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Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims denied compensation after 2008 plea deal
16 September 2019, 20:48
A group of women who were allegedly sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein will not receive any compensation after a plea deal he negotiated in 2008.
A federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida, made the ruling despite prosecutors violating their rights by failing to consult them about the 2008 deal.
It ended a federal probe that could have landed the disgraced billionaire financier in prison for life.
US District Judge Kenneth Marra wrote: "In the end they are not receiving much, if any, of the relief they sought.”
Paul Cassell, a lawyer for one of the women, said they are considering an appeal.
"We are disappointed that no remedy will be awarded for the proven violation of the victims' rights that the government caused in this case," he said.
Several of Epstein's victims sued the Justice Department in 2008 over their handling of his plea negotiations, in which his victims were purposely kept in the dark by prosecutors.
They fought their legal case for a decade, even after Epstein finished serving his 13-month jail term, paid financial settlements to victims and registered as a sex offender, arguing that prosecutors had violated the federal Crime Victims' Rights Act.
Federal prosecutors in New York revived the case, arguing they were not bound by the original deal, and charged Epstein with sex trafficking.
Former Miami US attorney Alexander Acosta, who oversaw the plea deal, stepped down as labour secretary amid the renewed scrutiny.
Judge Marra ruled in February that prosecutors had violated the rights of dozens of Epstein accusers by secretly reaching a non-prosecution agreement that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to state charges.
Despite those findings, Judge Marra said in his decision on Monday that the Crime Victims' Rights Act did not authorise an award of restitution to the women.
He also said they were not entitled to recover lawyers' fees from the government, or have the original plea bargain thrown out, or to get other things they had asked for, including records related to the investigation and a personal meeting with Mr Acosta.
But he said they could "take solace" in the national attention their lawsuit brought to "the importance of victims in the criminal justice system".
The civil case "likely played some role", he said, in the federal sex trafficking charges brought against Epstein this summer.
"It has also resulted in the United States Department of Justice acknowledging its shortcomings in dealing with crime victims, and its promise to better train its prosecutors regarding the rights of victims under the CVRA in the future," Judge Marra wrote in the 15-page ruling.
Epstein killed himself in August in the federal jail in New York where he was awaiting trial.
US attorney general William Barr has vowed to bring to justice anyone who helped Epstein recruit under-age women for sex acts.