Money awards to victims could be affected if Judge Kenneth Marra could throw out the non-prosecution agreement, lawyers say.
Recent criticism of federal prosecutors' once-secret plea deal with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has already sparked a New York-based criminal investigation that led to fresh charges for the 66-year-old financier and forced the resignation last week of one of President Donald Trump's Cabinet members.
Now, a judge in Florida could be a few weeks away from taking the unprecedented step of throwing out the agreement in its entirety -- a move the alleged victims' attorneys predict will happen despite warnings from Epstein's lawyers and prosecutors who say it will create a potentially irreparable legal mess.
U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra this year made a previously unheard of determination that federal prosecutors violated the Crime Victims Act when they shut Epstein victims out of the 2007 non-prosecution agreement they negotiated with him.
Marra as part of his scathing rebuke of federal prosecutors ordered them to come up with a plan to fix the fact that they made the deal allowing Esptein to plead guilty to two state charges without conferring or even informing the three dozen identified victims, some who were as young as 14 when they say Epstein abused them at his home on Palm Beach.
Epstein victims had found out about the agreement in 2008, shortly after Epstein pleaded guilty. They filed a lawsuit against the government that summer, claiming the agreement violated their rights.
Prosecutors, the victims' lawyers and Epstein's defense team were already enmeshed legal wrangling over that issue when Epstein's case made national headlines again with New York federal prosecutors' decision to indict and arrest Epstein on two separate charges of child sex trafficking.
The new arrest heightened scrutiny of the Florida case and what many called the "sweetheart deal" it produced.
"Only fair remedy is you invalidate that agreement," Brad Edwards, an attorney representing some of the victims, said in a news conference in New York last week about the Florida case, adding of prosecutors: "They would then have to honor the victims' rights -- meet with them, confer with them, treat them with fairness and make a decision as to whether to prosecute in them (the cases) in the Southern District of Florida."
Defense attorney Roy Black balked at the idea of a new prosecution in a brief he sent to Marra after Epstein's most recent arrest. Speaking of the Florida deal, which called for Epstein to register as a sex offender and forced him to pay restitution to victims, Black said Epstein shouldn't be punished over a problem that had nothing to do with him.