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THREAD: What should we make of the charges against the federal sex trafficking charges against Jeffrey Epstein?
1/ Today the Southern District of New York unsealed a federal indictment of Jeffrey Epstein, charging a sex trafficking conspiracy in which he allegedly exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in NYC and Florida. Here is the indictment: documentcloud.org/documents/6184…
2/ Epstein previously received a very favorable deal from federal prosecutors in South Florida in 2007, in which they agreed not to prosecute him if he pleaded guilty to a state charge. Here is an excellent article by @jkbjournalist on the subject: miamiherald.com/news/local/art…
3/ So how could Epstein be prosecuted in SDNY if he received this deal in South Florida? I can't find the deal itself, but based on court filings it appears that the deal Epstein reached was only with the *particular* federal prosecutor's office (District of South Florida).
4/ Federal charges have to be brought in the judicial district where the crime occurred. The Southern District of New York has "venue" over these crimes because some of the alleged molestation occurred in Epstein's home in New York.
5/ It is worth noting, however, that the conspiracy includes trafficking by Epstein in Florida in addition to the conduct in New York. As long as some part of the alleged conspiracy took place in New York, prosecutors can charge conduct that occurred elsewhere.
6/ So the conduct in Florida that was the subject of the prior deal will be part of this case, and if Epstein is convicted, it will be considered by the judge in sentencing Epstein. The charges carry a *minimum* sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 45.
7/ (Technically the minimum could be 15 years if the SDNY could prove that a victim was under the age of 14 when she was abused, but the indictment cites Section (b)(2), which indicates that they will only seek the 10-year mandatory minimum, presumably due to evidentiary issues.)
8/ You can expect Epstein's attorneys to argue that the prior deal precludes this indictment. If the prior deal was really only with the Southern District of Florida, I expect that argument to fail, but the specific words of the agreement matter.
9/ Epstein also does not have a statute of limitations defense. In cases like this, there is no statute of limitations. Link: law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18…
10/ That does not mean, however, that this case will be a cakewalk for federal prosecutors. The charges are highly disturbing, but in my experience investigating human trafficking and sexual exploitation cases, it can be very difficult for victims to testify against their abuser.
11/ In addition, the conduct at issue occurred between 2002 and 2005. The passage of time will be used by Epstein's attorney to argue that there is reasonable doubt about the recollection of the victims and Epstein's co-conspirators.
12/ The indictment describes two assistants who were responsible for scheduling sexual encounters between Epstein and minor victims. You can expect those assistants to testify against Epstein, and they probably received deals from federal prosecutors because they have liability.
13/ The case made by the Southern District likely relies heavily on their testimony and the testimony of victims. But there is one other ace in the hole that I expect the Feds to try to use -- Federal Rule of Evidence 414, which permits use of *prior molestation convictions."
14/ Usually prior convictions cannot be used to prove that the defendant committed another crime, but this is a limited exception that allows evidence of prior molestations "in a criminal case in which a defendant is accused of child molestation." Link: law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/rule…
15/ I expect federal prosecutors to try to use this rule to put Epstein's history and prior state convictions before the jury. That is never usually allowed in a criminal trial but could be permissible here given Rule 414.
16/ Ironically, if that happens, the prior deal could end up sinking Epstein because he did not fight the state convictions as a result of that deal.

In sum, Epstein should be extremely concerned about these allegations, given the hefty penalty, the cooperators, and Rule 414.
17/ Some have speculated about a deal in which Epstein cooperates against others. That is possible, but it could require the Feds to drop the charge with the 10-year mandatory minimum as part of the deal, given that Epstein is 66 years old.
18/ While every defendant considers deals differently, it's hard for me to believe that a 66-year old billionaire would agree to cooperate against others in exchange for a 10-year sentence.
19/ Unless SDNY drops that charge, expect this to go to trial. The only potential for a plea deal involving cooperation would be after a conviction. (The cooperation would be considered by the judge at sentencing.) /end
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