EXCLUSIVE: How sloppy federal prosecutors who agreed to Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal were played so well by the pedophile’s lawyers they didn’t even realize they were giving immunity to Ghislaine Maxwell, new report claims
- An explosive new report reveals that the prosecutors from Florida thought they were only giving legal protection to four female Epstein associates
- They later admitted that it ‘never dawned’ on them the immunity clause was also designed to protect alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell
- Epstein’s lawyers persuaded them to use language so loose it could also apply to the British socialite, who allegedly procured girls as young as 14 for him
- An attorney working for Epstein had a prior relationship with one of the prosecutors and told him to ‘do us a solid (favor)’ to let Epstein off easy in 2007
- The stunning blunder features in a report by the Department of Justice’s internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility
- It reveals in unprecedented detail the errors that led to Epstein serving just 15 months in jail in 2007 despite the FBI identifying dozens of potential victims
Federal prosecutors who agreed to Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal were played so well by the pedophile’s lawyers they didn’t even realize they were giving immunity to Ghislaine Maxwell.
An explosive new report reveals that the prosecutors from the Southern District of Florida (SDFL) thought they were only giving legal protection to four female Epstein associates.
They later admitted that it ‘never dawned’ on them the immunity clause was also designed to protect Maxwell, who is accused of being Epstein’s chief recruiter.
Epstein’s lawyers persuaded them to use language so loose it could also apply to the British socialite, who is due to stand trial next year for allegedly procuring girls as young as 14 for him.
The stunning blunder features in a report by the Department of Justice’s internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which has not been released in full but DailyMail.com has seen a copy.
A new report claims that federal prosecutors who agreed to Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal were played so well by the pedophile’s lawyers they didn’t even realize they were giving immunity to Ghislaine Maxwell
The stunning blunder features in a report by the Department of Justice’s internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility. Ghislaine was finally taken into custody in July. Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York speaks at a news conference announcing charges against Ghislaine Maxwell
It reveals in unprecedented detail the errors that led to Epstein serving just 15 months in jail in 2007 despite the FBI identifying dozens of potential victims.
Among the other revelations is that the SDFL failed to obtain Epstein’s computers and surveillance tapes from inside his houses even though they could have proved he was in possession of child pornography.
The prosecutor in charge of the case thought that the material ‘would have put this case completely to bed’ and given them evidence to put Epstein away for years.
An attorney working for Epstein had a prior relationship with one of the prosecutors and told him to ‘do us a solid (favor)’ and get his boss to suggest giving Epstein just two years in jail, the report says.
A senior prosecutor was so cozy with Epstein lawyer Jay Lefkowitz he told him he ‘enjoyed’ working with him and that ‘Mr Epstein was fortunate to have such excellent representation’.
The report reveals in unprecedented detail the errors that led to Epstein serving just 15 months in jail in 2007 despite the FBI identifying dozens of potential victims
The OPR report was commissioned by Attorney General William Barr in early 2019 after the Miami Herald’s devastating investigation into Epstein’s plea deal, called Perversion of Justice.
Journalists began their inquiries after the US Attorney who signed off on Epstein’s agreement, Alex Acosta, was appointed by Donald Trump as his Labor Secretary meaning he would be in charge of US government policy on human trafficking.
The series of stories helped lead to Epstein’s arrest in August last year and he hanged himself in prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges – Acosta was forced to resign.
The OPR report was designed to look into whether or not any of the prosecutors engaged in corruption or professional misconduct.
The report concludes that did not happen, partly because the bar was that prosecutors ‘intentionally or recklessly violated a clear and unambiguous standard’.
However over 350 pages it digs up profound and disturbing questions about the handling of the case.
The most troubling is the handling of the immunity clause in the non prosecution agreement (NPA), the deal Epstein signed to make federal charges disappear.
Instead he would plead guilty in state court to two felony prostitution charges, be sentenced to 18 months in jail and register as a sex offender.
Under the immunity clause, which was suggested by Epstein’s lawyers who haggled repeatedly over the language, four women were also given protection from prosecution.
They were Sarah Kellen, who was allegedly one of his main recruiters, Nadia Marcinkova, an alleged sex slave, Adriana Ross, one of his associates, and Lesley Groff, who is said to have been his New York based assistant.
All the women have subsequently denied any wrongdoing and some have said they are victims.
The final language of the immunity clause was: ‘The United States agrees that it will not institute any criminal charges against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein, including but not limited to (the four women)’.
The wording was loose enough that it applied to Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend who his victims have claimed ran his sex trafficking operation – she has denied the allegations against her.
Yet Jeffrey Sloman, the First Assistant US Attorney in the SDFL, told the OPR that it ‘never occurred to him that the reference to potential co-conspirators was directed toward any of the high-profile individuals who were at the time or subsequently linked’.
Sarah Kellen was given immunity in Epstein’s deal She was accused of playing a pivotal role in Epstein’s predatory empire: procuring girls, coaching them on how to pleasure the warped financier and acting as a ‘lieutenant’ to his alleged madame, Ghislaine Maxwell (pictured together in 2005)
Under the immunity clause, which was suggested by Epstein’s lawyers who haggled repeatedly over the language, four women, including Lesley Groff (left) and Nada Marcinkova (right), were also given protection from prosecution
Ann Marie Villafaña, the Assistant US Attorney who was in charge of the case, said that apart from the four named women they had not much evidence on ‘any other potential co-conspirators’.
She said: ‘So, we wouldn’t be prosecuting anybody else, so why not include it?….I just didn’t think that there was anybody that it would cover’.
She conceded to OPR that she ‘did not catch the fact that it could be read as broadly as people have since read it’.
Villafaña said that at the time she told a colleague: ‘I don’t think it hurts us’.
Villafaña told the OPR that Epstein’s lawyers told her that he wanted to ‘make sure that he’s the only one who takes the blame for what happened’.
Villafaña and her colleagues believed Epstein’s conduct was his own ‘dirty little secret’ and appear to have missed the fact that Maxwell was his alleged top lieutenant.
Her reasoning is clouded by the fact that she admits the FBI were ‘aware of Epstein’s longtime relationship with a close female friend who was a well-known socialite’, which appears to mean Maxwell.
Villafaña said they ‘didn’t have any specific evidence against her’ but they had already spoken to one victim who ‘implicated’ her but the conduct was not in Florida.
Villafaña told OPR: ‘(We) considered Epstein to be the top of the food chain, and we wouldn’t have been interested in prosecuting anyone else’.
The report says: ‘She did not consider the possibility that Epstein might be trying to protect other, unnamed individuals, and no one, including the FBI case agents, raised that concern’.
Solman agreed and in retrospect ‘understood the non-prosecution provision was designed to protect Epstein’s four assistants, and it ‘never dawned’ on him that it was intended to shield anyone else’, the report said.
Jeffrey Sloman, the First Assistant US Attorney in the SDFL, told the OPR that it ‘never occurred to him that the reference to potential co-conspirators was directed toward any of the high-profile individuals who were at the time or subsequently linked’
Epstein was arrested in August last year and he hanged himself in prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges – Alex Acosta was forced to resign (center). Matthew Menchel (right), the chief of the criminal division for SDFL, had a brief relationship with Epstein’s lawyer Lilly Ann Sanchez in 2003 when they both worked at the SDFL
The horrible irony of this is that not only did Maxwell slip through the net, but she could use the very same NPA for her defense in her upcoming trial.
Before Epstein killed himself his lawyers argued that the deal with the SDFL was part of a ‘global’ agreement with the US government and that he couldn’t be prosecuted twice.
Maxwell may well do the same.
Among the other details in the report is the extraordinary revelation that the prosecution failed to obtain the computers removed from Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion prior to them being raided by the Palm Beach Police Department.
Mysteriously all the computers including those with records of surveillance cameras had been removed by the time officers arrived.
The report says that Villafaña knew who had possession of the computer equipment and the tapes – it does not say who.
They could have provided additional victims and given ‘powerful visual evidence’ of a ‘large number of girls’ Epstein victimized’, the report says.
Villafaña made repeated efforts to get the computers from Epstein’s lawyers but they blocked her and her superiors did not pursue this.
The report says that this evidence was ‘relevant and potentially critical’ and says that it could have led to evidence of Epstein transmitting child pornography images across state lines, a serious federal crime.
Villafaña told the OPR: ‘(If) the evidence had been what we suspected it was…(it) would have put this case completely to bed. It also would have completely defeated all of these arguments about interstate nexus’.
In its most withering section, the report says: ‘It was clear Epstein did not want the contents of his computers disclosed. Nothing in the available record reveals that the USAO (prosecution) benefited from abandoning pursuit of this evidence when they did.
‘Instead, the USAO agreed to postpone and ultimately to abandon its efforts to obtain evidence that could have significantly changed Acosta’s decision to resolve the federal investigation with a state guilty plea or led to additional significant federal charges.
‘By agreeing to postpone the litigation, the USAO gave away leverage that might have caused the defense to come to an agreement much earlier and on terms more favorable to the government.
‘The USAO ultimately agreed to a term in the (plea deal) that permanently ended the government’s ability to obtain possible evidence of significant crimes and did so with apparently little serious consideration of the potential cost’,
The issue with the computers was not the only instance where Villafaña felt blocked by her male superiors.
Ann Marie Villafaña, the Assistant US Attorney who was in charge of the case, told OPR that she was in a hurry to lock up Epstein ‘because child sex offenders don’t stop until they’re behind bars’. But she butted heads with Matthew Menchel, the chief of the criminal division for SDFL
Andrew Lourie (pictured), deputy chief of the criminal division at the time, appeared to get on well with Lefkowitz, one of Epstein’s ‘dream team’ of lawyers which also included Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, who wrote the impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton
The report paints her as one of the few voices within the department calling for Epstien to be arrested as soon as possible.
She told OPR that she was in a hurry to lock up Epstein ‘because child sex offenders don’t stop until they’re behind bars’.
But she butted heads with Matthew Menchel, the chief of the criminal division for SDFL.
In a blunt email to her, he said: ‘If you want to work major cases in the district you must understand and accept the fact that there is a chain of command – something you disregard with great regularity’.
When Epstein signed the plea deal, one of Villafaña’s colleagues told her: ‘This case only resolved with the filthy rich bad guy going to jail because of your dedication and determination’.
She said: ‘After all the hell they put me through, I don’t feel like celebrating 18 months. He should be spending 18 years in jail’.
While Villafaña maintained a combative stance with Epstein’s attorneys when she could, some of her male colleagues were far cosier with them.
Andrew Lourie, deputy chief of the criminal division at the time, appeared to get on well with Lefkowitz, one of Epstein’s ‘dream team’ of lawyers which also included Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, who wrote the impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton.
When Lefkowitz emailed Lourie to ask for his help to stop details about their negotiations being leaked, he told him: ‘I have enjoyed working with you on this matter’.
Lourie replied: ‘I enjoyed it as well. Mr Epstein was fortunate to have such excellent representation’.
That was not the only such connection between the prosecution and the defense and Epstein’s lawyer Lilly Ann Sanchez briefly had a relationship with Menchel in 2003 when they both worked at the SDFL.
Maxwell is due to stand trial next year for allegedly procuring girls as young as 14 for him
The report says that in 2018 Villafaña claimed that the idea of Epstein serving a two year jail sentence was done as a favor to Sanchez.
She wrote in an email: ‘Months (or possibly years) later, I asked former First Assistant Jeff Sloman where the two-year figure came from. He said that Lily [sic] Ann Sanchez asked Mr. Menchel to ‘do her a solid’ and convince Mr. Acosta to offer two years’.
Sloman told OPR that he could not recall making such a remark.
Menchel said he couldn’t recall how the two year figure came about and said his prior relationship with Sanchez played no part in his decision making.
Despite turning up fresh evidence about the investigation the OPR was still unable to explain why Acosta decided on such a lenient sentence for Epstein.
The report says he appeared to be trying to find a middle ground between what Epstein would have got if the case was handled by federal prosecutors from the start, potentially decades in jail, and what he would be getting in state court, which amounted to a slap on the wrists.
In a scathing passage, the report says that Acosta’s reasoning was ‘untethered to any articulable, reasonable basis’.
As a result he drew up a plea deal that was ‘too difficult to administer, leaving Epstein free to manipulate the conditions of his sentence to his own advantage’.
TIMELINE OF JEFFREY EPSTEIN’S LEGAL TROUBLES
1999-2002 – Virginia Roberts [Jane Doe #3] claims to she served as a ‘sex slave’ for Jeffrey Epstein and was required to engage in sexual activity with him and a number of his high-profile friends.
March 2005 – Authorities in Florida launch a probe into Epstein after a mother calls and alleges that her daughter was molested at his Palm Beach estate.
May 2006 – A probable cause affidavit is filed by the Palm Beach Police Department after the sexual battery investigation into Epstein, Sarah Kellen and Haley Robson Sworn. It charges Epstein with four counts of lewd and lascivious behavior for unlawful sex with a minor. Five victims and seventeen witnesses were interviewed, and alleged that Epstein engaged in unlawful sexual behavior. Sworn meanwhile was accused of profiting by providing young girls to Epstein, while Kellen was tasked with keeping a black book containing the names and contact information of these minors in her capacity as Epstein’s assistant.
May 2006 – Barry Krischer, the State Attorney in Palm Beach, refers the case to a grand jury.
June 2006 – The grand jury returns an indictment of one count of solicitation of prostitution. This charge does not reflect that the individual in question was a minor. Only one girl testifies in front of the grand jury.
July 2006 – The Palm Beach Police Chief grows increasingly annoyed as he watches the lack of progress his investigation is making in the legal system, and convinces the FBI to open a federal investigation. It is dubbed Operation Leap Year and the possible crime being probed is ‘child prostitution.’
November 2006 – Operation Leap Year picks up steam as the FBI begins interviewing potential witnesses and victims from the three states where Epstein owns property: Florida, New York and New Mexico.
June 2007 – The US Attorney’s Office drafts a lengthy indictment as the federal probe of Epstein comes to an end, while at the same time Epstein begins negotiating a possible plea deal.
July 2007 – A new set of grand jury subpoenas are issued, including ones for Epstein’s computers. When police go to execute those subpoenas at Epstein’s Palm Beach home, they discover they have all been removed.
August 2007 – The US Attorney in Miami at the time, Alex Acosta, joins the Epstein negotiation talks.
September 2007 – Epstein signs a non-prosecution agreement on September 24 after rejecting multiple plea deals. His criminal charges are then deferred to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office.
October 2007 – Acosta meets with Epstein’s lawyer Jay Lefkowitz to finalize the terms of the plea deal. It is agreed that the victims would not be notified, the deal would be kept under seal and all grand jury subpoenas would be canceled – including the one for Epstein’s computers, which were still at large.
January 2008 – After months of demands, Epstein and his lawyers say they will not longer accept the plea deal because he forces him to register as a sex offender.
February 2008 – A civil lawsuit is filed against Epstein by an anonymous woman, stating that as a 16-year-old minor she was recruited to give Epstein a paid massage. She demands $50 million, claiming that she was then force to perform sex acts on Epstein.
March 2008 – A federal grand jury presentation is planned following the FBI probe. Lawyers for Epstein begin harassing victims with phone calls and one of his investigators is accused of trying to run a victim’s father off the road.
March 2008 – A second woman files a civil action against Epstein.
May 2008 – It is announced that with no plea deal in case, the federal case against Epstein can proceed.
June 2008 – On June 30, Epstein pleads guilty to one count of solicitation of prostitution and one count of solicitation of prostitution with a minor under the age of 18. Both are state charges and he is sentenced to 18 months in jail. He will also have to register as a sex offender.
July 2008 – Epstein’s victims learn of the plea deal, but it will be another 10 years before they are informed of all the details, including the fact that victim was 16 in the charge to which Epstein entered a guilty plea and not 14 like the women were led to believe. This allowed Epstein to avoid registering as a sex offender in multiple states like New Mexico, where he has a ranch. An emergency petition is filed udner the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which mandates that victims be informed about plea agreements and the right to appear at sentencing. It is ignored.
August 2008 – Epstein’s agreement cannot be unsealed for the victims to see it is ruled in court, with federal prosecutors fighting to keep the records hidden from the public.
October 2008 – Epstein begins work release from the county stockad, where six days a week an he is transported to an office where he is able to work and entertain visitors. He returns to the stockade in the evening.
December 2008 – A judge grants Epstein’s request to travel to New York for a day and then an extended stay. He says it is for a court case, but after an initial filing there is no follow-up in the case.
July 22, 2009 – Epstein is released from prison.
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