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True crime. Casually done.

Jeffrey Epstein: Sexual Abuse, Pyramid Scheme Style

Written by Chris Lake

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INTRO

Jeffrey Epstein shouldn’t really need any introduction, being probably the most famous serial sex offender in recent memory and the subject of numerous conspiracy theory narratives, some plausible, some true, and some completely insane. I’ll say upfront that I’m not a conspiracy theory fan. This is partly because so many of them are so paper thin and silly – shout out to the masterfully ironic “Birds Aren’t Real” – but it’s mostly owing to my career having so frequently compelled me to study and investigate actual criminal conspiracies. But the Epstein case transcends the debate between conspiracy and cock-up in a magnificent way. What we have here is a complex and ongoing criminal conspiracy, once which shines a harsh light on the criminal justice system, the corruption of wealth and power, and the very real inequalities which make so many the prey of the rich and powerful. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The other side of the story is the long and tortuous journey of those seeking to bring him to justice – a sort of “Spotlight” moment which provides a heartening example of the capacity for motivated and principled individuals to achieve some measure of justice, even when the very institutions designed to protect us have been corrupted. Beyond the tabloid headlines and lurid, sometimes pornographic reporting, lies a damning failure on the part of key civil institutions to protect the vulnerable against the powerful – in fact, initially they did the exact opposite. But it’s also an inspiring tale of a small group of individuals’ selfless dedication to justice, especially Julie K Brown of the Miami Herald. And of the courage of a handful of victims who, over literal decades, refused to be silenced even while their powerful opponent used every resource and connection he had to ruin their lives and reputations, intimidate them, and silence them. And then, of course, there’s the highly dubious deaths of Epstein and his close associate Jean-Luc Brunel. I’m aware a lot of people have passionate opinions on this subject, and while we can’t promise to be in 100% agreement on some of the wilder theories, I can say that the facts of the case are such that it’s not possible to 100% dismiss them, either. And now with that out of the way, let’s dive into the dark world of industrialised sexual abuse.

THE GREAT GATSBY

The world of finance is naturally a secretive one. If you’ve got a whole bunch of money, one of the first things you want to ensure is that no-one’s able to nick it all. And one of the best ways to do that is to make it very difficult to determine exactly how much you have, and where exactly all of it is. The result of this need is a sort of commercial and social natural selection favouring people who are discreet, who can keep secrets, and who like to maintain a low public profile. This is almost the exact opposite of the business world, where fame and notoriety are often viewed as primary assets – think Elon Musk and Donald Trump. But for the people behind the curtain, so to speak – the ones who pull the levers, facilitate the loans and conveyancing, and manage asset holdings and tax minimisation – their world is normally more or less invisible to the general public. But even in this pathologically discreet little subculture, Jeffrey Epstein was known as a mysterious man. Even those closest to him knew very little about his life. Where he’d come from, where he got his money, who his clients were – all this and more were shrouded in mystery. One source interviewed for a New York Magazine profile said, “He’s this mysterious, Gatsbyesque figure. He likes people to think that he’s very rich, and he cultivates this air of aloofness. The whole thing is weird.”

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What we do know about him is that he was born in New York, growing up in Coney Island – a rat infested sewer of crime and poverty or one of the nicest places in the world, depending on which side of town you live on. His father was a Parks department employee. Epstein was academically gifted, skipping two years and graduating high school at 16. He studied science at Cooper Union and NYU – both prestigious universities – before dropping out for no clear reason and taking a job teaching maths and physics at The Dalton School. The Dalton School is a prestigious prep school and arts academy which attracts gifted and affluent students. In 1974, the year Epstein blagged his way into a teaching job without qualifications, the outgoing principal was ex-Attorney General William Barr’s father. Rupert Murdoch’s daughter was a student at Dalton while Epstein taught there, and the school’s alumni include figures like Anderson Cooper and Claire Danes. He was reportedly a charismatic teacher, though some students described him as over-familiar, especially with female students. He was only 21 years old at the time, though, and it seems he was mentally somewhat younger, so perhaps there’s nothing sinister in that. When questioned about it in 2009, however, he pled the fifth to dodge the question, so maybe there was. In any case, he wasn’t there long before a new headmaster came in, noticed he wasn’t particularly good at teaching, and sacked him. As with so much to do with Epstein, it’s impossible to know his plans or motives for so many things, but it seems that he’d become impressed with the power and affluence of the parents and students at the school. Possibly as part of a larger plan, he made an effort to impress one of the parents at a P&T night – a man who happened to be a senior partner at Bear Stearns, the merchant bank. This executive persuaded Bear’s CEO to hire him, which turned out to be the first step in Epstein’s journey into super-wealth.

During his time at Bear, Epstein showed a talent for whole of portfolio financial management. Quite a few people dubbed him a genius, saying he had a talent for synthesis – that rarest of intellectual abilities, where one is able to cross connect and interrelate across a range of disparate disciplines and combine them to arrive rapidly and accurately at understandings or solutions. Of course, there were many dissenters from this view, notably one man who said of Epstein that he’d never received a straight answer from him, and that it was all smoke and mirrors. He told Vox, “I never saw any brilliance, I never saw him work. Anybody I know that is that wealthy works 26 hours a day. This guy plays 26 hours a day.” For every person claiming Epstein was some kind of ethereal genius, there’s another who characterises him as a dumbass poser. It’s not been possible to find anyone who ever traded with him, and of the many scientists and intellectuals Epstein held dinner parties with, more than half report he didn’t know what he was talking about and spent more time trying to look smart than adding to the conversation. His work at Bear quickly had him in charge of billions of dollars in funds, and Epstein was the kind of financial manager who wasn’t shy about his own ambitions to wealth. Leslie Wexner, the founder of Limited Brands – a huge company which includes Victoria’s Secret in its holdings – made Epstein his financial adviser and helped him to build a fortune for himself. It’s interesting that in a world where reputations are cemented by prestigious client books, every client other than Wexner was kept a closely guarded secret. It’s possible that this is because there weren’t any others of note. Epstein appears to have built his fortune by being Wexler’s water boy, and then scamming and brown-nosing his way into a space where anyone at all could become rich, simply by talking to people and being in the same room. Regardless of his actual ability, there’s no doubt Epstein wanted to present himself as a lofty thinker. He was a keen patron of the sciences, forking out millions in grants and gifts for cutting edge research – research which his some of his beneficiaries claimed he actually understood, unlike many rich patrons. And as for his money management, he was out of Bear well before their spectacular failure in the GFC and was running his own firm. He considered himself a kind of financial architect, according to New York Magazine, who quoted one of his writings: “I want people to understand the power, the responsibility, and the burden of their money.” Which is odd, as Wexler apparently hired him to find out who was stealing from him, and then claimed Epstein had stolen 46 million bucks from him too. It seems both of these men were a little odd, with Wexler acting as Epstein’s patron, and Epstein hooking Wexler up with dates and party invites. The characterisation of Epstein as Gatsby is apt – he was a shadowy man, lauded by some of his acquaintances but, in a curious way, not really containing any substance, and it’s clear from his own comments and writings that other people didn’t really exist for him as people either. Which might be a clue as to why he was willing to inflict such appalling abuse on so many children and young women, and yet still seemed so utterly convinced he hadn’t done anything seriously wrong.

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A NOTE ON SOURCES

Epstein’s day job took him all over the world. He owned private aircraft, airstrips, and real estate across Europe and the USA and its territories and would spend his time scouring the world for investment opportunities. His ‘passion project’, though, was the recruitment, grooming, sexual abuse, and rape of young girls, at an average rate of three per day. Activity at this level of intensity obviously requires an industrial scale operation to service it, and the sheer scale of it, as well as the high profile of some of the people involved, means that there’s a whole bunch of misinformation and disinformation out there, so we just need to make a quick note about sources. First up, the main sources used for this are victim testimonies, legal documents, and investigative reporting. Victim testimonies are taken from the handful of victims who’ve chosen to go public, but some information is also taken from anonymised statements and depositions included in the Florida indictment, the Virgin Islands DoJ Complaint, various civil suits, and Palm Beach Police interviews. The legal documents are the NY Southern District indictment, the Virgin Islands DoJ civil complaint, the Maxwell depositions, other depositions unsealed through civil actions either against Epstein or his estate, and various civil complaints filed in several US jurisdictions, particularly those alleging Epstein’s infamous Florida plea deal was unlawful (it was). The main reporting comes from the Miami Herald, especially Julie K Brown, who deserves much of the credit for finally ending Epstein’s run – more on that later – and a variety of tabloids who bought victim stories and churned out accounts of court proceedings as the hearings went on. As well as this there’s a number of hit pieces, puff pieces, and highbrow intimate profiles on Epstein of the kind that occasionally get done by broadsheets and snobby magazines. Sources I haven’t used include anyone with even a whiff of tinfoil hat. This isn’t just prejudice – the fact is that there’s no need to turn that way. Sticking with sworn, authoritative, and credible sources uncovers an actual, provable conspiracy, and strongly suggests another one involving some of the world’s most powerful people. There’s no need to go off the reservation to explore the potential involvement of people like Prince Andrew or Alan Dershowitz, or the extent to which the US establishment, including law enforcement agencies, either turned a blind eye or were complicit in Epstein’s offending. It’s pretty clear, actually, that an operation of this size couldn’t have survived without at least the tacit consent of a big chunk of the top end of society, and mainstream sources reflect this reality. So don’t get butthurt if we don’t entertain the idea that corporate and Hollywood elites were using Epstein to harvest the blood of children for satanic sacrifices – the actual picture is bad enough and we won’t be shying away from it. In fact, the reality of Epstein is possibly a clue as to where some of the ideas of QAnon actually come from – the kernel of truth within the construction of myth, so to speak. Other sources I’ve excluded are partisan. We will talk about Bill Clinton and Donald Trump as they’re an important part of this story, but I have excluded opinion merchants and political operatives who obscure and elide facts to exaggerate or downplay the involvement of prominent Democrats or Republicans. The reason for this is simply that their selective facts and outright lies just cause confusion. And finally, for boring legal reasons, it’s important to say that as Epstein’s first conviction was laughable, and as he died before he could face the second batch of charges, some of this material constitutes the sworn allegations of plaintiffs and witnesses in various cases and may not be covered by the guilty verdict returned in the Ghislaine [JEE-lane] Maxwell case. But even though there’s no comprehensive Epstein conviction, the Epstein estate has set up a fund to compensate victims, and there’s little to no denial of the stated facts of the case. Which saves Simon having to put seven hundred ‘allegedly’s in front of statements we’re pretty sure are true.

PERVERSION INC.

By Jim.henderson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81741616

Now, let’s imagine you’re a middle school girl, generally as happy as any teenage girl can be, and living an ordinary life. Or perhaps, you’re at the start of an extraordinary life, as so far in your short career on Earth you’re a straight A student and a cheerleader and a generally popular person. If you’ve ever been in contact with the American secondary school system, you’ll know just how difficult a combination that is to achieve. In your life to date, the only real cloud on the horizon has been money. Your family’s far from wealthy, and one problem you’re currently casting around trying to solve is how you’re going to be able to afford presents for your parents, with Christmas only days away. You’re sitting in class one day and a friend passes you a note saying that if you’re willing to go to a big house in Palm Beach, you’ll be paid hundreds of dollars just to give an old guy a massage. It sounds simple enough, and as one of your relatives is a masseuse, you think you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s all going to look like. It might be a bit gross, but it’s easy money and it shouldn’t take too long, so you go. You get to the massive mansion in El Brillo and a blonde woman named Sarah Kellen meets you and takes you to a bedroom, which is disturbing, but the house is enormous and there’s pictures of the owner with Bill Clinton and the pope and all kinds of famous people, so surely it can’t be that bad. Lying face down on the bed wearing nothing but a towel is a silver haired 51-year-old. He tells you you’re beautiful and grabs your hip, moving you around so he can look at you. He instructs you to strip down to your underwear to deliver the massage. It’s a decision point you’re not very well equipped to deal with at fourteen years of age. You’re alone in a room with a clearly rich and powerful man. You’re unsure of where you are in the massive house, and unsure of exactly where in Palm Beach you are, as you arrived by taxi. There was armed security everywhere and the house is fenced and gated and you’re not sure if the man on the bed has a weapon somewhere either. So you freeze up and acquiesce to the abuse, letting him fondle your breasts and genitals while he masturbates under the towel. When it’s over, he gives you $200 and tells you to come back some time or, if you’re not comfortable, that you can bring him other girls and you’ll still be paid. Within a few years, because you need money for school shoes, for uniforms, textbooks, food – and because you feel so dirtied by what you’ve done you can’t really see yourself working a normal job or living a normal life ever again – you’ve recruited up to 70 girls for this man and have been abused by him for years. You’re hooked on drugs, which he helps you to get, but pretty soon you’re too old for him – you’re not yet 21 – and as you lose access to younger girls, the money starts drying up. Unable to keep your life together without the cash you’ve become so dependent on, you end up in gaol on drugs related charges. Your promising life is ruined, and all you’ve got to show for it is a felony criminal record and a head full of appalling memories and guilt. Such is the story of Courtney Wild, one of the very few Epstein victims who was brave enough to come out and tell her story publicly. You’ll be pleased to know Courtney’s doing well these days – she’s a human rights and victims advocate, and the lawsuit she filed in 2008 alleging that Epstein’s first plea deal was unlawful was successful. Which means it’s possible – and it’s certainly something I like to think – that some of Courtney’s extraordinary potential has been fulfilled. Not all of Epstein’s victims were this lucky, though – one was found dead in a motel room of a heroin overdose, leaving behind a young son, and who knows how many unknown victims may have taken their lives well before this vile enterprise was finally exposed. And however well Courtney’s doing today, and however much it’s pointed out that she’s not at all at fault here, she’s still got to live with what happened to her, and with what she did, as she herself points out.

Courtney’s story is nearly identical to all the other victim stories we know of. Epstein didn’t usually use force, preferring to sweet talk and groom his victims, counselling them on their schooling and offering to help get them into modelling or the fashion industry or whatever else they were after. Some of the girls were made to engage in sex with both Epstein and a woman called Nadia Marcinkova, whom Epstein would claim he’d bought as a sex slave from her mother in Yugoslavia. Marcinkova would use sex toys and strap-ons to have intercourse with some of the victims, under the detailed direction of Epstein. More typically, Epstein would touch them or apply vibrators to the victims’ genitals while they touched him and he masturbated. He would pay a premium for oral sex or intercourse and would constantly be pushing them to agree to these. One victim, who was also victimised by Marcinkova, said that she had always refused to have intercourse with Epstein but, on one occasion, he pinned her to the massage table and raped her. After this, he apologised and gave her $1000 and a car. There are also allegations, particularly from Virginia Roberts, that Ghislaine Maxwell – Epstein’s one time girlfriend and long-time property manager – also participated in sex in a similar way to Marcinkova. Maxwell – whose life and highly disreputable father could make up a post all on its own – was convicted of multiple sex trafficking charges on the strength of these and other accusations. It seems to be Maxwell who came up with the idea of using girls to recruit other girls. It seems that earlier on, Epstein’s staff would scout high schools and shopping malls for likely victims – a laborious and unreliable system. Setting up what the Palm Beach Police Department called “a sex abuse pyramid scheme” basically supercharged Epstein’s supply chain. On top of this, victims were trafficked both to and from the Virgin Islands – a US territory in the Caribbean. Additionally, Epstein had financed a modelling agency called Mc2, founded by Jean-Luc Brunel – a model scout who had multiple allegations of sexual abuse outstanding against him. Brunel would, according to sworn statements by Mc2 staff, procure girls as young as 13 from Europe and send them on various assignments, including to Epstein, where they were abused. Epstein’s relationships with these girls were complicated – not on their part, of course – they were all victims. But his grooming behaviour seems to indicate that somewhere in his own twisted mind he thought they were all his girlfriends and that he was some kind of Hugh Hefner style playboy. For those who regularly came back to him, lured by cash, or habituated to abuse, or both, Epstein would get involved in their lives. A search of one of his properties found a school report card, and he’d ordered one of his staff to send a bunch of flowers to one girl to congratulate her on her appearance in a high school performance. A couple of the victims interviewed by police claimed they were in love with him – a sure sign of manipulative grooming on Epstein’s part. This, coupled with his overfamiliar conduct at the Dalton School seem to suggest an interesting deformation of Epstein’s character – a sort of Peter Pan syndrome which chimes in well with the many descriptions of him as a fantasist and overall strange person.  

By Navin75 – Little St James Island, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92325416

The main hubs of what the Virgin Islands DoJ called “The Epstein Enterprise” were in New York, Palm Beach, Florida, and the US Virgin Islands. As already mentioned, Epstein had Manhattan’s largest single residential property, where Prince Andrew notoriously chose to stay just after Epstein’s indictment. The New York residence seems to be one of the two places Epstein did most of his entertaining, as well as a significant amount of child sex abuse. It’s an open question as to whether any of his New York guests participated in the abuse part, but the damning by association, combined with clear and categorical statements by the likes of Virginia Roberts, very strongly suggests that at least some of them did. Prince Andrew, for example, settled with Virginia Roberts for millions of pounds to settle a civil suit in which she claims she was basically pimped out to the royal for sex. Prince Andrew denies the charges, saying he was at Pizza Express and also that he couldn’t sweat at the time because he got PTSD in the Falklands War, so Virginia Roberts’ account of him sweating and grunting over her can’t be true. For legal reasons we have to say that there’s no evidence Prince Andrew engaged in sex with Virginia Roberts or any other victim of Epstein’s, though it’s difficult to say this without thinking about that photograph of the prince with his arm around Virginia’s waist. The mansion on the island of Palm Beach – an ultra-affluent community in Florida where, incidentally, Donald Trump has his famous club – was where Epstein seems to have been based, despite having a registered residential address in a yacht club in the Caribbean. Virginia Roberts – whose name was Virginia Giuffre [JOOF-ray] at the time – worked at Trump’s Mar a Lago when she was recruited as one of his victims. Palm Beach Police uncovered in excess of a hundred victims across a limited time span, so it seems that most of the industrialised child sexual abuse was happening here, though it’s hard to know for sure. The Virgin Islands seems to have seen quite a lot as well, with Epstein’s island nicknamed ‘Paedophile Island’ by locals. Epstein owned two of the Virgin Islands – Little St James and Great St James. As the names imply, these are adjacent to each other. Little St James is where Epstein’s infamous compound was, and Great St James was purchased by Epstein through service and holding companies as a way to make his activities on Little St James harder to surveil and monitor. This because Epstein was a registered sex offender at the time, and subject to routine monitoring by law enforcement – monitoring which he made virtually impossible by claiming that the jetty on Little St James was his front door, and that law enforcement officers couldn’t go beyond it without his permission. And also, by making any access to Great St James, which would have provided an excellent staging and observation post for surveillance of Epstein’s compound, almost impossible for law enforcement. The fact is, too, that the US Virgin Islands Department of Justice, as motivated and dedicated as they are, couldn’t really compete with Epstein’s resources – even according to their own civil complaint, Epstein was so wealthy he basically outgunned their enforcement mechanisms.  

We’re familiar with the basic mechanics of the operation – Epstein would use his own staff, his weird girlfriend-not-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, and his victims to scout for girls between the ages of 13 and 16. The Virgin Islands complaint states that he trafficked girls as young as 11, but this isn’t a proven allegation and even if true, which seems likely, it’s probably an anomaly. Epstein’s predations were so consistent, and he was so blatant about his preferences, it’s pretty easy to put him in a category which isn’t that interested in girls of that age. What he was interested in, however, was 13–16-year-old girls who looked younger, so it’s possible that his procurement mechanisms might occasionally snare an actually younger victim. He tended to target disadvantaged or otherwise marginalised girls – a classic predator move – probably as they tended to be less supervised and, more importantly, less socially powerful, and therefore less capable of bringing credible complaints against him. In terms of the sort of precautions one would expect from someone running an illegal enterprise, there were practically none. Epstein openly kept contact details of his underage victims in his various address books, including notations which indicated when they could be called and what for. He took photographs of his victims either naked, having sex with him, or with Nadia Marcinkova and displayed them around the house. He talked to people about it – even people like Michael Wolff, a journalist notorious for writing tell-all exposés about prominent people. According to Wolff, Epstein told him he liked young girls, to which Wolff replied that it might be better if he used the phrase ‘young women’. Even Donald Trump seems to have known about it, saying when asked about Epstein that he was a “terrific guy” who loved ladies “on the younger side”. At a dinner party once, Epstein floated the idea of using his ranch in New Mexico as a sort of baby farm by stocking it with young women and inseminating them with his DNA. As we said before, Epstein was a mysterious figure even to those closest to him, but pretty much the only thing people knew about him was that he liked young girls. So how in the hell did he get away with it for so long? Especially when the only precaution he and his co-conspirators seem to have taken was to occasionally tell victims to say they were 18. One answer might be the classic, “it was a different time”, but another might be that the people around him had an interest in protecting him.

Epstein is generally described as a financier, which basically means he would provide people with capital, either directly himself or through connections. This capital could be for starting up businesses, as in the case of Mc2 modelling, or for debt relief, as with the 24,000 pounds he provided to Prince Andrew and Princess Sarah so they could pay off their creditors. Or it could be used as simple investment, buying stakes in businesses as a means of generating passive income, or buying property or other assets either for the same reason or as a means of parking wealth. So far, so humdrum – I mean, from a certain point of view, if you own shares in anything, you could probably call yourself a financier. But as a powerful money man, Epstein knew where all the bodies were buried. He knew where the money was and, perhaps more importantly, exactly where it had come from. He knew details about people’s personal and business assets which gave him important insights into their lives, and especially those aspects of their lives they’d rather not have made public. He knew the highly sensitive tax arrangements of his billionaire clients, and apparently a fair amount of dirt about Bear Stearns, but more on that later. So, both literally and figuratively, Epstein’s day job potentially gave him a large amount of leverage. Added to this, he was also something of a ‘lion hunter’, meaning that he liked to collect wealthy, powerful, and distinguished friends. And not just in America. Ghislaine Maxwell, British socialite, and daughter of notorious newspaper man and terrible swimmer Robert Maxwell, was able to connect him to European elites, up to and including royalty. So Epstein was able to collect connections with the commercial, cultural, and political establishment at the highest levels on both sides of the pond. And ‘collect’ is exactly the word he used to describe his social activities in this sphere. If you were a highflyer in society, a talented celebrity, or a powerful politician or businessman, Epstein was interested in schmoozing you. The fact of him knowing ex-presidents and international luminaries also added to his untouchability. It was through these connections he was able to hire the kind of legal team OJ could only have dreamed of – some of them had worked for OJ, one of them had been special envoy to North Korea, and another was Alan Dershowitz – the grand old man of US law. Also in his team, ironically, was Kenneth Starr – the lawyer who had led the impeachment of Bill Clinton for sexual misconduct in the White House. He was also able to hire an army of private investigators he’d routinely use to coerce and intimidate witnesses, plaintiffs, and even law enforcement. To see all this in action, as well as the breathtaking dereliction of duty on the part of the Florida State authorities, let’s have a look at the investigators who brought Epstein down.

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THE LONG AND FEEBLE ARM OF THE LAW

In 2005, a disturbance broke out in a classroom at a school for troubled youths in Palm Beach. One of the girls had been found to have $300 in cash in her purse – more than a weeks’ wages and a princely sum for the mostly disadvantaged students. The girl was weeping, and her classmates were variously cheering or calling her a whore. When questioned, she confessed to having got the money by providing a massage to some old guy in a mansion. Her stepmother put in a frantic call to Detective Michele Pagan of the Town of Palm Beach Police Department, saying she had reason to believe her 14-year-old stepdaughter had been abused. She was so distraught she didn’t even leave a number for them to call her back on, but police tracked her down and the girl was brought in for an interview. She told them a tale of sexual activity with a creepy old silver-haired guy called Jeff. Nobody knows how Police made the connection, but one suspects it might be that some people already basically knew what was happening and who was doing it. In any event, they conducted a photo line-up and she identified Jeffrey Epstein. Before opening a major investigation, police went to the Office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. This step is usually taken to determine whether there’s sufficient prima facie evidence to merit the expenditure of resources required to conduct the inquiry. Or, to put that another way, to see if a successful prosecution is likely and, therefore, whether it’s worth expanding the scope – and the expense – of the inquiry. The US Attorney had never heard of Jeffrey Epstein but approved of the police force’s intention to throw the book at this child abuser and potentially get him a life sentence. They began their investigation and, contrary to what Casual Criminalist listeners and viewers might expect, it was absolutely stellar. In their first sweep they found more than fifty victims and all of them told pretty much the same story. Lead detective Joseph Recarey [ri-CAR-ee] reflected on what a strong case they’d built. They had handwritten phone messages from the girls recovered from Epstein’s garbage. They had flight logs and call logs which matched exactly with victim testimony and the days they were scheduled to give ‘massages.’ Police Chief Michael Reiter commented on the absolute mountain of witness testimony they had. [QUOTE] “This was not a ‘he said, she said’ situation. This was 50-something ‘shes’ and one ‘he’ — and the ‘shes’ all basically told the same story,’’ he told the Miami Herald. Girls who had never met each other – dozens of them – were giving nearly identical accounts of what had happened to them, even down to descriptions of Epstein’s genitalia, which is why I now know his penis was mushroom-shaped, and really wish I didn’t.

Everything seemed to be coming up roses – police had more than enough to lock Epstein up for life. And because the investigation had uncovered who this guy really was, his jet-setting lifestyle, and suspicions that powerful and wealthy people might be involved in what was potentially an international sex trafficking ring, the FBI was conducting a Grand Jury inquiry at the same time. Unfortunately, the investigation had uncovered who Epstein really was and the wealthy and powerful people connected to him, which began to prove a bit daunting for US Attorney Alexander Acosta. According to Detective Recarey, Acosta became increasingly lukewarm on the case and started putting pressure on the department to wrap things up. And despite an overwhelming pile of evidence warranting a wide-ranging and comprehensive prosecution, Acosta and his staff started negotiating a plea deal. This is inexplicable point number one. After Epstein’s arrest and searches of his properties and planes – one of which had a bed in it and was nicknamed ‘The Lolita Express,’ a mountain of physical evidence was added to the already formidable pile of testimony, corroborating records, and high value circumstantial evidence. It’s really difficult to understand why a deal was even on the table – any US Attorney eager for advancement should have been slathering for the chance to trumpet this case in court. A case like this was likely to be a slam dunk, a ratings extravaganza, and the sort of career stepping stone ambitious prosecutors dream of. So why, then, did Acosta schedule a breakfast meeting with Attorney Jay Lefkowitz 70 miles away from his own office (the customary place to negotiate deals) in the West Palm Beach Marriott? Perhaps the informal setting had something to do with the fact that Lefkowitz and Acosta had been past colleagues at Kirkland & Ellis, a high-profile Washington practice. Perhaps Lefkowitz, who’d been Special Envoy to North Korea, was just too busy to schlep it out to the US Attorney’s office like every other lawyer negotiating a plea deal. Or perhaps the Marriott served a special sort of breakfast especially conducive to productive negotiations. Whatever the reason, The US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alexander Acosta, struck a deal with Attorney for Jeffrey Epstein Jay Lefkowitz, by the time breakfast was done. This account, painstakingly researched and reconstructed by The Miami Herald, has since been denied by Acosta, and the DoJ formally ruled he was telling the truth, but where and when the deal was cut isn’t as important as what was in it.

And what a deal it was. Epstein would cop to a grand total of three state felony charges, two state charges of soliciting prostitution, and one for having sex with a minor, as well as registering as a sex offender. The minor in question, who was fourteen years old at the time of the offending, was labelled a child prostitute and actually threatened with prosecution, which is ludicrous. Florida did, at the time, have some old statutes which defined child prostitution as a crime with which a child could be charged, but it had long been superseded by various state and federal acts so that, in reality, child prostitutes – in the sense of children guilty of prostitution – don’t really exist in US law. But the use of this superseded bit of statute meant that Epstein wouldn’t be prosecuted on the more serious federal charge, which was child sex trafficking, and which carried a potential life sentence. He would also pay restitution to the thirty-six victims identified in the FBI probe – a mere fraction of his actual victims. On top of this, Epstein would serve thirteen months in a county jail. This was unusual as well – for state convictions, the guilty party would ordinarily go to state prison. The state prison system in Florida is pretty rough, and it’s likely that Epstein, going in as a convicted child abuser, might not come back out, or at least not in one piece. Whether or not that was a consideration we don’t know, but the fact is that for state charges, people generally go to state prison. It’s quite strange he was sent to county, and if nothing else, it’s another sign of the sweetheart treatment he was given by the authorities for a range of offences which really should have taken any kind of consideration off the table. In any event, the deal was cut over 2007 and 2008, and it’s noted in the records that Epstein provided quote, “valuable consideration” for information given to federal investigators. This is apparently cited as a reason for the leniency of his sentence. What information he gave isn’t known and given just how many skeletons he knew the whereabouts of it could have been almost anything. But it is a bit of a coincidence that the GFC was happening around this time, and that Epstein’s cited as a witness in a federal case against some Bear Stearns executives who oversaw big chunks of the massive mess which was the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market. The Bear executives were acquitted, which makes it doubtful the information was worthy of the “valuable consideration” label. Which leaves open the possibility Epstein was informing on another matter entirely, or that his testimony was used as part of the pretext for his unbelievably light sentence.

But the two most outrageous aspects of the deal were the fact that it was sealed, and the so-called ‘non-prosecution agreement’. First of all, the details of the deal, as well as the fact that it existed at all, was kept secret from the plaintiffs and their lawyers. Not only is this highly unusual – it’s actually unlawful. So the judge found in Courtney Wild’s case and, since then, “Courtney’s Law” – a bill she championed – has made it even more illegal, so to speak. Not just the law, but common sense and any sort of notion of natural justice make it necessary to inform the victims if the accused has received a plea deal. But the upshot of keeping this one dark was that, on the day the deal was formalised in court, not a single plaintiff was present to object to it or to see Epstein sentenced, as none of them knew it was happening. Also, somewhat strangely, a retired judge was substituted for the regular one on this particular day – another aspect of the case which has never been satisfactorily explained.

The most popular theories are that the regular judge was disgusted enough to simply refuse to ratify the deal, or that powerful forces manoeuvred a judge they knew would give the right ruling into the court specifically for that purpose. This is just speculation, though – the fact is that this is a strange thing that happened and we’ve no idea why. But by far the most egregious aspect is the non-prosecution agreement. At first glance, it might not seem so exceptional in granting immunity to co-conspirators in exchange for a guilty plea – this does happen from time to time. But the language of this one is, to every lawyer and legal expert who’s seen it, utterly baffling. And it’s pretty clear they’re only using words like ‘inexplicable’ and ‘baffling’, because lawyers aren’t generally comfortable with calling things like this ‘criminal’ or ‘sinister’. What the provision includes is immunity from federal prosecution not only for Epstein’s four co-conspirators, but also for every other co-conspirator or potential co-conspirator, named or unnamed. What this essentially means is that anybody at all who might have ben involved in Epstein’s offending – people who’d accepted offers of girls, which his accusers categorically state happened frequently – people who’d done logistics or transport, or basically anyone else who had anything to do with Epstein’s industrial scale, international child sex ring, would basically get off scot free. And further to that, the FBI’s Grand Jury Inquiry into powerful people who might have been involved in this international child sex ring would be shut down, because anyone they might be investigating would, by virtue of this deal, become immune to prosecution by federal authorities. So, to sum up: the US Attorney, Alex Acosta, agreed to a deal which ensured that the scope and range of Epstein’s offending would never be found out, that anyone who’d been involved with him would be protected, that the victims would not only have no opportunity to object, but would be effectively silenced, and the offender himself would get a slap on the wrist. Which isn’t really anyone’s interpretation of fearless advocacy on behalf of the people of the United States. Except, possibly, Alex Acosta’s.

Now there’s a lot of theory and speculation about how and why a deal like this would ever be cut. And this is one of those weird occasions when I’m simultaneously agreeing and disagreeing with the various conspiracy theorists out there. Most of them say that stuff like this is normal – par for the course – and that all government is like this. I’ve worked for and in government, and I happen to know it’s not. This is an exception – a shocking, startling, and outrageous exception. It’s not unique, by any means – I can think of three cases off the top of my head – two American and one British – where people in positions similar to Epstein have either mysteriously died, vanished, or sailed off into the blue yonder with full pockets and a new name. But it’s far from usual. Where I find myself agreeing with the conspiracy types is in their contention that there is some kind of conspiracy of silence going on here. Julie K Brown, the dauntless Miami Herald reporter who cracked this case wide open, was able to obtain communications between the prosecutors and Epstein’s lawyers. These revealed, in her words, “an unusual level of collaboration between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team that even government lawyers, in recent court documents, admitted was unorthodox.” In an interview given to NPR, Brown expanded on this, saying that she’d never before seen a case like this, where federal prosecutors seemed to be working with the defendants against the accusers. The reasons for this do seem pretty obvious, even if they can’t be proven to be true. High-profile business tycoons, shady and otherwise, celebrities, politicians, and even royalty are implicated in this case, and it’s probable that the language granting immunity to any “potential co-conspirators” was designed to protect them. There’s even a theory that Alan Dershowitz – Harvard Law professor and ultimate legal heavyweight – got the language included to protect himself. [N.B. DO NOT ACCUSE DERSHOWITZ OF ANYTHING]. Alan Dershowitz strenuously denies this and all involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s offending and was able to get his own name stricken from the records of the relevant civil actions which accused or mentioned him. Which tells us something, but what, we really couldn’t say.

As for Acosta, he says that he was simply outlawyered by the all-star bench Epstein’s unlimited funds allowed him to muster. To be fair to him, Epstein’s defence was hugely aggressive. Not only were his heavy hitter legal team all over the US Attorney’s office, the accusers, and their families, they hired a small army of private investigators. These people dug up dirt on the victims and their families, trawling through their social media accounts and criminal records – many of these girls had understandably gone off the rails or were never properly on the rails in the first place. They put them and their families under physical surveillance as well, in one instance tailing so aggressively they ran one of the victims’ parents off the road. They even paid visits to victims and their families, trying to coerce them into recanting their testimony through threats of dire consequences for going after such a powerful man. Now you might well think this sort of behaviour could constitute obstruction of justice or, at the very least, interfering in a police investigation – both of which are crimes. You’d be right, but astonishingly, nobody ever took any action to pursue these avenues, which emboldened the investigators so much that they began putting surveillance on the task force detectives and even the chief of police. So possibly Acosta was simply outgunned and outclassed, but there’s some things going against that, not least of which is the fact that prosecutors also threatened the victims. Remember that superseded statute about child prostitution? Multiple victims reported that prosecutors warned them they might be exposing themselves to criminal charges by testifying against Epstein. This isn’t independently verified, and Acosta denies this, but multiple victims make the claim. And then there’s the fact that an ambitious US Attorney whose reputation rests on him being an awesome lawyer presents as his excuse that he just wasn’t good enough at lawyering. This is just my personal opinion, but if your excuse for something is to trash your own reputation, then whatever you’re hiding – if indeed you’re hiding anything – must be pretty fucking bad. But of course, the DoJ found that Acosta wasn’t hiding anything, and had simply exercised “poor judgement” in agreeing to the deal. It also found that the breakfast meeting hadn’t been where the deal was cut, and that their main consideration had been to prevent more trauma for the victims by avoiding a lengthy trial, which might seem plausible until you consider the sheer scope of the offending uncovered by the Palm Beach Police and the FBI. At which point it becomes absolutely ludicrous. But that’s what the DoJ found, so I guess that’s the end of that. Unless anyone else out there happens to be an investigative journalist and wants to do a bit of digging.

Epstein then went off to do his very little bit of time, and it’s clear that his special treatment didn’t end with the deal the US Attorney so obligingly gave him. Early in the piece he applied for day release – something sex offenders aren’t really supposed to get – and was allowed to travel to a luxurious office he’d set up near the prison pretty well every day. During this period, Epstein bought children’s underwear right under the noses of the authorities – a childless sex offender allowed to leave prison every day and buy underpants which wouldn’t fit an adult woman is appalling enough, but there’s more. While there, he had full access to the internet and phones, and had also paid for a detail of sheriff’s department officers to escort him and function as a security team for him. They would drive him to his office, or even his home if he asked them to, and then sit outside, never coming in, just reading magazines, drinking coffee, and signing visitors in and out. Some of these visitors were young girls whom Epstein had called in for sex. When asked by the Miami Herald whether they’d ever questioned any of this, or even enquired as to the nature and purpose of these visits – for a registered sex offender accused of abusing young girls, no less – they simply replied that it wasn’t their job.

So what we’ve got here is three levels of law enforcement. The Town of Palm Beach Police Department – basically the city police – frankly and fearlessly attempted to do their jobs to the utmost of their ability. The Sherriff’s department – basically one level of government lower – allowed their officers to be hired out as bodyguards and chauffeurs for a prisoner. This isn’t an unheard-of arrangement – most police can be hired for special duties by private citizens – closing off roads for film crews or providing special protection, for example – but this one’s very on the nose. And then finally, and probably most egregiously, there’s the federal prosecutors – the very ones who are supposed to be the beacon of integrity in a justice system where local authorities are known to be more susceptible to corruption. The very authorities you go to when you suspect the lower levels of officialdom to be derelict in their duty or corrupt. These federal prosecutors committed a breathtaking dereliction of duty – at the very least – de-fanging the city police investigation and basically allowing a situation where a serial sex offender on a massive scale was able to do a life reset and continue offending, even while he was meant to be serving the ridiculously tiny sentence he’d been given. It’s very difficult not to conclude that the lightness of the sentence, and the ludicrously liberal conditions under which it was served, constituted a tacit approval of Epstein’s behaviour. The whole deal feels like frantic measures to just make the whole problem go away, as if the federal authorities involved were more worried about the embarrassment than they were committed to punishing something they truly thought was wrong. I say ‘feels like’ because that’s really what it does feel like, despite the fact that everyone involved, including Acosta, vehemently denies this. So I guess it’s up to you all to decide – was Acosta outlawyered by Epstein’s team, was he pressured by powerful groups or individuals, or was he unbothered by the industrial scale abuse of poor people? I know what I think, and it’s a combination of those three.  

Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K Brown had been following the case and got wind of the plea deal. Like every other sane human who saw it, she was utterly mystified as to how such a thing could have happened without a serious dereliction of duty on the part of the authorities, so she and her photographer Emily Michot got to work. She and her team at the Herald managed to locate sixty victims out of the eighty identified, and began doggedly contacting them, hoping to find some who’d be willing to go on the record. As she says herself in her book Perversion of Justice, which is well worth a read, this was difficult and emotionally harrowing work. Not only was she deadly afraid of re-traumatising these women, but there was also the fact that none of these people had any reason to trust any social institution ever again. They’d been betrayed in the worst conceivable way by the system and were likely to see the media – especially the mainstream media – as an element of that system which was just as rotten as the rest of it. Happily, eight of them agreed to speak with her, four of whom consented to giving interviews. She also began digging into the investigation and plea deal, making contact with lead detective and absolute legend Joseph Recarey, as well as ex-police chief Michael Reiter. She was able to obtain the previously sealed police reports, details of the plea deal, and a host of other information which pointed to a miscarriage of justice on a truly biblical scale. The amount of detail she was able to uncover was truly astonishing, and the fact that members of the Palm Beach PD cooperated with her is a heartening note in this story, and a testament to their dedication to obtaining justice for the victims. Julie describes Detective Recarey as “salt of the earth”, and a man who doesn’t care who you are – if you’ve committed a crime, he’s coming after you. She says he was absolutely furious about the plea deal and the fate of the case in general. Sadly, Joe Recarey died shortly after speaking to the Herald, so never got to see Epstein’s ultimate demise.

Once she’d gathered all her material, Julie published the first in a six-part series, also entitled Perversion of Justice, describing the extraordinary plea deal and recounting victim testimonies of Epstein’s offending. In the offices of the Miami Herald there’s a board which shows the most read news stories of the day. She recalls that the top story of that particular day was a piece about a woman who’d farted in a gas station, which is definitely the sort of article I’d click on immediately, so that’s understandable. They’re three days apart, so I’m guessing she didn’t actually check her piece until it had been up for a little while. The actual story was about a woman who farted in a grocery store and then pulled a knife on a customer who called her out for it. I found it, in case Jen wants to put it up: [link] Anyway, seeing her work at the bottom of the pile, she basically went about her business – as any good journalist does when once they’ve put out the story. Once it’s out there, it’s time to live your life for a bit, and then get onto the next story. But pretty soon, her story absolutely blew up. Julie’s charmingly surprised by this, but the fact is that it had all the elements of a blockbuster all along. The rich and famous, sex crimes, apparent or alleged or possible (running out of qualifying words here) perversion of the course of justice – it was the whole shebang. She recalls that when her story outstripped the farting woman piece, the whole newsroom applauded because, while all journalists will do the clickbait stuff because they have a crippling addiction to food and shelter, a good number of them still care about public interest reporting. Once the story came out, it rocked the establishment. This was a moment similar to the Boston Globe’s reporting on the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse coverups – a story which literally changed the world. This is impressive as it dropped in 2018 – a year when the entire news cycle was basically dominated by the Trump administration. In its favour, however, was the fact that this was the height of the #meetoo movement – Harvey Weinstein and others had just recently been exposed as sex predators, and the cultural moment was exactly right. And unlike other #metoo cases, this one wasn’t about actors, celebrities, or athletes, but was about the poor and disadvantaged – proof that the culture of harassment and abuse stretched across the full spectrum of society. Julie herself became an overnight celebrity, inundated with phone calls and emails, and has been the face of this story ever since, though she’s always quick to point out there’s large teams that have nothing to do with her still working on it to this day. More importantly, those victims who chose to speak – both initially to Julie Brown and later – were finally getting the public hearing they deserved. Quite a few people came under the microscope as a result of Julie’s reporting. Epstein, of course, and Alexander Acosta, architect of the 2008 plea deal and then Secretary of Labor under Donald Trump. Interestingly, Labor is one of the bigger departments in the US Federal Government, and human trafficking falls under its remit. Acosta resigned and began defending himself, and figures who’d been associates of Epstein, including Prince Andrew, President Trump, President Clinton, Alan Dershowitz, and many others, began fielding questions about whether they’d been preying on young girls all this time. This was also around the time people outside of the UK first started hearing about Ghislaine Maxwell, architect of the Epstein Enterprise when it first entered its “full production” phase. Other journalists, many of whom claim to have been stymied or obstructed in their inquiries, either by Epstein’s goons or, allegedly, their own editors, began belatedly publishing their own stories, and serious scrutiny was applied to how sections of the media protect the evil and the corrupt, so long as they’re also rich and powerful. But probably most importantly, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York – a district famous for taking on tough, high-profile cases – began the process which would finally see Epstein indicted on the correct federal charges and facing the correct potential penalty – life imprisonment.

We all know how this story ends. Epstein was arrested returning from an international journey – one of many which he, incidentally, hadn’t reported despite being required to as a registered sex offender. A new indictment was filed – an extremely broad and general one which covered the whole scope of his offending as it was known to have occurred within the continental US – and Epstein was locked up in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre, or MCC. Then, on August 10, 2019, Epstein was found dead in his cell. This devastated his victims, who had once again had their day in court cruelly snatched from them. Some would still get it, though, as the Southern District of New York simply shifted its prosecution to long-time Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell. When Maxwell tried to cite the non-prosecution provisions in the Acosta deal, the New York Southern District simply shrugged them off, arguing successfully that they weren’t bound by the terms of that deal. This is probably bad news for the likes of Sarah Kellen and Nadia Marcinkova. In any event, Maxwell went to trial and some of Epstein’s victims were finally able to accuse her, and him, of the crimes which had been committed against them. Maxwell was convicted of five counts relating to sexual trafficking of and activity with minors and is due to be sentenced later in 2022. As she’s now sixty odd, and the likely sentence is in the neighbourhood of forty years, the likeliest outcome is that she’ll spend the rest of her life behind bars.

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WHO ELSE WAS INVOLVED?

I said at the top that we weren’t going to entertain the idea that Epstein was part of a global conspiracy to harvest the blood of abused children for satanic rituals, and we aren’t – that’s just madness. But what we are going to entertain is the idea behind that idea – that the rich and powerful will co-ordinate and co-operate to take advantage of the poor and powerless, or at the very least connive at protecting each other from the consequences of their actions. This is something we know to be true, as we’ve seen it over and over again – as much as Western countries like to talk about being nations of laws, the fact is that this is only a relative statement. For the most part, and compared with dictatorships and banana republics, the law applies equally to all citizens, at least in theory. But it is objectively true that the rich and powerful can and will circumvent legal penalties, organising amongst their little clubs and finding ways to soften or avoid legal sanctions entirely. The most basic interpretation of Epstein’s treatment through most of his life is just that. He was able to get away with it for so long and was so surprised when he was finally brought to account, simply because there’s one law for the rich and one for the poor. This isn’t technically true, but it does, in fact, often work out that way, especially when participation in the legal process is paid for by the hour. I don’t think this entirely explains that first deal, however, and the fact of Epstein’s final imprisonment actually stands as proof that our social institutions can work. Eventually. The media, as represented by the Herald reporters, did their job by scrutinising something fishy in government. When it was exposed, the full machinery of the state kicked in to correct what should never have been fumbled in the first place. There’s almost certainly more to this than the effect of social inequality, though. What’s truly disturbing about the Epstein case is the extent to which the world’s elite was implicated in his wrongdoing. Epstein had many powerful friends, and he entertained them frequently in all of the places where he did most of his offending. On top of that, he was open about his tastes – even to the extent of displaying pictures of his victims – and many of these have given sworn statements to the effect that they were expected to have sex with Epstein’s friends and associates.

So was Epstein a pimp for the rich and famous? The problem here is there’s no evidence for it, in the sense that there’s nothing we can point to as a smoking gun. At least, not in any way which would pan out in a criminal court or would protect us from a libel action. This absence of evidence can, however, be construed as suspicious in itself, especially given how much of the investigation into Epstein remains under seal, despite the sterling efforts of investigative reporters around the world. What we do have is the accusations of people like Virginia Roberts – and it’s definitely not just her – whom we know to have been victimised by Epstein. We also have flight logs from his private planes, phone records, and his digital address book, from which it’s clear that very prominent people in business, entertainment, and politics were frequent visitors at his houses, his island, and his ranch. It’s really difficult to believe that they went to parties and for long visits at Epstein’s properties and didn’t notice all the young women hanging about. It’s even unlikely they didn’t notice Epstein using these girls for sex three times a day. Michael Wolff noticed girls in their late teens or early twenties forming part of Epstein’s entourage when they flew off to Palm Beach, and there are plenty of other accounts of his “masseurs”, and of topless girls on swings or posing by the pool. When you put this together with the vagina soaps and naked pictures on the walls, the whole vibe must have felt like the last days of Sodom, and it strains credulity to breaking point to imagine these people didn’t know what all this meant. It certainly did for the FBI, who centred their whole investigation on the involvement of prominent members of the US establishment and were looking likely to seriously embarrass and possibly even convict some of them, until Acosta’s deal shut the whole thing down. And in terms of the civil complaints – and we need to tread carefully here – some of those complaints dealing with Epstein associates have been settled. Prince Andrew’s case is one worth looking at. Virginia Roberts publicly accused him of raping her on three occasions in three different locations, which he denied, and for which she sued him. Andrew’s lawyers tried every trick in the book, attempting to get the whole complaint dismissed, refusing interviews with US authorities, and trying to argue that her original $500,000 payout from Epstein indemnified him against further litigation. When all these failed, Andrew’s lawyers settled for what’s been reported as sixteen million USD. It’s possible this settlement was undertaken merely to avoid further embarrassment to the royal family, but it’s also plausible to think that nobody who’s innocent – no matter how wealthy – will drop that much money on a case they think they’ll win. Or agree to a sealed settlement and perpetual doubt about their guilt if they think there’s a reasonable chance they’ll be acquitted and vindicated before the entire world.

The publication of Epstein’s address book – another sordid episode in this sordid case – must have had some very powerful people getting very nervous indeed. They must have squirmed at the idea of their own personal details being mixed in with those of underage girls and young women whom Epstein would routinely call for sexual services. And they must have been hugely relieved when the butler who managed to scan it before Epstein could destroy it was jailed for trying to sell it to the highest bidder – a circumstance which meant the contents weren’t actually available at the height of the investigation into Epstein’s network. Leland Nally, a writer for Mother Jones, undertook the herculean task of calling everyone in the book. Of course, in a sample of more than 1500 numbers, some were going to be wrong, and some reallocated, but he did manage to talk with some of Epstein’s oldest friends, in amongst getting brushed off by the flunkies of the global elite. What emerges is a layered picture, where only a very few people seem to have known the full extent of what he and Ghislaine Maxwell were doing. One of Epstein’s oldest friends – a woman with no real public profile and therefore no expensive ass to cover – said that Epstein’s MO was basically to track down rich or famous men and introduce them to a girl. He liked to have lots of girls around as a symbol of his power and his party time playboy image, and he’d use this to impress people. This chimes in with that notorious video of Donald Trump and Epstein ogling young women at a party. But the majority of the people in Epstein’s address book had only met him a couple of times at most, a good number were astonished they were in there at all, and those who knew Ghislaine Maxwell said they thought the book looked a hell of a lot more like her address book than his. It seems the book was just another aspect of Epstein’s collecting of prominent people – a sort of systematic social climbing, powered by Ghislaine Maxwell’s connections to the aristocracy. Which makes the idea of it as evidence of a global child abuse conspiracy amongst the one world oligarchy a little bit hard to swallow. What’s more likely is that for most of the people involved with Epstein, ordinary, everyday sleaze was going on. And if they were paying to participate in that sleaze anywhere in the US, then in a just world they’d be prosecuted for it.

But none of this takes away from some particularly damning associations. Trump and Clinton keep coming up – Trump because he was good friends with Epstein for quite a long time, and Clinton because he visited Little St James several times – a distinction which hardly any of Epstein’s associates could lay claim to. When we look at the evidence against Donald Trump, it’s actually pretty thin insofar as child abuse goes. One accuser in particular claims Trump and Epstein raped her when she was 13, but it’s really difficult to get at the merits of that claim. Beyond this admittedly very serious allegation, there’s not much to suggest that the two of them were doing anything beyond being sleazy old pervs together – immoral and nauseating behaviour? Yes, almost certainly. But serious sexual offences? Apart from that single accuser, and the fact that multiple women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct and assault, there isn’t anything we can grab hold of, so to speak. It really doesn’t look good, though, and it’s pretty certain that so long as people keep digging into Epstein’s past – as they currently are – that this picture might one day change. As for Bill Clinton, it’s a similar, if somewhat worse, situation. Clinton has a record of promiscuity and sexual misconduct. It’s also widely claimed he’s repeatedly gotten away with sexual assault, and these claims aren’t easy to dismiss as wild fabrication. In fact, the accusations against both Clinton and Trump have a disturbing consistency to them. In Clinton’s case there isn’t really anything pointing to a fixation with underaged girls, particularly, beyond the fact he seems to have had a similar preference for youth, but this isn’t anywhere near as uniform as Epstein’s known proclivities. This, combined with his multiple visits to Little St James, and his frequent flights on Epstein’s plane, make for a highly disturbing set of circumstances. In terms of solid evidence, though, there’s practically none, and unlike some other prominent people connected with the Epstein case, I haven’t been able to find any credible accusers who name Bill Clinton. In fact, investigators say again and again that there’s nothing to link Clinton to the sex trafficking and abuse cases. Which brings us once again back to the idea of ordinary, everyday sleaze – bad enough in itself, but not on the scale of Epstein’s offending.

There are also wild rumours abounding around the nature of Epstein’s connections to the elite. We know that his town house and compound on the island were all rigged for video, and it’s been posited several times that Epstein was able to get away with it for so long because he had copious blackmail material, and that his death meant it could all be made to go away. This is plausible, but impossible to prove. And then there’s the rumours he was some kind of spy. One book claims that Acosta, in trying to explain the plea deal to an associate, said he was told to back off because Epstein was “connected to intelligence”. This claim hasn’t been corroborated and may very well be either error or fabrication. But it could also be true – it’s plausible: someone like Epstein would make a fantastic intelligence asset. The access he had to world elites, combined with the absolute shedload of compromising material an intelligence officer could use to “turn and burn” him, make him absolutely perfect. But against this is the problem that he spent a fair amount of effort posing as a sort of James Bond figure. He kept a loaded pistol in his bathroom, and would, in the words of one of his friends, “talk stupid shit to make himself seem more interesting than he really was”, some of that “stupid shit” being dark hints that he was a spy. This doesn’t invalidate the idea, but it does call into question whether the rumour arose from a kernel of truth, or from Epstein’s own fantasy of himself. And as a general rule, people who are really spying on people don’t tend to say that they are. There are exceptions of course – the MI5 officer who tried to avoid a fare-jumping fine by shouting, “You can’t do this, I’m a spy!” springs to mind – but for the most part, it’s true. What seems most likely to be true here is that a small group of high-status people were possibly compromised by their association with Epstein, and potentially by the things they did while associated with him. And an even smaller number appear to have been directly involved in the web of sexual transgression and abuse surrounding him. Where almost everyone concerned is implicated, however, is in turning a blind eye to his misdeeds. Whether or not they knew the full extent of them, even the stuff he did which was mostly or borderline legal was pretty disgusting, and those who knew him are right to be ashamed of their association, and of the fact they didn’t have a problem with a rich guy sexually exploiting the young and the poor. But the fact of the matter is that entry into the world’s elites isn’t necessarily a meritocracy. There’s plenty of dumb, shallow, incompetent people who stumble into real wealth and power – usually by exploiting human relationships or, to put that another way, sucking up to people and doing their dirty work for them. There are strong indications that’s how Epstein himself got his foot in the door. It’s the reality of just how silly, shallow, and self-obsessed Epstein’s circle was that speaks most strongly against an organised global conspiracy. What seems much more likely is that Epstein and Maxwell created an assembly line of sex abuse for their own dark reasons, and their silly and venal friends either didn’t care, tried to ignore it, or, in a few cases, got involved.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MCC_New_York_jeh.JPG#/media/File:MCC_New_York_jeh.JPG

DID JEFFREY EPSTEIN KILL HIMSELF?

The last chapter of Julie K Brown’s book, Perversion of Justice, is entitled, “Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself”. As we’re probably all aware, this particular sentence was all over social media for quite a long time, and it’s such a controversial topic that it’s well worth devoting a section to it by itself. There are quite a few people who are 100% sure that Epstein either definitely did, or definitely didn’t kill himself. All I can say is that I envy their assurance. It’d be really nice to be able to settle the issue definitively and say, once and for all, that Jeffrey Epstein was killed by Satanist ninjas hired by Bill Clinton, or something to that effect. But the real situation is much messier than that. We can, of course, all believe what we want, but the available evidence doesn’t really allow us to prove anything one way or another. The question, “Was Jeffrey Epstein murdered?” isn’t a very productive one, as there’s no evidence for it. None whatsoever. “Did Jeffrey Epstein kill himself?” is a better question, though, as there’s quite a bit of circumstantial evidence which raises significant doubts about whether he did or not. In fact, Epstein’s death – ruled a suicide by hanging by the coroner – stinks to high heaven. There are so many factors which render it improbable that the only rational position is to have serious doubts as to whether his suicide was unassisted, or whether it was a suicide at all.

It’s important to note, however, some important factors in favour of the suicide theory. Firstly, there’s the fact that the Metropolitan Correctional Centre, where Epstein was locked up, was a farcically poorly run facility. When Epstein was processed into custody, for example, he was listed as black and with no prior sex offences. People have since said that this was to obscure his identity, but that makes no sense. Obscure it from whom? And why, if they were trying to hide his identity, didn’t they just register him under a different name? And what would have been the point, anyway, for a man whom everybody in the country had seen on television, online, and in newspapers – even the prisoners would likely have recognised him immediately, his face had been splashed around so much and for so long. And besides which, media reports show him being taken to the facility, so the whole idea is ridiculous. The hugely incompetent running of the prison does take away some of the weight of the argument that killing himself would have been physically impossible, given the level of supervision he was under. The problems with this idea are that people manage to kill themselves in prison all the time, and that apart from the time he was on suicide watch, there wasn’t really that much extra monitoring of Epstein, despite his high profile and high-risk status. And then there’s the 1953 Foundation. 1953 is Epstein’s birth year in case you’re wondering about the name. Anyway, the 1953 Foundation was set up and filled with a huge amount of Epstein’s assets a few days before his death. The Virgin Islands DoJ claims this was an attempt to hide his wealth from seizure or civil claimants, and to be fair, it was set up through numerous intermediaries and holding companies. But the problem with that is that all of Epstein’s money management worked this way – he was obsessed with privacy. The holdings he was trying to hide are, for all we know mostly still hidden, but the ones he more or less openly used were typically squirrelled away into arcane labyrinthine cat’s cradles of corporate obfuscation. Other reporters have commented that this consolidation of a large bulk of his assets – basically all his openly held and known ones – into one place could be interpreted as him cleaning house. Like a jumper writing a note, tidying the house, and taking off their spectacles before they leap off a tall building sans parachute or superpowers. This is interesting, but it’s not particularly compelling. Because it’s equally likely he gathered these assets into a foundation to protect the rest from litigation – basically, this little fact could just as easily be interpreted either way. This is what’s so maddening about Epstein’s death – the fact that it’s so hard to grab onto anything solid or conclusive.

We’re on more solid ground with the circumstances of the death itself, however. As badly run as the MCC was, the whole thing still looks unbelievably silly. Epstein was supposed to be in the Special Housing Unit, or SHU, on suicide watch, as he’d already made an attempt on his own life. The SHU conditions mandate he be placed with a cellmate and that he be checked on every 15 minutes. Then, the night before his death, he was transferred back to his cell. Both of the guards tasked with watching his wing managed to fall asleep at the crucial time, and of the three cameras covering the area, two were inoperable and the third produced what was described as ‘unusable footage’. The two guards, who also falsified records to say they’d conducted mandatory checks, were given 100 hours of community service and a non-custodial sentence – an oddly light penalty for being responsible for the death of such a high value prisoner. While the coroner ruled the death as suicide, determining Epstein had hanged himself with a bed sheet, there were wire-like lacerations on the neck, but no blood on the sheet, and the hyoid bone – which is usually untouched by hanging – was fractured. A medical expert hired by Epstein’s brother registered the opinion that he’d been strangled.

On the other hand, one of Epstein’s fellow inmates, who’d become somewhat close to him, claimed that all the signs were there, saying that he’d gone into his cell one day and found him eating his dinner on the floor “because it was easier”. He says he knew then that Epstein had given up on life. I say that’s pretty flimsy. No individual piece of evidence here can be taken as conclusive proof that Epstein either was or wasn’t murdered – no, not even the hyoid bone thing or the lacerations. But put all together, it’s highly suspicious. I don’t think any reasonable person can say, with absolute certitude, that Epstein just decided to kill himself. Sure, he’d attempted suicide already, and sure, the MCC was so shambolically run that it could explain the cameras. And as for the guards, I’ve personally worked with sentries and found many of them to be constantly trying to bunk off for a nap and falsifying their records of rounds and logs of observation. The conjunction of all these factors, however, converging on the exact time of Epstein’s death, combined with the highly unusual post-mortem details, cast serious doubt on the coroner’s verdict. There was a large and powerful group of people who would have found Epstein’s death convenient, and some of them were more capable than either Donald Trump or Bill Clinton of the kind of skulduggery needed to pull the levers on someone in prison. And then there’s the fact that Jean-Luc Brunel, allegedly a procureur of underage models for Epstein and in French prison on rape and other charges, apparently hanged himself in his cell with a bedsheet less than three years later. We’ve got to stress here that nothing has been proven about any of this, but as we say in Australia, this doesn’t really “pass the pub test”, and I think it’s eminently reasonable to be highly suspicious of this highly suspicious chain of circumstances. Julie K Brown and others believe that Epstein’s death may have been a sort of assisted suicide. Let’s say you’re a rich and powerful person who’s likely to be compromised by an Epstein trial. And let’s further say you hear the guy’s already suicidal – that he’s been trying to kill himself unsuccessfully. It’d be reasonable, if you had the means, to reach into a fantastically corrupt and incompetent prison, and make it a bit easier for Epstein to do what he’s already tried to do. That’s a favoured theory among many, and like we’ve repeatedly said, there’s no real evidence for it. All the evidence really points to is doubt, so I guess we’ll just have to watch what happens to Ghislaine Maxwell, and hope that one of the many Freedom of Information requests – or perhaps the thirty year rule – will one day reveal the actual truth, whatever that might be.

DISMEMBERED APPENDICES

  1. Jeffrey Epstein is survived by his brother, Mark Epstein, a prominent businessman and philanthropist. Mark isn’t accused of being involved in his brother’s wrongdoing and has even been involved in the process of setting up Jeffrey Epstein’s estate’s victim restitution fund. Having said all that, some tabloids have pointed out he ran a modelling agency, allowed Epstein to house models in some of his real estate, and has a very slightly chequered business past. On balance, though, it seems Mark Epstein’s clean, and genuinely disturbed by what his brother did and by what happened to him.
  2. Apart from Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s alleged accomplices are still at large and, until a court tests the idea, in theory immune from prosecution. The strap-on lady, Nadia Marcinkova, for example, is a commercial pilot and high-profile Instagram personality. Her business appears to have been seed funded by Epstein. Sarah Kellen, who’s described by many victims from the pre-Maxwell era as the factotum who organised their “massage appointments” and showed them to the massage room or bedroom, is an interior designer married to a NASCAR driver. Her business was also registered to an Epstein property – Mark’s, not Jeffrey’s.
  3. Epstein reportedly donated $100,000 to Ballet Florida’s massage fund, as daily massages are an important part of any professional dancer’s routine. It’s interesting, if a bit creepy, to think that Epstein’s own obsession with massages may have prompted him to think of this otherwise somewhat random means of charitable giving.
  4. Those of Epstein’s closest associates who have agreed to speak with journalists have often defended his actions. Some, including the parent of a girl Epstein paid for sex but who never made a complaint, suggest that his generous payments make the whole arrangement not only morally fine, but commonplace. Others say that relations between older men and young girls only became taboo recently, and that Epstein’s a victim of changing times and #metoo hysteria. Needless to say, neither the law, basic morality, or common sense agree with these points of view.
  5. There are dozens of civil complaints still outstanding against the Epstein estate, and Ghislaine Maxwell’s conviction is likely to trigger even more. Civil trials differ from criminal trials in the way they deal with evidence, and much of what we know about Epstein’s operation come from the unsealing of criminal evidence as part of civil proceedings. If this continues, there’s actually a chance that much of the mystery and suspicion around who exactly was involved, and how exactly Epstein died, may come out in the not-too-distant future. I for one hope it does, and that those involved are held accountable for their disgusting crimes.

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