Why Jeffrey Epstein’s New Charges Matter

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Multimillionaire financial investor Jeffrey Epstein has been in the news recently following sex trafficking charges levied against him. Epstein first made headlines for sex-related criminal allegations in 2008 when, in Florida, he pled guilty to felony solicitation of prostitution and procuring a person under 18 for prostitution. Although his guilty plea led to his registration as a sex offender in that state, he only served 13 months in jail for these crimes, whereas other people could serve life sentences for these crimes. During much of his time in jail, he was allowed to work from a private wing, so the lucrative financial career he began in the ‘70s went uninterrupted.

At the time, some people wondered how Epstein could have gotten away with such a light punishment. His soft sentencing stemmed from a plea deal that remains under investigation in Florida federal court. The deal was overseen by Alexander Acosta, who was, at the time, Miami’s U.S. Attorney. Acosta was Donald Trump’s labor secretary last week when the new allegations were first levied against Epstein. Just days later, following renewed public interest in whether Acosta’s plea deal with Epstein was biased, Acosta resigned from his position in Trump’s administration.

Acosta isn’t the only member of Trump’s administration linked to Epstein. President Donald J. Trump himself is known to have been friends with Epstein. Trump has previously praised Epstein in the past, saying in a 2002 interview that Epstein is a “lot of fun to be with.” Both men have been accused of sexual assault by many women, but Epstein’s charges stem almost entirely from alleged contact with underage girls, which Trump’s 2002 interview may have suggested. “It is even said that [Epstein] likes beautiful women as much as I do,” Trump said then, “and many of them are on the younger side.”

Epstein’s new charges regarding underage girls originate in New York, meaning that these alleged crimes lie outside the terms of the Florida plea deal that Acosta arranged and can, therefore, be prosecuted. New York federal prosecutors allege that, between 2002 and 2005, Epstein paid underage girls, some as young as 14, to have sex with him both in Manhattan and at his Palm Beach, Florida estate. The allegations state that Epstein first hired these girls to give him massages before assaulting them. 

Epstein is also accused of paying these girls more money to lure more underage girls. The prosecutors making these claims are charging Epstein with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking, and should Epstein not reach a plea deal as he did in Florida, he could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison.

Although Epstein’s newest round of charges may reflect poorly on Alexander Acosta and Donald Trump, Epstein’s friends come from both sides of the aisle, not to mention worlds far outside politics. Epstein has long been associated with former president Bill Clinton and British Prince Andrew. He was also the primary investor in Victoria’s Secret, PINK, and Bath & Body Works. Figures from all manner of political ideologies had begun calling for Acosta’s resignation over his handling of the Epstein case long before last week.

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