A federal court sent a clear message to victims of dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein which is best summarized as follows: sorry, but the law says you don’t really matter.
In a 2-1 opinion issued by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on Tuesday, survivor Courtney Wild was denied the opportunity to challenge the government’s handling of a controversial sweetheart deal gifted to Epstein and several of his alleged child sex predator co-conspirators by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in 2007.
“Despite our sympathy for Ms. Wild and others like her, who suffered unspeakable horror at Epstein’s hands, only to be left in the dark—and, so it seems, affirmatively misled—by government lawyers, we find ourselves constrained to deny her petition,” the ruling notes. “It’s not a result we like, but it’s the result we think the law requires.”
The scathing dissent–which is as long as the opinion itself–from U.S. Circuit Judge Frank M. Hull tears into the majority for its novel interpretation that Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004 (CVRA) does not apply “unless and until a formal indictment is filed in a court.”
Hull explains that the plain text of the CVRA actually does not contain any sort of limiting language that negates or otherwise conditions the rights of victims based on whether or not an indictment or court proceeding is ever commenced.
The judge tidily notes:
In fact, the CVRA’s venue provision in § 3771(d) expressly provides that, ‘if no prosecution is underway,’ the victims can file suit to assert their subsection (a) rights “in the district court in the district in which the crime occurred.” In filing this lawsuit back in 2008, the petitioner crime victims did what the CVRA expressly authorized them to do.
Hull also rubbishes the ruling for using florid language in the place of justice for Epstein’s victims. She brutally mocks the majority’s use of sad-sounding floral prose as little more than a reptile’s lament:
The Majority also dresses up its flawed statutory analysis with rhetorical flourish, using language like “scandalous,” “national disgrace,” and “the sad details of this shameful story,” while also expressing sincere empathy for the victims … The Majority confesses that “[i]t isn’t lost on us that our decision leaves petitioner and others like her largely emptyhanded” and “we sincerely regret that.” In addition to ruminating in sincere regret and sympathy, we, as federal judges, should also enforce the plain text of the CVRA—which we are bound to do—and ensure that these crime victims have the CVRA rights that Congress has granted them.
“The Majority’s new blanket restriction eviscerates crime victims’ CVRA rights and makes the Epstein case a poster-child for an entirely different justice system for crime victims of wealthy defendants,” Hull somberly warns.
The TrueAnon podcast, which began as a left-wing crime podcast dedicated to L’affaire Epstein, offered the following upshot of the Atlanta, Georgia-based court’s ruling: “This means that everybody even remotely involved with Epstein’s massive child sex-trafficking operation in Florida is immune from prosecution. This means—pilots, Ghislaine [Maxwell], his demonic harem, everyone.”
Courtney Wild was one of dozens of underage women (“girls really,” the court concedes) who were preyed on and trafficked by Epstein and his friends as part of the global elite child sex ring uncovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the early 2000s.
Federal prosecutors, however, for reasons unknown but widely presumed to be related to Epstein’s alleged status as an intelligence asset, quickly dropped the ball and most of the potential charges. Epstein pleaded guilty to two state prostitution offenses in exchange for all of his unnamed co-conspirators receiving an unprecedented and sweeping grant of immunity from federal prosecution. Epstein himself managed to obtain palatial treatment from law enforcement while serving a 13-month stint in prison with work release.
The survivors of the sex trafficking ring, on the other hand, were kept in the dark and lied to by those same federal prosecutors.
The court’s majority opinion notes (emphasis in original):
And to be clear, the government’s efforts seem to have graduated from passive nondisclosure to (or at least close to) active misrepresentation. In January 2008, for example, approximately four months after finalizing and executing the [non-prosecution agreement [(NPA)], the government sent a letter to [Wild] stating that Epstein’s case was “currently under investigation,” explaining that “[t]his can be a lengthy process,” and “request[ing her] continued patience while [it] conduct[ed] a thorough investigation.” The government sent an identical letter to another victim in May 2008, some eight months after inking the NPA.
“If secrecy was the goal, it appears to have been achieved—there is no indication that any of Epstein’s victims were informed about the NPA or his state charges until after he pleaded guilty,” the ruling continues. “On the day that Epstein entered his guilty plea in June 2008, some (but by no means all) victims were notified that the federal investigation of Epstein had concluded.”
Wild was one of those who learned about Epstein’s white glove treatment by the George W. Bush Department of Justice (DOJ) well after the case was settled. She sued in July 2008 on the theory that her rights under the CVRA were violated by the DOJ’s generous deal.
Specifically, Wild alleged that her rights, and the rights of Epstein’s other victims, “to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case” and “to be treated with fairness and with respect for their dignity and privacy” were tossed to the wayside.
The Eleventh Circuit majority’s opinion throws up its hands.
“[R]ights under the CVRA do not attach until criminal proceedings have been initiated against a defendant, either by complaint, information, or indictment,” the ruling states. “Because the government never filed charges or otherwise commenced criminal proceedings against Epstein, the CVRA was never triggered.”
Hull’s dissent adamantly disagrees with that reading of the statute.
“The Majority concludes ‘the CVRA was never triggered’ at all, even though the U.S. Attorney’s Office prepared a 53-page indictment against Epstein but later secretly entered into a plea deal, granting federal immunity to Epstein and his co-conspirators,” Hull recounts. “According to the Majority, because the Office cleverly entered into a sweetheart plea deal with Epstein ‘pre-charge’ and never filed the indictment, the victims never had any CVRA rights in the first place.”
While decidedly full of invective and scorn for the majority’s use of purple prose as a poor stand in for affirming survivor’s rights in federal law, most of the dissent contents itself to dissect the legalistic tricks used in the ruling to effectively rewrite the statute at issue.
“So how in the holy name of plain text does the Majority add such a substantive and temporal restriction on the victims’ rights to confer and be treated fairly and hold that victims have no CVRA rights until after the government files an indictment and commences proceedings?” Judge Hull asks before answering:
“The Majority hacks away at the plain text.”
Read the full opinion and dissent below:
[image via mugshot]
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