Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy millionaire hedge fund manager and serial sex abuser, reached a last-minute settlement on Tuesday in a trial that could have allowed his victims to tell their stories on the witness stand.
Epstein, whose crimes have been public for years but was the subject of an explosive Miami Herald story published last week, reportedly ran a “sex pyramid scheme” in which he “was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls” to “coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day.” With the help of a backroom deal brokered by then-federal prosecutor Alex Acosta (now Donald Trump’s secretary of labor), Epstein only got 13 months in county jail. The Herald identified 80 women “who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006.”
Additionally, none of the survivors got their day in court because the plea deal was kept from them, apparently in violation of federal law, according to the Herald, which reported that the deal was “sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls—or anyone else—might show up in court and try to derail it.”
The trial that was set to go forward this week was a civil case between Epstein and Bradley Edwards, the lawyer who has represented some of the survivors. It could have potentially allowed the survivors to testify against Epstein. Here’s how the Herald broke it down:
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 illegal scheme, which landed him in prison for decades.
After Rothstein said Edwards had nothing to do with the illegal Ponzi, 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 agreed to by Acosta when he was South Florida’s top prosecutor.
Because of the undisclosed monetary settlement, the women, again, will not get their day in court, though they still might get their chance in another, separate pending lawsuit that is seeking to overturn the original secretive plea deal, on the basis that it was a “violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.”
In a statement on the settlement, Edwards called it the end of a distraction by Epstein and a victory for his victims, who are still willing to share their stories:
This would have revealed itself as the distraction that Jeffrey Epstein wanted it to be, in reality. Those victims, though, because of the good journalism. [...] I’m now getting calls from my clients who have been hidden, who have been pushed into silence, scared to death, finally saying: One, “Brad, thank you for standing up to him and pushing him to the brink till he had to admit you win, he lost. Thank you.” Second, they’re willing to talk. They want to share their stories. This was part of their healing. This was never about me. I took this case–to the end–for them. And the focus should go back on them.
Update (12:45 p.m.): This post has been updated with a statement from Edwards.