Sun-Sentinel: Lawmakers aim to stop secret deals like Jeffery Epstein’s
Proposed new federal penalties for prosecutors, coupled with new powers for judges, are designed to prevent a repeat of Jeffrey Epstein’s secret plea deal.SUN SENTINEL
Lawmakers aim to stop secret deals like Jeffery Epstein’s
By Anthony Man
Proposed new federal penalties for prosecutors, coupled with new powers for judges, are designed to prevent a repeat of Jeffrey Epstein’s secret plea deal.
Epstein was a wealthy Palm Beach resident who abused dozens of teenage girls. He received a plea deal from prosecutors without the knowledge of the victims. When disclosed later, it produced a torrent of outrage, including members of Congress who call it a gross injustice.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward/Miami-Dade County Democrat, and U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, are introducing the Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2020 on Friday.
Wasserman Schultz and Sensenbrenner said in statements about their legislation that they wanted to fix problems that allowed the now-infamous Epstein case to unfold the way it did.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Florida entered into a non-prosecution agreement in 2008 that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to a state court charge and serve a 13-month jail sentence, from which he was granted work release privileges, avoiding multiple, more serious federal charges.
Dozens of victims never knew about the agreement and didn’t have a chance to object.
When details emerged years later, Alex Acosta, who had been the U.S. attorney who had presided over that deal, was forced to resign his post as President Donald Trump’s labor secretary in 2019.
A key provision of the proposed law would add a notice requirement to ensure prosecutors notify victims of their rights. Judges would be able to remove or sanction prosecutors who violated the rules.
The proposal would also establish an office for crime victims’ rights to investigate violations.
A federal attorney who knowingly violates a crime victim’s rights would be subject to discipline, including termination, and referral to the bar association for action against the attorney’s law license.
The Justice Department will have to report complaints received by crime victims, and how they’re resolved.
Wasserman Schultz was one of the earliest critics of Acosta’s performance in the Epstein case.
In the fall of 2018, she was the lead member of Congress on a letter asking the inspector general at the Justice Department to investigate the matter. The House Oversight Committee, where she is a member, is examining the circumstances of Epstein’s deal.
“If federal prosecutors re-victimize innocent victims — as Epstein’s horrific plea deal did — they must be held accountable, in a timely fashion,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. "His victims deserve to know that no one will suffer the way they have again.”
Sensenbrenner was the chief architect of landmark legislation that significantly expanded the rights of federal crime victims. He is a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
He said in a statement that the legislation would ensure that that crime victims are not mistreated by bad-intentioned prosecutors” and provides mechanisms for the Justice Department to “identify and root out abuse and corruption.”
To read the original story, click here.
Receive regular email updates from Debbie