Jeffrey Epstein is accustomed to having an entourage meet his private jet at the airport; he’s just not used to it being made up of FBI agents. Last Saturday, the billionaire and registered sex offender returned from a trip to Paris only to be arrested. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, famously aggressive in pursuing high-profile prosecutions, charged Epstein last week with child sex trafficking in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591. These new charges represent the Department of Justice’s attempt to redeem a reputation soiled by the extremely questionable plea deal it gave Epstein in 2008.
In 2006 and 2007, Epstein—once a reliable companion of the well connected—faced extensive, detailed allegations that he paid multiple minors for sexual contact and for their services in procuring other minors. Most people, hammered with that kind of evidence, would spend the rest of their lives in prison. But Epstein could afford the lavish attention of a defense team staffed by legal luminaries such as Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr. Most of us hope an attorney will defend us competently at trial, but the superrich can afford to go on the offense. Epstein’s lawyers hounded the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, which was considering federal charges, based on reports that Epstein had procured underage girls across state lines. Former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta—now President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor—characterized the tactic as a “year-long assault on the prosecution and prosecutors,” and complained that Epstein’s team investigated prosecutors and their families, “looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.”