By Noreen Marcus and Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
The secret deal that lawyers for pedophile Jeffrey Epstein struck with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta a decade ago did much more than protect the disgraced billionaire from an extended prison term.
The non-prosecution agreement also shut down a South Florida grand jury probe that could have reached to others in Epstein’s international sex-trafficking ring. The deal even shielded unnamed “potential co-conspirators” from ever having to defend themselves.
“The federal Grand Jury investigation will be suspended, and all pending federal Grand Jury subpoenas will be held in abeyance unless and until the defendant violates any term of this agreement,” according to a copy obtained by Florida Bulldog.
Like the “potential co-conspirators,” the people on the subpoena list aren’t identified in the pact, and their names haven’t surfaced publicly since it was signed on Sept. 24, 2007. Four Epstein employees who received immunity are identified, but the list, “including, but not limited to” them, is clearly intended to be open-ended.
Epstein, 65, pursued a depraved lifestyle, snaring and exploiting scores of teenage girls for sexual gratification, according to state charges he pleaded guilty to and a 57-page federal indictment that was never filed. The New York investment banker dashed around by private jet to his landmark Manhattan townhouse, his Palm Beach mansion, his New Mexico ranch and his remote retreat in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Epstein used his staff and his prey to recruit more victims, employing “a pyramid abuse scheme in which he paid underage victims $200-$300 cash for each other underage victim that she brought to him,” according to a “statement of undisputed facts” his adversaries filed in court.
The puzzling “potential co-conspirators” language in the Epstein-Acosta accord, the actions of Epstein’s friend and legal team member Alan Dershowitz, and what is known about long-ago contacts between Epstein and powerful, rich men like Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, the present and former president, raise questions about who those grand jury witnesses, or perhaps targets, may have been.
Attorney Jack Scarola called the co-conspirators clause an “extraordinary provision” written for “inexplicable reasons.” He represents Bradley Edwards, a lawyer for Epstein victims, in a malicious prosecution claim against Epstein that was set for trial this week in West Palm Beach state court.
Scarola said, “I have been practicing law for 45 years, including five as a criminal prosecutor, and I have never heard of such a deal in which unnamed co-conspirators were given blanket immunity for unnamed crimes.”
Joel Hirschhorn, a veteran criminal defense lawyer who is not involved in the Epstein litigation, called the blanket immunity clause “bizarre,” and added, “The whole thing stank from the beginning.”
Revisiting the deal
Last week, after a Miami Herald series highlighted the Epstein case, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats called for the Justice Department to investigate the Epstein-Acosta non-prosecution agreement. Even if the government complies, not everything that led to the 2007 deal may be revealed.
Written communications by Epstein’s lawyers and Acosta’s assistants are sealed in a pending case before U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach. The lawsuit, brought by Edwards and other victims’ lawyers under the U.S. Crime Victims’ Rights Act, challenges the Acosta-Epstein deal, claiming the young girls Epstein molested, now grown women, should have been allowed to voice their objections. But Acosta’s office conspired with Epstein’s lawyers to keep the victims “in the dark,” the suit alleges.
Epstein faced up to life in prison, but served only 13 months in a county lock-up.
A spokesman for Acosta, now the U.S. Secretary of Labor, responded to questions about the Epstein deal by referring a reporter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.
A former bank chairman and law dean at Florida International University, Acosta explained his reasoning for approving the Epstein agreement in a “To whom it may concern” letter he distributed to the media several years later.
“The bottom line is this: Mr. Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire, served time in jail and is now a registered sex offender. He has been required to pay his victims restitution, though restitution clearly cannot compensate for the crime,” he wrote. The case against Epstein strengthened over the years as more victims came forward, Acosta contended.
In a related 2008 deal with state prosecutors, Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution felonies and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars. He spent his days at his office in a work-release arrangement until he was freed in 2009.
The best defense…
Dershowitz, 80, is the retired Harvard law professor and ubiquitous cable TV presence who became famous for defending celebrities like O.J. Simpson and Claus Von Bulow. Recently he has broken with his longtime liberal colleagues by attacking special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
The throughline of Dershowitz’s involvement in the Epstein litigation is his vigorous defense of his own reputation against any suggestion he abetted or joined in Epstein’s criminal activities. Dershowitz has never been charged with a sex crime, or any other crime for that matter.
In January 2015, after Dershowitz called for the disbarment of Edwards and his co-counsel Paul Cassell, a Utah law professor and former federal judge, they sued him for defamation. Dershowitz countersued and the case was settled confidentially in April 2016.
At one October 2015 appearance in Fort Lauderdale for a deposition in the defamation case, Dershowitz seemed to raise more questions than he answered.
He said he spent time at Epstein’s Palm Beach residence, but claimed he was unaware that anything illegal was happening. Epstein was accused of arranging sexual massages for himself and his friends. Dershowitz said he once had a therapeutic massage there, but the masseuse was an adult woman, nothing sexual occurred, and he didn’t enjoy the experience because the woman handled him too roughly.
Under questioning by Scarola, who represented Edwards and Cassell, Dershowitz denied seeing photos of nude young girls at the mansion, though others suggested they were a decorating motif. He said he never saw a bed aboard Epstein’s Gulfstream jet, described elsewhere as an airborne bordello dubbed the “Lolita Express.” And Dershowitz asserted that, outside the attorney-client relationship, he had no knowledge Epstein was a sex offender.
In the federal victims’ rights lawsuit, where he’s not a party, Dershowitz filed a motion to enter or intervene in the case, also to protect his reputation. He asked Judge Marra to strike the “scurrilous allegations” in an Edwards pleading–and the judge did that. The pleading claimed that one of the “Jane Doe” plaintiffs had sex with Dershowitz because of his association with Epstein.
Dershowitz also disputed Edwards’ statement that when Dershowitz took part in negotiating the non-prosecution agreement for Epstein, he protected himself by making sure it included the “any potential co-conspirators” immunity clause.
That’s “simply false,” Dershowitz’s pleading states. “The Government can attest that the NPA was negotiated with other counsel for Mr. Epstein–specifically, attorneys Jay Lefkowitz and Martin Weinberg.” Lefkowitz is a heavyweight litigator with the Washington, D.C. firm Kirkland & Ellis. Weinberg is a highly regarded criminal defense lawyer from Boston.
Yet Scarola and another lawyer with direct knowledge said Dershowitz was one of many members of the Epstein negotiating team, along with Miami superstar Roy Black and former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr.
Dershowitz denied any impropriety in a tweet over the weekend. “The allegations of sexual misconduct first made about me in 2014 and repeated recently in the Miami Herald were categorically disproved and then withdrawn,” he wrote.
Will call Trump, Clinton if ‘need arises’
In the malicious prosecution case bound for trial this week, two boldface names on Edwards’ witness list stand out: President Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, grouped under the heading of people who will be called to testify “if the need arises.” That most recent witness list, filed Nov. 9, 2017, is subject to change; a previous list, unlike this one, had Dershowitz’s name and not Clinton’s.
The names are a reminder that before Epstein’s arrest in 2006, the three men knew each other, although neither Trump nor Clinton has been implicated in any criminal activity tied to Epstein.
They are among high-profile individuals whose testimony in the malicious prosecution trial might be relevant because they had “a relationship with Epstein that would have at least exposed them potentially to what was going on inside Epstein’s Palm Beach home,” Scarola has said.
Epstein started the state court battle that Edwards is finishing after winning a crucial decision from the Florida Supreme Court. In 2009, Epstein filed a civil racketeering suit against Edwards, one of his clients, and the notorious Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, at whose Fort Lauderdale law firm Edwards worked for eight months in 2009.
Epstein later dropped all his allegations. Then Edwards fired back with a counterclaim of malicious prosecution, saying Epstein had sued “for the sole purpose” of intimidation. On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled in February 2017 that Edwards could move ahead with his malicious prosecution claim.
Edwards detailed in a 2010 affidavit why he thought Trump, Clinton and other notables involved with Epstein might be able to provide relevant information for his case.
Among other Trump-Epstein connections, Trump visited Epstein’s Palm Beach home—‘’the same home where Epstein abused minor girls daily,” the affidavit noted. Also, “Epstein’s phone directory from his computer contains 14 phone numbers for Donald Trump, including emergency numbers, car numbers, and numbers to Trump’s security guard and houseman.”
Likewise, Epstein’s brother Mark testified at a deposition that “Trump flew on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane with him (the same plane that Jane Doe 102 alleged was used to have sex with underage girls),” the Edwards affidavit recounts.
As for Clinton, Epstein’s computer contact list “contains email addresses for Clinton along with 21 phone numbers for him,” according to Edwards.
Flight logs for Epstein’s private plane show that during the years 2002-2005 Clinton was a passenger more than 10 times, the affidavit says. The logs put Clinton on the plane with “employees and/or co-conspirators of Epstein’s that were closely connected to Epstein’s child exploitation and sexual abuse,” the sworn statement says.
It also makes this accusation: “Jane Doe No. 102 stated generally that she was required by Epstein to be exploited not only by Epstein but also Epstein’s ‘adult male peers, including royalty, politicians, academicians, businessmen and/or other professional and personal acquaintances’ – categories Clinton and acquaintances of Clinton fall into.”