July 9, 2019

CHARLES LIPSON: Jeffrey Epstein’s Lolita Express and the art of unequal justice.

The billionaire financier was already convicted of similar crimes in 2008 and received a very light sentence. Epstein’s plea bargain ended the earlier investigation before any of his friends were implicated. That won’t happen again. The floodlights are on this one.

In 2008, the prosecution negotiated the plea deal while it kept victims in the dark. The underage girls Epstein exploited were not notified in advance about the agreement or allowed to object. A federal judge recently ruled the case was mishandled and the victims should have been heard.

The old case resonates today, not only because the new charges echo the old ones but because the US attorney in charge then, Alex Acosta, is now secretary of labor. The unusual deal had to be approved in Washington, though it is still unclear which Department of Justice officials gave it the green light or why. We’ll undoubtedly learn more about the old case as the new one unfolds.

One thing is certain about the new charges. They will not proceed quietly through the courts, away from inquiring eyes. This time, they are front-page news. The DoJ has already devoted serious attention to them, and they won’t be interested in a backroom deal.

Good.

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