NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a 2007 deal between federal prosecutors and Jeffrey Epstein that allowed the financier to avoid federal sex trafficking charges, finding it did not violate his victims’ rights.
“It’s not a result we like, but it’s the result we think the law requires,” a 2-1 panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its opinion, which overturned a ruling by a federal judge last year that the agreement violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
Epstein was arrested on new sex trafficking charges last year and was found hanged in an apparent suicide while in jail awaiting trial.
Paul Cassell, a lawyer for Courtney Wild, the woman who petitioned to overturn Epstein’s non-prosecution deal, said he would ask the full circuit court to rehear the case, saying the ruling “leaves victims like Ms. Wild without any remedy.”
Cassell said the ruling would set a bad precedent for victims’ rights in other cases, and that upholding Epstein’s deal could shield co-conspirators from prosecution.
Before reaching his deal with federal prosecutors in Florida, Epstein was facing potential federal indictment for sexually abusing dozens of girls as young as 14 between 1999 and 2007, directing others to abuse them and paying employees to bring victims to him, according to court filings.
However, the prosecutors agreed not to pursue the against the financier in exchange for his 2008 guilty plea to Florida state prostitution charges. Epstein was sentenced to 13 months in jail after that plea, but allowed to leave regularly to go to his office.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach, Florida ruled in February 2019 that the deal was illegal because Epstein’s victims were not told about it. However, the judge ruled last September that the victims could not collect money damages.
The 11th Circuit on Tuesday called the facts of the Epstein case a “national disgrace” but said the victims’ rights law did not apply because Epstein was never actually charged.
Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom wrote the 2-1 majority opinion. Circuit Judge Frank Hull dissented, saying federal law gave victims the “right to be treated with fairness and with respect” even before charges were filed.
Many women who say they were victimized by Epstein are now seeking compensation from his estate, which is being administered in the U.S. Virgin Islands probate court.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Alistair Bell)