Defense lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein filed a letter with the court on Thursday providing a series of reasons U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman should grant Epstein’s request for pretrial release from prison as he awaits his upcoming criminal trial on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The letter, which predominantly outlines why, despite his unfathomable wealth, Epstein does not pose a flight risk, also provides insight into the arguments his lawyers will make as the case moves forward, with one claim in particular that is likely to draw a lot of ire from critics — for its, well, absurdity.
In Epstein’s indictment, which was unsealed Monday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York alleged that Epstein not only sexually assault dozens of underage girls for money, but also stated that he would pay his victims cash to recruit other underage girls whom he could sexually assault, thus creating a “vast network” of underage female victims.
Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.
However, according to lead defense attorney Reid Weingarten, Epstein’s alleged actions do not amount to sex trafficking as defined in the TVPA. Rather, in his letter to the court, Weingarten argues that the statute was meant to punish “those who are the providers or pimps of children,” and that his client’s accused behavior is more akin to that of the “purchasers or johns,” in a prostitution transaction.
“Here, the principal conduct underlying the indictment is Mr. Epstein’s payment of money for massages that purportedly escalated to alleged sex acts. Mr. Epstein’s conduct, however, is akin to consumer or purchaser behavior and should be outside the ambit of [the TVPA],” Weingarten wrote.
But Weingarten’s reasoning actually ignores the very “principal conduct” that forms the foundations of prosecutor’s case against Epstein. According to the indictment:
“In order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, EPSTEIN also paid certain victims to recruit additional underage girls whom he could similarly abuse. In this way, EPSTEIN created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis, in locations including New York and Palm Beach,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
The case against Epstein is not that he simply solicited sex from individual girls, but that he allegedly created his own vast network of underage girls using his initial victims as recruiters to exponentially expand upon and create an organized apparatus for the purpose of convenient sexual exploitation.
According to federal investigators, the whole thing played out like a sadistic pyramid scheme of pedophyllic sexual abuse with Epstein sitting at the top.
Particularly where several of the girls in Epstein’s recruited “network” were underage, a fact which Epstein was allegedly well aware of, his actions almost certainly falls within the ambit of the TVPA (if, of course, prosecutors can prove their case).
Weingarten’s claim in Thursday’s letter are similar to one put forth during Epstein’s arraignment on Monday, where he argued that because Epstein did not force any of the girls to do things against their will, he should not be charged under sex-trafficking statutes. He then claimed the statutes, such as the TVPA, were enacted specifically to protect girls from being “forced to service 15-20 guys a day” in a brothel where they “cannot leave” due to the threat of violence.
Epstein is next scheduled to appear on Monday for his bail hearing. [image via CBSN screengrab]
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