Wealthy sex offender settles suit, averts victim testimony

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Miami Herald
Published: 12/4/2018 11:49:40 PM

MIAMI — A trial that could have allowed the victims of serial molester Jeffrey Epstein to finally tell their stories from a witness stand was aborted Tuesday when it was announced in court that the case had been settled.

It ended with an apology — not to the dozens of women who were sexually abused by Epstein as underage girls, but to the lawyer who represented them.

There is also a monetary settlement, which is undisclosed.

The lawyer who took Epstein to court, Bradley Edwards, said he remains determined to give the women, now in their late 20s and early 30s, their day in court.

That opportunity could come in separate litigation that seeks to undo a controversial non-prosecution agreement that was negotiated in secret 10 years ago between the Palm Beach multimillionaire’s lawyers and the U.S. attorney for South Florida, Alex Acosta.

The case is still pending. Edwards has argued that the settlement was illegal because it was executed without telling Epstein’s victims, an apparently violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. That law entitles crime victims in federal cases to be informed of developments in a case, including plea deals and court hearings.

The women were deliberately kept in the dark, emails obtained by the Miami Herald showed.

A series of stories in the Miami Herald, published over the past week, outlined the ways in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office under Acosta colluded with the Epstein defense team to hide the agreement from the press, public and victims.

As part of the deal with Acosta 10 years ago, Epstein served slightly over a year in the Palm Beach County stockade after pleading guilty to two minor prostitution-related charges.

Acosta is now President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor.

The trial that was set to begin Tuesday was the result of a convoluted dispute between Edwards, who has represented several women who say they were molested by the hedge fund manager, and Epstein.

Epstein initially sued Edwards, linking the lawyer to the leader of his former law firm, notorious Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein. Epstein claimed that Edwards’ aggressive advocacy on behalf of the women was a way to divert attention from Rothstein’s rip-off, a scam that stole hundreds of millions of dollars. It blew up Rothstein’s prominent law firm and landed him in prison for decades.

After Rothstein said Edwards had nothing to do with the Ponzi scheme, Epstein withdrew his lawsuit, and Edwards countersued. Edwards hoped to use the forum of the trial to allow sex abuse victims to tell their stories of abuse at the hands of Epstein, which they did not get to do originally because of the non-prosecution agreement signed by Acosta when he was South Florida’s top prosecutor.

Epstein, who was not in court, issued a statement that said, in part: “I sincerely apologize for the false and hurtful allegations I made and hope (for) some forgiveness for my acknowledgment of wrongdoing.”

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