Federal prosecutors in Atlanta are arguing against demands for restitution made by alleged victims of the wealthy South Florida sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak’s office was assigned to defend the government against a lawsuit from two women who say prosecutors in Miami gave Epstein an improperly lenient deal to avoid sex trafficking charges in 2008. The office was led at the time by Alexander Acosta, who now heads the U.S. labor department.
Pak, who was assigned because his Miami counterparts recused themselves, said the prosecutors failed victims by not working harder to inform them of the agreement with Epstein. But Pak also says the victims’ opinion of the agreement ultimately doesn’t matter legally.
“Because the government did not communicate more clearly and directly with the victims,” Pak wrote in a recent filing, “the resolution in this case has led some to conclude that the government chose for improper reasons not to prosecute Epstein, a conclusion that remains unsubstantiated.”
In a response filed Tuesday, the victims’ attorneys called that statement “meek” and said the Justice Department should show evidence it acted in good faith with the 2008 agreement.
The women who have filed the lawsuit say Epstein sexually abused them while he and others ran an underage sex trafficking ring. Epstein reached a non-prosecution agreement with Acosta.
New reporting by the Miami Herald has led to scrutiny on the old case and calls for Acosta to resign his current post, especially after prosecutors in New York indicted Epstein last week on sex trafficking charges.
The agreement, negotiated by Acosta, allowed Epstein to plead only to a state charge of soliciting prostitution. He had to register as a sex offender, agree to civil liability to the victims and serve more than a year in jail. In exchange, Acosta agreed not to pursue more serious federal charges that could’ve put the Florida financier away for decades.
Some of the victims argue the deal was wildly light and could’ve been motivated by Epstein’s wealth and connections. Before Epstein’s name became synonymous with sex abuse, he was friends with both presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. He has been represented by famed Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz.
In the lawsuit, the victims are asking for the non-prosecution agreement, which applies only to prosecutors in Miami, to be overturned. They also want an apology from the Justice Department and all the records from the case unsealed.
Pak said the law doesn’t entitle them to any of that. Reversing the agreement, he said, could also cause problems for victims who have reached civil settlements with Epstein. Instead, Pak offered to speak with the victims and explain the rationale behind the non-disclosure agreement and to participate in a public court hearing for the victims to read statements about the impact of Epstein’s actions. Pak also said all prosecutors in the Miami U.S. Attorney’s office would be trained to better communicate with victims.
“The past,” the Atlanta U.S. Attorney said, “cannot be undone.”
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