Victims’ challenge to Epstein plea deal rejected by 11th full circuit – Courthouse News Service
Deeply divided 11th Circuit admitted prosecutors misled victims of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein when they reached a plea deal granting him immunity from prosecution for sex trafficking, but majority of victims detained cannot dispute the deal now.
ATLANTA (CN) – In a mammoth decision Thursday that included two scathing dissent, the 11th Circuit Board rejected a victim’s challenge to a plea deal reached more than a decade ago that protected the investment mogul Jeffrey Epstein and his co-conspirators of criminal liability for the race. a juvenile sex ring.
In a 6-4 decision, the Atlanta Court of Appeals dismissed arguments that federal prosecutors violated Courtney Wild’s rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, or CVRA, in the keeping in the dark about Epstein’s Florida no-prosecution agreement.
Wild, who is one of more than 30 female victims of Epstein, claimed that federal prosecutors secretly negotiated a plea deal with Epstein in 2007. She alleges she was denied the right to her. nurture and be treated fairly by the government.
According to a dissenting opinion in the case, Wild was only 15 when Epstein first sexually assaulted her.
In a 53-page majority opinion written by Donald Trump-appointed US Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom, judges expressed “deepest sympathy” for Wild and the other victims “who suffered unspeakable horror at the hands of Epstein , to remain in the dark – and it seems, affirmatively misled – by government lawyers.
But the majority were forced by law to refuse Wild’s petition anyway. The court ruled that since the government never laid charges against Epstein, there was no pre-existing process in which Wild could have sought relief under the CVRA. According to the ruling, Wild does not have the right to seek the application of his CVRA rights in an independent civil action.
Wild’s lawyers called the decision “disturbing” in a statement Thursday and said they intended to seek reconsideration of the decision in the United States Supreme Court.
“It allows wealthy and powerful defendants (like Epstein) to orchestrate special deals without crime victims being involved in negotiating with prosecutors before charges are laid. It’s not something most defendants can do, ”said attorneys Paul Cassell and Brad Edwards.
After a two-year investigation into Epstein’s conduct by the FBI and the Palm Beach Police Department, Epstein’s defense team began negotiations with prosecutors to avoid an indictment in January 2007 .
Prosecutors sent letters to Epstein’s victims advising them of their rights in March 2007. But in June 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to two charges of soliciting prostitution by the state as part of a plea deal that granted him and his co-conspirators immunity from federal charges.
He only served 13 months of his 18-month prison sentence, much of which was out of his cell as part of a release program.
Federal prosecutors have not met with Wild or the other victims about the plea deal.
“It appears that prosecutors worked hand in hand with Epstein’s lawyers – or at least acceded to their demands – to keep the existence and terms of the NPA hidden from victims,” Newsom wrote Thursday.
Newsom said the government’s efforts “appear to have moved from passive non-disclosure to (or at least close to) active misrepresentation.”
Wild didn’t learn of the deal until July 2008, after Epstein had already pleaded guilty. She brought an action to cancel the deal that year.
His lawsuit was dismissed in September 2019 after a Florida federal judge ruled that the request to quash the deal was rendered moot by Epstein’s apparent suicide in prison following his trafficking charge federal sex.
The Atlanta-based appeals court agreed to repeat the case en banc in August, dismissing its previous ruling that the law does not protect victims until formal charges are filed. The full court heard arguments in the case in December.
Thursday’s ruling concludes that the CVRA will not allow Wild to bring an independent civil action to enforce his rights under the law in the absence of an underlying proceeding. No criminal case was pending when Wild filed his petition.
The majority also concluded that the judicial application of CVRA rights in the pre-charge phase “would risk unduly undermining the discretion of the prosecution”.
Allowing victims to seek an injunction ordering prosecutors to speak to them and treat them fairly before charges have been laid in criminal proceedings would constitute a significant intrusion into the conduct of federal prosecutors, the majority ruled.
“Freed from any line limiting the application of justice to the phases after the indictment of a prosecution, the courts would be empowered to issue injunctions requiring the consultation of victims (to name but a few examples) before the raids of the law enforcement, warrant requests, arrests, interviews with witnesses. , queues and interrogations, ”Newsom wrote.
In a separate agreement, US Circuit Senior Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote that “the operational difficulties that accompany a civil suit before the CVRA are indicted opens the door to rank inequity.”
But a dissenting opinion written by U.S. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch says the CVRA “alleviates any concerns that pre-charge execution would unduly infringe the prosecutor’s discretion” because the law only grants a “reasonable” right of attribution to victims.
Branch, a person appointed by Trump, pointed out that the attribution right is only granted to a prosecutor, not the police or investigators.
“The majority and Judge Tjoflat’s horrific parade on mini-trials to identify crime victims and hand over ‘pre-charge’ are red herring,” Branch wrote.
The dissent also points out that the Fifth Circuit previously concluded that victims have the right to speak to prosecutors even before the prosecution is initiated.
In a separate 29-page dissent, U.S. Circuit Senior Judge Frank Hull, appointed by Bill Clinton, pointed out that U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and former Senators Jon Kyl and Orrin Hatch have filed an amicus brief urging the 11th Circuit to find that the CVRA grants the crime victims pre-charge the right to confer with prosecutors and the right to file a petition for reparation in the district court if no prosecution is pending. Feinstein and Kyl wrote the law, and Hatch co-sponsored it.
Having warned that the majority opinion has “profound” consequences in the 11th Circuit and “eviscerates” the CVRA, Hull wrote that the pre-charge period in criminal proceedings has become “critical” in criminal cases. in white collar.
“Defense attorneys are hired to represent potential defendants before the charge in order to negotiate and extract the best plea deal before or to prevent any arraignment. The majority decision – limiting the judicial application of CVRA violations to a formal post-charge period – leaves federal prosecutors free to engage in the pre-charge secret plea and deception agreements that resulted in parody here, ”Hull wrote.
Branch was joined in her dissent by Hull and US circuit judges Beverly Martin and Jill Pryor.
Newsom was joined in majority by Tjoflat and US circuit judges Charles Wilson, William Pryor, Barbara Lagoa, Andrew Brasher and Robert Luck.