Epstein died of an apparent suicide in a New York jail last August as he was awaiting trial on newly filed federal charges that he trafficked underage teenage girls for sexual purposes.
The majority on the appeals court panel said the federal trial court judge in Florida erred when he ruled that prosecutors — including Acosta — violated the Crime Victims Rights Act by keeping victims in the dark about the deal where federal officials agreed not to charge Epstein if he pleaded guilty to a pair of related charges in state court of soliciting prostitution.
However, the 11th Circuit’s ruling was far from a complete vindication for Acosta, as it found that prosecutors appeared to have intentionally misled victims about the deal, even though the court ultimately concluded that deceit is not illegal.
“We hold that at least as matters currently stand — which is to say at least as the CVRA is currently written — rights under the Act do not attach until criminal proceedings have been initiated against a defendant, either by complaint, information, or indictment,” Judge Kevin Newsom wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Gerald Tjoflat.
“Because the government never filed charges or otherwise commenced criminal proceedings against Epstein, the CVRA was never triggered. It’s not a result we like, but it’s the result we think the law requires,” Newsom added.
Newsom called the case “beyond scandalous” and “a tale of national disgrace.” He also ascribed fault in various directions, accusing prosecutors of apparent “mistreatment” of the victims.
And the judge even swung at the “national media” for having “essentially ignored” Epstein’s case for more than a decade, notwithstanding numerous reports about it in POLITICO, the Daily Beast and elsewhere.
The dissenter on the three-judge panel, Judge Frank Hull, said the actions by Acosta’s office constituted “egregious” violations of the victims’ rights law.
“The Majority’s contorted statutory interpretation materially revises the statute’s plain text and guts victims’ rights under the CVRA. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in the CVRA’s plain text requires the Majority’s result,” wrote Hull.
The decade-plus litigation challenging prosecutors’ action and seeking to overturn Epstein’s deal with the Feds was brought by Epstein victim Courtney Wild and another woman who remains anonymous in court papers.
A lawyer for the women, Brad Edwards, expressed disappointment in the decision and vowed to ask the full bench of the appeals court to weigh in.
“It is clear that even the majority detested the government’s treatment of the victims but apparently felt there was a loophole in the CVRA that the prosecutors and Epstein successfully exploited,” Edwards said in an email to POLITICO. “For all the reasons given in the 60-page dissenting opinion, we strongly disagree with today’s ruling — which leaves victims like Ms. Wild without any remedy, even for victims like her who have been ‘affirmatively misled’ by federal prosecutors. We will be seeking rehearing en banc before the full Eleventh Circuit.”
Newsom was appointed by President Donald Trump. Tjoflat is an appointee of President Gerald Ford. Hull was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigation into the handling of the Epstein probe a decade ago is ongoing.