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Judge sets rapid pace to end fight over Jeffrey Epstein 'sweetheart' deal

Jane Musgrave, The Palm Beach Post on

Published in News & Features

Former federal judge Paul Cassell, attorney for two Epstein victims who accused prosecutors of violating their rights, applauded Marra's decision to move quickly to end the decade-old dispute.

"The Jane Does are pleased that Judge Marra has set up a rapid schedule for bringing this case to a conclusion and ultimately providing the victims with the remedies that they deserve," Cassell said, referring to the women by the pseudonyms they have used since they launched the court battle in 2008.

The requests the women will make shouldn't surprise federal prosecutors. In 2011, Cassell and attorney Bradley Edwards outlined 21 ways prosecutors and Epstein could be forced to atone for violating the women's rights. Their top goal: throwing out the nonprosecution agreement.

While prosecutors have said that such action would stomp on Epstein's rights, Cassell and Edwards disagreed.

"Such a remedy would not violate Epstein's constitutional rights because he was and is a party to the illegal agreement -- and, indeed, he orchestrated the illegality," Edwards and Cassell wrote.

Scores of emails that are part of the court file reveal a cozy relationship between then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, his prosecutors and Epstein's attorneys. Acosta is now U.S. Labor secretary. Some of the emails also show the bare-knuckle tactics Epstein's attorneys used -- tactics that at times inflamed prosecutors.

To avoid federal prosecution, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to two minor state prostitution charges. He served 13 months of an 18-month sentence in a vacant wing of the Palm Beach County jail -- a cell he was allowed to leave 12 hours a day, six days a week. He also agreed to register as a sex offender and to compensate the women who filed civil lawsuits against him.

While throwing out what many described as a "sweetheart deal" would be a start, Cassell and Edwards also suggested other remedies.

Marra could order federal prosecutors to apologize for their behavior, compensate Epstein's victims, pay their attorneys and explain why federal charges weren't pursued. Marra could also spell out how victims should be handled in the future to prevent others from having their rights ignored.

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In response, Marra indicated that their requests, including throwing out the agreement, were within the realm of possibilities.

"As a threshold matter, the court finds that the (Crime Victims Rights Act) is properly interpreted to authorize the rescission or 're-opening' of a prosecutorial agreement -- including a nonprosecution arrangement -- reached in violation of a prosecutor's conferral obligations under the statute," he wrote in 2011.

But, Marra emphasized, while he could throw out the agreement and order prosecutors to talk to the victims, he can't force them to file federal charges against Epstein.

"What the government chooses to do after a conferral with the victims is a matter outside the reach of the CVRA, which reserves absolute prosecutorial discretion to the government," he wrote.

(c)2019 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Visit The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) at www.palmbeachpost.com

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