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A little more than a year ago, a federal jury convicted Ghislaine Maxwell for sex trafficking minors for Jeffrey Epstein’s predation. She received a 20-year sentence this past year.
Standing outside the courtroom after Maxwell’s sentencing was Sigrid McCawley, a prominent attorney for Epstein survivors who stood flanked by her client Annie Farmer, the only victim to testify against Maxwell under her real and full name.
“I think the lesson and legacy of the Ghislaine Maxwell case is that nobody is above the law in the United States,” McCawley told Law&Crime.
On the latest episode of Law&Crime’s podcast Objections: with Adam Klasfeld, McCawley and a partner at her firm, Kenya Davis, reflect upon recent developments in the Epstein saga.
Despite Maxwell’s “extreme wealth” and “extreme access” to the political elite, “when the government focused in on the crimes and brought the charges — and these wonderful survivors, bravely stepped in court and explained what happened to them as children — she was held to account,” McCawley noted.
Since the Maxwell trial, no other accused co-conspirator has been charged, but that isn’t to say that the Epstein docket has been quiet. The U.K.’s Prince Andrew settled a lawsuit brought against him by prominent Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre, reportedly for more than the equivalent of $16 million dollars. Giuffre alleged that the embattled royal sexually abused her when she was 17 years old.
In a separate lawsuit, Giuffre conceded that she “may have made a mistake” in bringing her lawsuit against former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz.
Asked why one case reached a landmark deal and the other fizzled, McCawley demurred — adding that she couldn’t speak about attorney-client matters.
Giuffre — and her lawyers — have been crucial figures in the Epstein saga. It was their lawsuits against Epstein and Maxwell that arguably sparked both sex trafficking prosecutions, by producing the records ultimately brought to light through investigative journalism.
That’s why McCawley and Davis believe a new Empire State law could change the course of the investigation in 2023.
Known as the Adult Survivors Act, the statute temporarily suspends the statute of limitations on historic sexual abuse claims. The statute is similar to and broadens the reach of another New York law called the Child Victims Act, which focused on the sexual abuse of minors specifically.
“One of the things I struggled with in the Epstein work was that oftentimes you would have an individual who was 17-and-a-half and was treated one way on the law and somebody who was 18, in a day when they were abused, and would be treated a different way,” said McCawley. “And that’s really, really difficult as a practitioner, even though there are reasons for those dividing lines.”
The Adult Survivors Act removes those barriers, and since its enactment, a flood of litigation hit the courts with high-profile defendants, including former President Donald Trump, ex-hedge fund honcho Leon Black, ex-Fox News host Ed Henry, and two major banks: JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche, which stand accused of “complicity” with Epstein.
Davis, a partner at McCawley’s law firm Boies Schiller Flexner and a former federal prosecutor, expects to see more docket activity soon.
“I think you will see a ramp-up pretty, pretty quickly, especially after the the start of the year,” Davis said.
Both the Child Victims Act and Adult Survivors Act are not without their critics, who argue that suspending the statute of limitations makes cases harder to prosecute and to defend. The first case to go to trial under the former law was against actor Kevin Spacey, and a jury ultimately found against his accuser, Anthony Rapp.
McCawley, a managing partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, calls that argument anachronistic.
“We’re in a much different time and place from an electronic and evidentiary standpoint than we were, say 20-30 years ago,” she noted. “Now, virtually everything is recorded in some way, we can get emailed traffic back, as we saw in the Giuffre case, back from the early 2000s — emails between Epstein and Maxwell.”
That email exchange was ultimately used in Maxwell’s criminal prosecution.
McCawley also believes the recent $105 million settlement involving Epstein’s estate — which will lead to the sale of the pedophile’s Virgin Islands home, Little Saint James — also will reheat the investigation. The deal requires the estate’s assistance in the government’s “ongoing investigations.”
“We’ve seen a lot of activity in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and they obviously have been litigating that for a while and have crafted that resolution,” McCawley said. “I think there will be potentially other matters arising out of that, that, you know, we’ll see here in the near future.”
Shortly after McCawley’s interview with the Objections podcast, the U.S. Virgin Islands also sued JPMorgan. A federal judge has scheduled separate lawsuits filed by Epstein survivors against Deustche Bank and JPMorgan Chase for Aug. 7 and Sept. 5, respectively.
Asked if those will be trials to watch in 2023, McCawley — a lawyer on the cases — didn’t skip a beat before replying: “I certainly think so.”
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