dailymail.co.uk | 16 November 2020
EXCLUSIVE: How sloppy federal prosecutors who agreed to Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal were played so well by the pedophile’s lawyers they didn’t even realize they were giving immunity to Ghislaine Maxwell, new report claims
- An explosive new report reveals that the prosecutors from Florida thought they were only giving legal protection to four female Epstein associates
- They later admitted that it ‘never dawned’ on them the immunity clause was also designed to protect alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell
- Epstein’s lawyers persuaded them to use language so loose it could also apply to the British socialite, who allegedly procured girls as young as 14 for him
- An attorney working for Epstein had a prior relationship with one of the prosecutors and told him to ‘do us a solid (favor)’ to let Epstein off easy in 2007
- The stunning blunder features in a report by the Department of Justice’s internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility
- It reveals in unprecedented detail the errors that led to Epstein serving just 15 months in jail in 2007 despite the FBI identifying dozens of potential victims
Federal prosecutors who agreed to Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal were played so well by the pedophile’s lawyers they didn’t even realize they were giving immunity to Ghislaine Maxwell.
An explosive new report reveals that the prosecutors from the Southern District of Florida (SDFL) thought they were only giving legal protection to four female Epstein associates.
They later admitted that it ‘never dawned’ on them the immunity clause was also designed to protect Maxwell, who is accused of being Epstein’s chief recruiter.
Epstein’s lawyers persuaded them to use language so loose it could also apply to the British socialite, who is due to stand trial next year for allegedly procuring girls as young as 14 for him.
The stunning blunder features in a report by the Department of Justice’s internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which has not been released in full but DailyMail.com has seen a copy.
It reveals in unprecedented detail the errors that led to Epstein serving just 15 months in jail in 2007 despite the FBI identifying dozens of potential victims.
Among the other revelations is that the SDFL failed to obtain Epstein’s computers and surveillance tapes from inside his houses even though they could have proved he was in possession of child pornography.
The prosecutor in charge of the case thought that the material ‘would have put this case completely to bed’ and given them evidence to put Epstein away for years.
An attorney working for Epstein had a prior relationship with one of the prosecutors and told him to ‘do us a solid (favor)’ and get his boss to suggest giving Epstein just two years in jail, the report says.
A senior prosecutor was so cozy with Epstein lawyer Jay Lefkowitz he told him he ‘enjoyed’ working with him and that ‘Mr Epstein was fortunate to have such excellent representation’.
The OPR report was commissioned by Attorney General William Barr in early 2019 after the Miami Herald’s devastating investigation into Epstein’s plea deal, called Perversion of Justice.
Journalists began their inquiries after the US Attorney who signed off on Epstein’s agreement, Alex Acosta, was appointed by Donald Trump as his Labor Secretary meaning he would be in charge of US government policy on human trafficking.
The series of stories helped lead to Epstein’s arrest in August last year and he hanged himself in prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges – Acosta was forced to resign.
The OPR report was designed to look into whether or not any of the prosecutors engaged in corruption or professional misconduct.
The report concludes that did not happen, partly because the bar was that prosecutors ‘intentionally or recklessly violated a clear and unambiguous standard’.
However over 350 pages it digs up profound and disturbing questions about the handling of the case.
The most troubling is the handling of the immunity clause in the non prosecution agreement (NPA), the deal Epstein signed to make federal charges disappear.
Instead he would plead guilty in state court to two felony prostitution charges, be sentenced to 18 months in jail and register as a sex offender.
Under the immunity clause, which was suggested by Epstein’s lawyers who haggled repeatedly over the language, four women were also given protection from prosecution.
They were Sarah Kellen, who was allegedly one of his main recruiters, Nadia Marcinkova, an alleged sex slave, Adriana Ross, one of his associates, and Lesley Groff, who is said to have been his New York based assistant.
All the women have subsequently denied any wrongdoing and some have said they are victims.
The final language of the immunity clause was: ‘The United States agrees that it will not institute any criminal charges against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein, including but not limited to (the four women)’.
The wording was loose enough that it applied to Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend who his victims have claimed ran his sex trafficking operation – she has denied the allegations against her.
Yet Jeffrey Sloman, the First Assistant US Attorney in the SDFL, told the OPR that it ‘never occurred to him that the reference to potential co-conspirators was directed toward any of the high-profile individuals who were at the time or subsequently linked’.
Ann Marie Villafaña, the Assistant US Attorney who was in charge of the case, said that apart from the four named women they had not much evidence on ‘any other potential co-conspirators’.
She said: ‘So, we wouldn’t be prosecuting anybody else, so why not include it?….I just didn’t think that there was anybody that it would cover’.
She conceded to OPR that she ‘did not catch the fact that it could be read as broadly as people have since read it’.
Villafaña said that at the time she told a colleague: ‘I don’t think it hurts us’.
Villafaña told the OPR that Epstein’s lawyers told her that he wanted to ‘make sure that he’s the only one who takes the blame for what happened’.
Villafaña and her colleagues believed Epstein’s conduct was his own ‘dirty little secret’ and appear to have missed the fact that Maxwell was his alleged top lieutenant.
Her reasoning is clouded by the fact that she admits the FBI were ‘aware of Epstein’s longtime relationship with a close female friend who was a well-known socialite’, which appears to mean Maxwell.
Villafaña said they ‘didn’t have any specific evidence against her’ but they had already spoken to one victim who ‘implicated’ her but the conduct was not in Florida.
Villafaña told OPR: ‘(We) considered Epstein to be the top of the food chain, and we wouldn’t have been interested in prosecuting anyone else’.
The report says: ‘She did not consider the possibility that Epstein might be trying to protect other, unnamed individuals, and no one, including the FBI case agents, raised that concern’.
Solman agreed and in retrospect ‘understood the non-prosecution provision was designed to protect Epstein’s four assistants, and it ‘never dawned’ on him that it was intended to shield anyone else’, the report said.
The horrible irony of this is that not only did Maxwell slip through the net, but she could use the very same NPA for her defense in her upcoming trial.
Before Epstein killed himself his lawyers argued that the deal with the SDFL was part of a ‘global’ agreement with the US government and that he couldn’t be prosecuted twice.
Maxwell may well do the same.
Among the other details in the report is the extraordinary revelation that the prosecution failed to obtain the computers removed from Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion prior to them being raided by the Palm Beach Police Department.
Mysteriously all the computers including those with records of surveillance cameras had been removed by the time officers arrived.
The report says that Villafaña knew who had possession of the computer equipment and the tapes – it does not say who.
They could have provided additional victims and given ‘powerful visual evidence’ of a ‘large number of girls’ Epstein victimized’, the report says.
Villafaña made repeated efforts to get the computers from Epstein’s lawyers but they blocked her and her superiors did not pursue this.
The report says that this evidence was ‘relevant and potentially critical’ and says that it could have led to evidence of Epstein transmitting child pornography images across state lines, a serious federal crime.
Villafaña told the OPR: ‘(If) the evidence had been what we suspected it was…(it) would have put this case completely to bed. It also would have completely defeated all of these arguments about interstate nexus’.
In its most withering section, the report says: ‘It was clear Epstein did not want the contents of his computers disclosed. Nothing in the available record reveals that the USAO (prosecution) benefited from abandoning pursuit of this evidence when they did.
‘Instead, the USAO agreed to postpone and ultimately to abandon its efforts to obtain evidence that could have significantly changed Acosta’s decision to resolve the federal investigation with a state guilty plea or led to additional significant federal charges.
‘By agreeing to postpone the litigation, the USAO gave away leverage that might have caused the defense to come to an agreement much earlier and on terms more favorable to the government.
‘The USAO ultimately agreed to a term in the (plea deal) that permanently ended the government’s ability to obtain possible evidence of significant crimes and did so with apparently little serious consideration of the potential cost’,
The issue with the computers was not the only instance where Villafaña felt blocked by her male superiors.
The report paints her as one of the few voices within the department calling for Epstien to be arrested as soon as possible.
She told OPR that she was in a hurry to lock up Epstein ‘because child sex offenders don’t stop until they’re behind bars’.
But she butted heads with Matthew Menchel, the chief of the criminal division for SDFL.
In a blunt email to her, he said: ‘If you want to work major cases in the district you must understand and accept the fact that there is a chain of command – something you disregard with great regularity’.
When Epstein signed the plea deal, one of Villafaña’s colleagues told her: ‘This case only resolved with the filthy rich bad guy going to jail because of your dedication and determination’.
She said: ‘After all the hell they put me through, I don’t feel like celebrating 18 months. He should be spending 18 years in jail’.
While Villafaña maintained a combative stance with Epstein’s attorneys when she could, some of her male colleagues were far cosier with them.
Andrew Lourie, deputy chief of the criminal division at the time, appeared to get on well with Lefkowitz, one of Epstein’s ‘dream team’ of lawyers which also included Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, who wrote the impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton.
When Lefkowitz emailed Lourie to ask for his help to stop details about their negotiations being leaked, he told him: ‘I have enjoyed working with you on this matter’.
Lourie replied: ‘I enjoyed it as well. Mr Epstein was fortunate to have such excellent representation’.
That was not the only such connection between the prosecution and the defense and Epstein’s lawyer Lilly Ann Sanchez briefly had a relationship with Menchel in 2003 when they both worked at the SDFL.
The report says that in 2018 Villafaña claimed that the idea of Epstein serving a two year jail sentence was done as a favor to Sanchez.
She wrote in an email: ‘Months (or possibly years) later, I asked former First Assistant Jeff Sloman where the two-year figure came from. He said that Lily [sic] Ann Sanchez asked Mr. Menchel to ‘do her a solid’ and convince Mr. Acosta to offer two years’.
Sloman told OPR that he could not recall making such a remark.
Menchel said he couldn’t recall how the two year figure came about and said his prior relationship with Sanchez played no part in his decision making.
Despite turning up fresh evidence about the investigation the OPR was still unable to explain why Acosta decided on such a lenient sentence for Epstein.
The report says he appeared to be trying to find a middle ground between what Epstein would have got if the case was handled by federal prosecutors from the start, potentially decades in jail, and what he would be getting in state court, which amounted to a slap on the wrists.
In a scathing passage, the report says that Acosta’s reasoning was ‘untethered to any articulable, reasonable basis’.
As a result he drew up a plea deal that was ‘too difficult to administer, leaving Epstein free to manipulate the conditions of his sentence to his own advantage’.
Article ends with a “TIMELINE OF JEFFREY EPSTEIN’S LEGAL TROUBLES” which I’ve not copied in, so please see the main link above for this.