Don't let Epstein's victims be overshadowed
Politics and celebrity -- increasingly synonymous -- seem to corrupt everything these days. So it should come as no surprise that they are also infecting and trivializing one of the worst individual cases of alleged sexual abuse.
The details couldn't be more unsettling. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of photos of nude and partially nude women and girls were reportedly uncovered from a safe in a billionaire's Manhattan townhouse. The cache includes CDs with horrifically blunt labels like "Girl pics nude." The repugnant alleged child predator Jeffrey Epstein's days of freedom might finally and be numbered now that he's been indicted for sex trafficking over a decade after dodging prosecution.
Back in 2011, Epstein coldly spun and minimized his criminal behavior by saying, "I'm not a sexual predator, I'm an 'offender.' It's the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel."
It's hard to put into words how depraved and monstrous Epstein's crimes are alleged to have been, but they aren't close to stealing a bagel. He is accused of using his wealth and connections to lure countless girls back to his properties, where he'd convince them to give him massages that would invariable turn sexual. He revictimized many of the same girls over and over again, and paid many of them to recruit new victims in an elaborate sex trafficking scheme that spanned years.
As some of the young girls, now women, courageously come out to tell their stories, his insatiable, unfettered predation comes into stark relief: "I was 14," said one victim on Monday. "I had braces on."
Despite there being few if any worse violations of human dignity than the sexual exploitation of children, Epstein's lawyers are making a truly stomach-churning argument: that all this deserves nothing more than a shrug. Why? It's old news.
"To us this indictment is essentially a do-over," Reid Weingarten mused. "This is old stuff. This is ancient stuff." Pointing to Epstein's 2008 plea deal, it seems his team is relying on that patently unjust arrangement reached by Epstein and then U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, now President Trump's labor secretary, to save him from the inevitable.
That deal granted an accused child predator immunity from prosecution and instead allowed him to plead guilty to prostitution charges. Prosecutors also arranged to keep the deal a secret from his accusers until it was finalized, giving them no recourse after the fact. While serving 13 months in the special wing of a Palm Beach county jail, Epstein was chauffeured to work six days a week.
How he walked away with such a sweetheart deal despite being accused of horrific abuses is why many are now calling for Acosta's ouster. Not only does he have much more explaining to do, he should also unquestionably lose his current job overseeing the very scourge he turned a blind eye to all those years ago: sex trafficking.
But it wouldn't be 2019 if even this tragedy of injustice for child trafficking victims -- whose names will likely get lost in the coverage of high-profile political figures -- wasn't also turned into tabloid and political chum.