A celebrated computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) appears to have claimed that some of Jeffrey Epstein‘s underage victims were “entirely willing.”
An email thread obtained by Vice and published on Friday afternoon shows several people affiliated with MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) discussing the minutiae of statutory rape, opining about consent, and discussing their own culpability–as well as the culpability of their now-disgraced colleagues–vis-à-vis the Epstein scandal.
In the thread, computer scientist Richard Stallman defends artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky against accusations that he raped and/or sexually assaulted Virginia Giuffre–who claims Epstein forced her to have sex with Minsky when she was underage.
The thread began with a request for CSAIL members to join a protest against MIT’s general fundraising practices–specifically, the acceptance of dark money from less-than-savory individuals like “millionaire pedophiles, genocidal crown princes, billionaire climate change deniers” and others–brought to light by the Epstein scandal.
An unidentified person on the listserve gingerly pushed back against the call to action, cautioning the original sender that they should be careful not to implicate the “good people” at MIT. Stallman reportedly logged on and sent out his dogged defense of Minsky, according to MIT alum Selam Jie Gano, who posted about the missives via Medium the next day. Gano subsequently leaked a redacted version of the entire thread to Vice.
In an email dated September 11, Stallman allegedly wrote:
The word ‘assaulting’ presumes that he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way, but the article itself says no such thing. Only that they had sex. We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.
“All I know she said about Minsky is that Epstein directed her to have sex with Minsky. That does not say whether Minsky knew that she was coerced. It does not report what each said and did during their sexual encounter. We can imagine various scenarios,” another email allegedly from Stallman on September 12 reads. “We know that Giuffre was being coerced into sex — by Epstein. She was being harmed. But the details do affect whether, and to what extent, Minsky was responsible for that.”
The man identified as Stallman also addresses the concept of justice through legal definitions.
“The injustice is in the word ‘assaulting’. [sic] The term ‘sexual assault’ is so vague and slippery that it facilitates accusation inflation: taking claims that someone did X and leading people to think of it as Y, which is much worse than X.”
Another member of the thread eventually had enough of the back-and-forth and let it be known:
If we’re debating the definitions of “rape” and “sexual assault,” perhaps it’s better to accept that this conversation isn’t productive. When this email chain inevitably finds its way into the press, the seeming insensitivity of some will reflect poorly on the entire CSAIL community. Regardless of intent, this thread reads as “grasping at straws to defend our friends” around potential involvement with Epstein, and that isn’t a reputation I would like attached to my CSAIL affiliation.
MIT has been rocked particularly hard by fallout from the Epstein scandal after it came to light the prestigious research university’s Media Lab accepted $800,000 worth of donations from the dead pedophile–and lied about the source of those funds for several years.
Law&Crime reached out to Stallman for comment on this story but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
[image via New York Sex Offender Registry]