Does Jeffrey Epstein Herald a New Era of Accountability for the Wealthy?

Former US President Bill Clinton reportedly traveled on Epstein's private plane during the 1990's

Former US President Bill Clinton reportedly traveled on Epstein's private plane during the 1990's. Getty

There is only one Justice Department, but two of its largest US attorneys' offices came to vastly different conclusions about what to do with financier Jeffrey Epstein over allegations he sexually molested dozens of underage girls. He is being criticized for his part in a secret 2008 plea deal that let Epstein avoid federal prosecution on charges that he molested teenage girls.

"Jeffrey Epstein should have been behind bars years ago as a serial sex trafficker of children".

In addition to facing additional charges, Epstein could lose one of the homes where he's alleged to have abused the girls.

Epstein, a wealthy hedge fund manager who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton, Great Britain's Prince Andrew, and President Donald Trump, was taken into federal custody Saturday, according to two officials. If convicted, Epstein faces up to 45 years in prison.

Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer who defended Epstein in the Florida case, defended the deal in a televised interview with CBS on Wednesday: "The feds thought it was the best they could do".

One of several young girls who accused Epstein in a previous case brought to a Florida court in 2008, Courtney Wild was a 14-year-old junior high school student in braces when Epstein allegedly forced her into sex acts. "I feel very badly actually for Secretary Acosta because I've known him as being somebody that works so hard and has done such a good job", Trump told reporters at the White House.

Jeffrey Epstein (left) and Donald Trump at the Mar-a-Lago estate in 1997.

Worse, the deal was kept secret from the victims who accused Epstein.

Schumer said "the president needs to answer for this" - a reference to Epstein's frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago - and added that "I don't not recall" was "not an acceptable answer in this case".

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Epstein didn't even really serve the 18 months he agreed to, as he was kept in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail and only stayed there at night, allowed out on "work release" for 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Outside of Trump's own words, there is clear evidence that the two men - both members of the same high-flying societies in Manhattan and Palm Beach - socialised together in the past.

Thereafter, Epstein became a registered sex offender, but only in 19 of the 50 U.S. states.

Maimin said she believed the agreement immunized Epstein for the crimes it outlined, and that it is standard practice not to prosecute someone for a crime in one district after they've been immunized for it in another. In Epstein's case, no federal charges were ever filed in Florida. Trump in 2002 called Epstein a "terrific guy".

Acosta said Wednesday that the case started as a state matter, not with his office.

He told reporters in a news conference Wednesday that his relationship with the president is "outstanding". Now that Epstein has been arrested by federal prosecutors in NY for similar allegations that he abused dozens of underage girls as young as 14 years of age, Acosta's role in negotiating that plea deal has placed him under increased scrutiny.

A dishevelled Epstein entered his plea in Manhattan federal court, where he was clad in a blue jumpsuit, a brown undershirt and bright orange sneakers.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from involvement in the new indictment, a Justice Department official said Tuesday.

"The defendant, a registered sex offender, is not reformed, he is not chastened, he is not repentant", prosecutors argued.

Acosta, who was a US prosecutor in Florida at the time, has been the target of criticism that his office approved a lenient deal and allowed Epstein to avoid full responsibility.

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