On Monday, The New York Times editorial board published a blistering indictment not just of billionaire wealth manager and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, but of all the ways that the criminal justice system let itself be bent to his will at the mercy of his riches and political connections.
"Even in the relatively sterile language of the legal system, the accusations against Mr. Epstein are nauseating," wrote the board. "From 'at least in or about' 2002 through 2005, the defendant'sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls,' some as young as 14 and many 'particularly vulnerable to exploitation.' The girls were 'enticed and recruited' to visit Mr. Epstein’s various homes 'to engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars.' To 'maintain and increase his supply of victims,' he paid some of the girls 'to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused,' thus creating 'a vast network of underage victims.'"
Epstein could have been brought to justice in 2008 — but instead, then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, now President Donald Trump's Secretary of Labor, cut a sweetheart deal that let him avoid nearly all accountability for his actions.
"In exchange for pleading guilty to two state counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor, Mr. Epstein avoided a federal indictment that could have put him in prison for life," wrote the board. "Instead, he served 13 months in a private wing of the Palm Beach county jail, where liberal work-release privileges allowed him to spend 12 hours a day, six days a week in his private office. Mr. Epstein paid restitution to some of his victims and was required to register as a sex offender — a designation that he later tried to have downgraded in New York to a less restrictive level."
"In addition to short-circuiting federal charges, the plea agreement killed an F.B.I. investigation and granted immunity to any 'co-conspirators,'" wrote the board. "As detailed last fall in a blockbuster series by Julie K. Brown of The Miami Herald, Mr. Acosta and his office worked unusually closely with Mr. Epstein’s legal team on the deal. Both sides also labored to keep the agreement secret until it was finalized — including from Mr. Epstein’s victims. This, a federal judge ruled in February, violated the rights of those victims, who have pushed for justice ever since."
None of this was an accident, wrote the board — it was possible because Epstein was a well-connected, lavish philanthropist who was in the good graces of politicians and institutions alike, and those like Acosta who helped bring about this miscarriage of justice should face the consequences as well.
"It betrays a system in which the rich and well-connected can bully public officials into quiescence — or into pursuing a deal so favorable to the accused that it runs afoul of the law," wrote the board.
"Whatever new details emerge, whatever new participants may be implicated, whatever public officials are found to have failed in protecting Mr. Epstein’s victims, the time for secrecy and excuses and sweetheart deals is over," the board concluded. "Mr. Epstein's victims have waited long enough for answers, and they deserve justice."