When news broke that convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was arrested again, a certain detail stuck out to legal experts looking at the case:
The SDNY *public corruption* unit??
Hmm … https://t.co/inGyREnWhi
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) July 7, 2019
The Southern District of New York’s Public Corruption Unit is handling the case, according to law enforcement sources for The Daily Beast. Two reportedly said that an indictment for one count each on sex trafficking of minors, and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors will be unsealed Monday.
Also: interesting that Public Corruption Unit has the case; Saturday is a strange day to arrest – emergency?; SDNY should seek to lock him up without bail given ability to flee; Epstein looking at effectively life – heavy incentive to flip – but will SDNY want him as cooperator?
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) July 7, 2019
It is unusual that prosecutors from SDNY’s public corruption section are handling the Jeffrey Epstein case. But don’t read too much into that until the charges are made public. https://t.co/cvKhh0iFeU
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) July 7, 2019
A few things about this stuck out to criminal defense lawyer and Law&Crime trial analyst Gene Rossi. First and foremost, it’s “extremely bad news” for Epstein that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is involved.
“They don’t play nice,” Rossi told Law&Crime in a phone interview Sunday.
Also, it means that other charges are possible. It could mean money laundering, public corruption, or tax-related charges.
“Who knows?” he said. “The sky’s the limit.”
He said it would be a surprise if the case only involved the sex trafficking charges.
The SDNY in part describes the unit as generally investigating crimes of bribery, embezzlement, and frauds committed against local, state, and federal government agencies.
Epstein famously made his wealth as a financier, and his status got him rubbing elbows with Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump back in the day.
The defendant was convicted in Florida court in 2008 for solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution, but The Miami Herald reported last year that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, then run by current U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, reached a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein, in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty in state court. Victims were kept in the dark about this, and alleged co-conspirators were given immunity. A federal judge ruled in February that prosecutors broke the law by doing this. Prosecutors, however, said there’s no legal basis for victims to invalidate the agreement.
In any case, that’s apparently not something that the SDNY has to worry about. They can sidestep that entire controversy.
Rossi, a former federal prosecutor out of the Eastern District of Virginia, pointed out that non-prosecution letters like that only bind the office that made it. In Epstein’s case, prosecutors could likely look at things that allegedly happened in New York, where Epstein has a home.
[Mugshot via Florida Department of Law Enforcement]