90s when she met a 15-year-old changing-room assistant at Mar-a-Lago, the club owned by Donald Trump, according to a 2009 lawsuit filed against Epstein that was settled for an undisclosed sum. Simply identified as Jane Doe 102, the woman claimed Maxwell—the daughter of British publishing mogul Robert Maxwell—coached the then-teen into taking off her clothes prior to giving Epstein a massage, took provocative nude photos of her, and engaged in sexual acts with her and Epstein. Two years later, Virginia Roberts Giuffre came forward as Jane Doe 102 in a Daily Mail story that detailed the alleged abuse Epstein and Maxwell inflicted on her; the Mail included reporting on a court document that alleged she was forced by Epstein to have sex with Prince Andrew, a claim Buckingham Palace has consistently denied. Maxwell, who now runs a nonprofit to protect the ocean, has likewise steadfastly denied any involvement in sex crimes, and has not been charged.
The founder of a modeling agency that touted offices in New York City, Miami and Tel Aviv, Brunel sued Epstein in 2015 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, claiming bad publicity from being associated with the financier was destroying his business. As part of the lawsuit, Brunel said Epstein asked him to fly out of the country to avoid deposition when prosecutors first probed Epstein's activities a decade ago. Also in 2015, Giuffre filed a defamation lawsuit against Maxwell in which she alleged that Epstein forced her to have sex with Brunel when she was a teenager, as the Daily Beast reported. She separately alleged the modeling agency owner brought teen girls to participate in an orgy on Epstein's private Caribbean island, Little St. James, as the Times of London reported. Brunel has denied all of the allegations against him, insisting he maintained the "utmost ethical standard" over the course of his career. For her part, Maxwell settled the defamation lawsuit with Giuffre in 2017. And in April, the Florida District Court of Appeals ruled in Epstein's favor, ordering Brunel’s lawsuit be dismissed—albeit without prejudice, leaving open the door for the complaint to be refiled—because it was not properly served.
Sarah Kellen Vickers
A former assistant to Epstein, Vickers—like Adriana Ross and Lesley Groff, two other alleged Epstein "schedulers," as the Herald described them—was given immunity in the previous case against the financier. Among other things, according to a 2006 Palm Beach Police probable cause affidavit, witnesses told detectives that Vickers regularly directed underage girls to the massage room in Epstein's Palm Beach mansion, where the financier allegedly forced victims to perform sexual acts on him. According to the affidavit, which arose from an investigation of Epstein, one witness said she saw Vickers prepare the massage table, put a sheet over it, and bring out the massage oils before Epstein entered the room. Vickers, who is now married to Nascar driver Brian Vickers, also arranged underage girls to be at the Palm Beach mansion whenever Epstein traveled to South Florida, according to the affidavit. Vickers has previously invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating herself under oath while under questioning by lawyers for alleged victims of Epstein in 2010, according to the Guardian. She has never been charged for the alleged crimes detailed in the affidavit.
Robson, like many of Epstein's alleged victims, said she was lured into his sex den with the promise of easy money, according to the 2006 Palm Beach Police probable cause affidavit for Epstein. During a taped sworn statement, she told detectives that shortly after turning 17, a friend approached her about a man willing to pay $200 for a massage and that she agreed to do it. The friend took Robson to meet Epstein at his house, where she said she gave him a rubdown for cash while she was naked. However, she became uncomfortable when he grabbed her and told him she didn't want to be touched, the affidavit stated. In an interview with detectives, Robson said she soon became one of Epstein's recruiters and brought him six underage girls over a two-year period. Each time, Epstein paid her $200, Robson said. In the car ride back home, according to the probable cause affidavit, detectives recorded Robson saying, "I'm like a Heidi Fleiss, referring to the Hollywood madam who arranged sex dates for some of LA's most famous male celebrities. Robson was never arrested or charged in connection with her ties to Epstein, as the Daily Beast reported, and told the Guardian in 2011 that she "was not interested in speaking about" allegations against Epstein.
The longtime Palm Beach County Sheriff provided Epstein with his own private wing in the local jail during his brief stint there, according to the Herald's reporting. Epstein even formed a company shortly before starting his sentence called the Florida Science Foundation and was allowed to check out of the Palm Beach stockade for as many as 16 hours at a time, according to the Palm Beach Post. Bradshaw, who was expected to run for a fifth four-year term in 2020, declined to answer questions on Epstein's jail arrangement posed by the Herald.
The U.S. Secretary of Labor was once the U.S. Attorney for South Florida who executed the deal that spared Epstein serious prison time. According to the Herald, Acosta finalized the notorious non-prosecution agreement with Epstein following a breakfast meeting in October 2007 with former colleague Jay Lefkowitz, a Washington D.C. lawyer on Epstein's all-star legal team. This past February, a federal judge ruled Acosta and other prosecutors broke the law in 2008 by concealing the deal from Epstein's alleged victims. But as the Washington Post reported, Acosta has defended the non-prosecution agreement as ensuring some level of accountability for Epstein, and on June 25, the Department of Justice announced it would not void Epstein's non-prosecution deal. After Epstein's latest arrest, Acosta decided to weigh in on Twitter. "The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence," he said.
The Harvard University law professor emeritus is among the high-powered lawyers who defended Epstein against sex trafficking allegations in the civil cases and the initial criminal probe against him. In recent months, Dershowitz mounted a volcanic public relations campaign against the Herald, even writing an open letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee lobbying against reporter Jule K. Brown's series that he called "Fake News" in his subject line. Meanwhile, the Daily Beast reported that, as part of oral arguments for a case filed by the Herald to unseal a collection of court documents related to Giuffre's now-settled lawsuit against Maxwell, Guiffre's attorney Paul Cassell alleged Dershowitz was "either present for or took part in" sex acts involving at least one Epstein victim. The star defense lawyer has vigorously denied the accusation and fought for the release of previously sealed court documents he claims prove his innocence. "The accusation by Virginia Roberts Giuffre is the same one she made, and I conclusively disproved, more than four years ago," he wrote in a letter to the Beast. "I produced all my travel and American Express records, which proved that I could not have been, and was not at the places and times she claims to have had sex with me."
According to the Herald, the high-profile legal eagle also filed four bar complaints in three states against attorneys representing his accuser, including David Boies, another famous lawyer who counted disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein among his clients. Those complaints, which sought to have Boies and at least one law partner disqualified from representing Giuffre in a defamation suit she brought against Dershowitz, were dismissed, according to the paper. Dershowitz has also sought to have the defamation case dismissed, the Herald reported.
The former president, long dogged by accusations of sexually harassing or assaulting women, was, according to a Fox News report, a frequent flyer on Epstein’s private jet, dubbed the Lolita Express by media outlets, between 2002 and 2003. According to a 2015 Gawker story, Clinton took "repeated trips" on the plane with an actress in softcore porn movies whose name was in Epstein's black address book under an entry for "massages." The flight logs, per Gawker, also indicated that Clinton was on the plane several times with Kellen and Maxwell. In a statement after Epstein's latest arrest, a spokesperson for the former president said he "knows nothing" about the "terrible crimes" of which Epstein has been accused. "He's not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein's ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida," the spokesman added.
The current commander-in-chief counted Epstein among his powerful acquaintances. Trump, who as New York reported has been accused of sexual misconduct or assault by at least 20 women, flew on Epstein's plane at least once, according to testimony in a prior court case reported on by Politico, though whether Epstein was present was not clear. According to Brown, the Herald reporter, the two men dined at one another's homes, and Epstein also appeared more than once at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach where Giuffre alleged Maxwell recruited her to become one of Epstein's underage masseuses, according to records cited in another civil suit reported on by the Washington Post. According to a 2010 affidavit by Bradley Edwards, an attorney representing several victims, Epstein was eventually banned from Mar-a-Lago "because Epstein sexually assaulted an underage girl at the club." But in a 2002 New York magazine story, Trump gushed about Epstein. "I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy," Trump said. "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."
Trump has never been charged in connection with the Epstein scandal, and one of his lawyers recently denied they even had a social relationship. When asked about the new case, Trump on Sunday said, "I don't know about it," and on Tuesday, added, "I had a falling out with him a long time ago…. I don't think I've spoken to him for 15 years."
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