The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Friday to revisit an earlier decision that the Department of Justice did not violate a federal law when it gave financier Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal in 2008 without the input of women who had been abused by him.
A three-judge panel ruled in April that the agreement — which saw Epstein plead guilt to state prostitution charges instead of federal charges — did not violate the 2004 Crime Victims’ Rights Act, the Orlando Weekly reported, even though the court said the facts of the case were “beyond scandalous” and a “national disgrace.”
On Friday, the appeals court granted a request by Courtney Wild — Jane Doe 1 in the lawsuit claiming the agreement broke the law — for a full court rehearing of the case and vacated the April decision.
I had confidence this day would come,” Wild said in a statement from her attorney, University of Utah law professor Paul Cassells. “We have fought for 12 years and as I’ve said before, no matter how many obstacles pile up, we will never give up fighting for what is right.”
The appeals court will now reconsider the government’s appeal of a 2019 district court judge ruling that federal prosecutors — led by former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was then a US Attorney in Florida — indeed broke the law by making the agreement. But two of the three appeals court judges disagreed, ruling that because Epstein was not charged with a federal crime in Florida — the agreement barred that — the deal didn’t break the law.
“It isn’t lost on us that our decision leaves the petitioner and others like her largely empty handed,” Appellate Judges Kevin C. Newsom wrote for the majority. “We sincerely regret that.”
Lawyers for a bipartisan group of US senators — who wrote the 2004 victims’ rights bill — filed a friend of the court brief in May in support of Wild’s request. The agreement “is precisely the miscarriage of justice the act was intended to —- and, contrary to the majority decision, does —- foreclose,” wrote attorneys for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), and former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
Epstein was finally arrested on federal charges in July 2019 but was found dead in his cell in August. His death was ruled a suicide. Last month, Epstein’s former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, who reportedly pimped girls for Epstein and his wealthy friends, was indicted on child trafficking charges and arrested while hiding out in a mansion in New Hampshire. She has been denied bond, and her trial is expected to begin next July.
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[Featured image: Jeffrey Epstein/New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File]