By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org
A case about who did what to produce a sensational book rehashing the story of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein entered a new phase in a new forum, Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
An arbitrator rejected private detective Mike Fisten’s $350,000 claim for his work on “Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story,” Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown’s book about the rich serial pedophile.
Jailed in New York for sex trafficking, Epstein apparently committed suicide by hanging himself in August 2019.
Brown and Fisten, a former Miami-Dade County police detective, contracted to split a $1 million publisher’s advance 50-50. Instead, she gave him $150,000 and kept $850,000.
Arbitrator David Lichter agreed with Brown that Fisten breached their contract by failing to perform investigative tasks that were supposed to generate material for the book. Published last year, it expands upon and updates Brown’s award-winning 2018 newspaper series, also called “Perversion of Justice.”
ARBITER: BROWN MORE CREDIBLE
Lichter wrote in his Dec. 30 ruling that Fisten contributed no more than a “negligible” 4.3 per cent of the book’s contents. He criticized as “improper messaging” Fisten’s list of completed tasks and disputed many of them.
After a hearing, Lichter found Brown more credible, though “some of her actions were less than laudatory.” He didn’t elaborate, but he referenced the confidential testimony of lawyer Bradley Edwards, who represents many Epstein victims and was a source for Brown.
Still, Fisten’s “credibility was damaged far more substantially [than Brown’s] and in far more significant ways,” Lichter concluded in his 34-page ruling.
Later he ordered Fisten to pay $58,570 in attorney fees as punishment for discovery violations and for breaching a confidentiality clause by speaking out publicly about the case.
Brown’s lawyer, Steven Peretz, sent Florida Bulldog a statement that says the arbitration award “represents a complete vindication for Ms. Brown.” He noted that Lichter “also awarded substantial attorney fees to Ms. Brown as a sanction against Mr. Fisten for his conduct during the case.”
“We will be moving forward to have the award confirmed in court and we expect the court will readily do so given the arbitrator’s comprehensive and detailed ruling,” Peretz wrote.
COURT FILING REVEALS ARBITRATION AWARD
Fisten called the ruling “biased and negligent.” He wrote in an email that Brown “made numerous misstatements” in her testimony. “It is for these and many other reasons that we feel we will prevail in our appeal.”
Peretz, when asked about Lichter’s assertion that some of his client’s actions were “less than laudatory,” wrote this: “The arbitrator was unclear about what actions he was referring to … so I cannot comment on that point.”
Florida Bulldog asked Edwards to share his testimony about Brown, the testimony Lichter cited in his ruling.
“Other than being called as a witness and asked questions by both parties, I don’t know enough about the dispute to comment,” he wrote. Edwards said he hasn’t read the arbitration ruling and hasn’t worked with Fisten, once his valued lead investigator, for a decade.
On March 31 Fisten filed a motion in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to vacate the Dec. 30 arbitration award, which both parties had treated as confidential. Lichter’s ruling is an exhibit attached to the motion, making it a public record.
WHO FOUND EPSTEIN’S VICTIMS?
In the motion, Fisten’s lawyer, Andrew Kassier, previews his upcoming appeal. It will be based on Lichter’s “evident partiality” toward Brown and his “misconduct” directed at Fisten. Also, Lichter “refused to hear evidence material to the controversy.” Kassier provides no details.
Fisten has tried to focus public attention on Brown.
Chiefly, she takes credit for single-handedly identifying more than 60 Epstein victims and persuading four of them to do on-camera interviews for the Miami Herald series. But Fisten insists he tracked down almost all the victims, who later became plaintiffs and witnesses, while working as Edwards’s investigator.
In Edwards’s own book, “Relentless Pursuit/My Fight for the Victims of Jeffrey Epstein,” published in 2020, he writes about meeting Brown in 2017 after she approached him asking for help. At that point he’d already spoken to more than 50 victims, he wrote.
“I had accumulated all of the evidence in these cases and done all of the work,” Edwards wrote. “Unable to imagine the scope of that decade-long task or how voluminous the materials were and how complicated piecing it together was, Julie, like other reporters, wanted to start with my just spoon-feeding her everything and making it simple.”
EDWARDS’ BOOK LAUDS BROWN AND FISTEN
He wouldn’t do that because he wanted her to appreciate the complexities, Edwards wrote. Instead, he made a list of documents for her to review –- and she persevered. “She followed the road map and stayed on course.”
Edwards praises Brown in his acknowledgements: “Thank you for having the courage to finally publish what other major publications would not. You made the public listen when all other journalists were scared.”
But he’s more fulsome in his praise of Fisten: “No good investigation can be done alone. While I had numerous investigators along the way, you were in the trenches with me during crucial times.
“In addition to game-planning with me, tracking down witnesses, and coordinating surveillance on Epstein, you also guarded my house and my family when things got hairy, for which I am forever grateful,” Edwards wrote.
Fisten isn’t the only one to raise questions and concerns about how Brown pursued and told the Epstein story.
VICTIMS SUE BROWN, CLAIMING LIBEL
Two victims are suing her for defamation in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Haley Robson alleges that Brown threatened her when she declined to be interviewed for the Epstein book, then made good on the threat by falsely portraying her as a member of Epstein’s inner circle.
The other plaintiff, Courtney Wild, claims Brown falsely stated in her book that after Epstein raped Wild when she was underage, she had sex with him.
Wild’s lawyer, Jeffrey Gutchess, wrote that she suffered abuse by Epstein but never had sex with him. The lawsuit seeks significant money damages and a public apology from Brown.
Wild has been a leader among the Epstein victims, battling for years to undo his shady 2008 plea deal and make him answer to sex-trafficking charges. Wild also pushed for a victims’ compensation fund.
“Brown has sought to take credit away from the victims,” her lawsuit states. “Knowing Ms. Wild had spearheaded each of these major achievements, and not Ms. Brown as she claimed in her book, Ms. Brown sought to debase and defame Ms. Wild,” Gutchess wrote.
Asked for her response to the libel suit, Brown referred Florida Bulldog to her lawyer, Carol LoCicero, who declined to comment.
Carl Buehler / April 6, 2022 2:18 pm
You’d think Robson and Wild would be happy to see the work of Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown result in finally holding Epstein to account. Cornered by the Miami Herald investigation, leading to his arrest, Epstein killed himself. His death left Robsin and Wild unable to get their hands on his money as retribution. Unfortunately that left Julie Brown as their next target. Not exactly the same as going after their cruel sexual abuser but as a second choice, a way to wring some money out of their experience.
A sad excuse.
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Jeff / June 12, 2022 7:09 pm
Robson is a self claimed sex trafficker of her friends. SHE needs to be put away in prison for her crimes.
OR sue Virginia for hogging all the money?