Epstein’s accusers still deserve justice and will go after his alleged enablers, their lawyers say

Lawyers representing Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers said Saturday that his death won’t stop their clients from seeking justice from those they say enabled or conspired with Epstein to allegedly sexually abuse dozens of underage girls.

The attorneys condemned as cowardly Epstein’s apparent suicide overnight while in a federal facility on charges of sex trafficking because now he won’t ever have to face the women he allegedly hurt.

“I guess there is somewhat an element of relief because the fear of him getting out is obviously over, but there is also, they’ll never be able to look into his eye and say, ‘You hurt me.’ There’s that element of closure that he’s taken away from them,” said Kimberly Lerner, an attorney for one of Epstein’s accusers.

But, Lerner said, Epstein’s death isn’t “the end, it’s just a new beginning.”

There’s a whole network that enabled him and allowed this to happen and it’s time that everyone who was a part of this be held accountable,” she said.

Lerner’s client, Jennifer Araoz, released her own statement about Epstein’s death. Araoz has accused Epstein of raping her in his New York City home when she was 15. She said she was recruited outside her high school to make regular visits to his house

“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed the pain and trauma he caused so many people,” Araoz said. “Epstein is gone, but justice must still be served. I hope the authorities will pursue and prosecute his accomplices and enablers, and ensure redress for his victims.”

Epstein’s death came less than a day after new details about his alleged sexual abuse of underage girls were unsealed in court filings. In the documents — part of a lawsuit settled in 2017 against a woman who allegedly recruited underage girls for Epstein — accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre named

  • Prince Andrew, former New Mexico governor
  • Bill Richardson (D) and former Senate majority leader
  • George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) among the prominent men in Epstein’s orbit she was ordered to have sex with.

All three men have denied any wrongdoing. Epstein, a multimillionaire, kept powerful company and socialized with both President Trump and former president Bill Clinton.

Epstein was arrested last month on federal sex trafficking charges that could have put in him prison for 45 years. New York University Law School professor Stephen Gillers said Epstein’s death puts an end to that prosecution, but it doesn’t mean the investigation is over.

“Is there the equivalent of a little black book whose contents implicates others? Was incriminating video, email or voice mail found in his mansion’s safe?” Gillers said. “While the case against Epstein is over, the investigation is not.”

Federal investigators, who earlier this year asked women who had allegedly been abused by the financier to come forward, may decide to keep digging as they explore whether any of Epstein’s alleged procurers and enablers should be charged.

Even if there are no further criminal cases, Epstein’s estate will be peppered with civil suits seeking restitution and damages for both his alleged financial and sexual misdeeds. Epstein spent the last dozen years of his life fending off lawsuits from some of the women who said he had abused them, and more women have been emboldened to speak about their experiences with him in recent months.

But all those cases will face a long and convoluted road, because Epstein, according to several of his associates, was both secretive about his finances and adept at hiding resources in foreign accounts. Epstein’s first business partner, Steven Hoffenberg, said the financier had more money than he had admitted in court documents and that it was tucked away in places where law enforcement officials would have a difficult time finding it.

Attorney Lisa Bloom, who currently represents two Epstein accusers, said she’d been helping them cooperate with law enforcement on the criminal case. Now that Epstein is dead, she said, they will be filing a civil case against his estate.

“I am calling today for the administrators of Jeffrey Epstein’s estate to freeze all his assets and hold them for his victims who are filing civil cases. Their lives have been shattered by his sexual assaults, their careers derailed. They deserve full and fair compensation NOW,” she tweeted. “Jeffrey Epstein’s jail suicide means one thing and one thing only: consciousness of guilt.”

Bloom later tweeted a statement from an unnamed client who said Epstein’s death stole her chance for closure.

“I’m angry as hell the prison could have allowed this to happen and that I and his other victims will never see him face the consequences for his horrendous actions,” the accuser said.

Epstein’s death could intensify the spotlight on his longtime girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell. One of Epstein’s accusers has said Maxwell recruited underage girls for Epstein. Maxwell has denied any wrongdoing and has fought back aggressively in civil suits that have been meandering through courts for years. Calls and emails to Maxwell’s attorneys were not returned Saturday.

Sigrid McCawley, who represents Giuffre, said in a statement: “The reckoning of accountability begun by the voices of brave and truthful victims should not end with Jeffrey Epstein’s cowardly and shameful suicide.

“The fact that Epstein took his own life within 24 hours of the unsealing of detailed and devastating documents and exhibits in Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell, which informed the public of the scope, scale and sophistication of the international sex trafficking operation Epstein conducted, is no coincidence,” McCawley said.

Spencer Kuvin, who represents three of Epstein’s accusers — all Royal Palm Beach High School students in Palm Beach County, Fla., when they allegedly worked for Epstein — said he spoke with one of his clients after the news of Epstein’s death and described her as “numb.”

“She’s numb to what occurred because of the history and she wanted for years to put this behind herself,” he said. “Seeing an evil person like this ultimately end his life puts some closure on what occurred.”

“She would like to see a continued prosecution and investigation into those that allowed all this to happen,” he said.

Another lawyer for accusers, Bradley Edwards, said this wasn’t the ending anyone hoped for because Epstein’s alleged victims deserved more.

“The fact that Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit the selfish act of taking his own life as his world of abuse, exploitation, and corruption unraveled is both unfortunate and predictable,” Edwards said. “The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused. We will continue to represent his victims and will not stop in their pursuit of finality and justice. It is never too late to come forward with information.”

Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak — and dangerous

The case against the president would be far stronger than the case against John Edwards was.

This all suggests Trump could become a target of a very serious criminal campaign finance investigation. In response, Trump has offered up three defenses. His first was to repeatedly lie. For quite some time, he flatly denied knowledge about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. But now he seems to be acknowledging that he knew (since his personal company reimbursed Cohen for the payment, he ought to). Now Trump and his acolytes have turned to two other excuses: They point to an earlier case involving former senator John Edwards to argue that what Trump did wasn’t a crime; and they say, even if it was a crime, it wasn’t a biggie — there are lots of crimes, so what, who cares.

The former is a very weak legal argument, and the latter a dangerous one. Indeed, the campaign finance violations here are among the most important ever in the history of this nation — given the razor-thin win by Trump and the timing of the crimes, they very well may have swung a presidential election.

Begin with the Edwards case. The former senator from North Carolina and two-time Democratic presidential candidate was charged in 2011 with multiple campaign finance felonies in connection with payments that one of Edwards’s supporters made to a woman with whom Edwards had an extramarital sexual relationship. Prosecutors alleged that this money was paid, with Edwards’s knowledge, to influence the election, and therefore that the payments were illegal campaign contributions. When the case went to trial, the jury hung on most counts and acquitted on one, which Trump’s defenders point to for support.
But the case is actually harmful for Trump — especially what the judge ruled. Edwards repeatedly argued that the payments were not campaign contributions because they were not made exclusively to further his campaign. The judge rejected this argument as a matter of law, ruling that a payment to a candidate’s extramarital sexual partner is a campaign contribution if “one of” the reasons the payment is made is to influence the election.

As a legal matter, that aspect of the Edwards case is what matters now — and it’s damning for Trump. It provides a precedent that other courts could follow in any prosecution arising out of the hush-money schemes Trump paid: The president could face criminal charges for conspiring with Cohen to make the payments because the evidence shows the payments were made, at least in part, for campaign purposes. As for what the jury concluded in the Edwards case, there’s good reason to believe that the evidence in a criminal case against Trump would be much stronger.

Edwards argued that he didn’t know anything about the payments and that, regardless, the payments in his case were intended to keep news of the affair and pregnancy from his wife — not to keep the information from voters. Trump tried the first tactic, but Cohen’s tapes eviscerated that argument. There is no reason to think that Trump’s attempt to paint these as personal payments is any less of a lie than his attempt to say he didn’t know about them.
.. Unlike with Edwards, prosecutors have noted evidence that Cohen “coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments.” If Cohen had made the payments as a purely personal matter for Trump, separate and apart from Trump’s candidacy, Cohen would not have consulted with the campaign about doing so. Further, Trump was first aware of threats to publish information about this affair in 2011, when his youngest child had just been born to his new wife and at the time made no offers of money to keep the news quiet. What was different in 2016 was the election.

In the Edwards case, there was a paucity of evidence. A key witness, Bunny Melon, was 101 years old and too frail to show up at trial. There were no written legal agreements providing money in exchange for silence, as there are in Trump’s case, and no threats by the mother of the child to go public immediately if the funds were not received. That’s why one juror told the media that the evidence wasn’t there to show even that Edwards intended the money to go to Rielle Hunter. In contrast, in a bombshell disclosure this week, the public learned that AMI, the parent corporation of the National Enquirer, is cooperating with the prosecution and has stated that the payments were made to influence the 2016 election. And even more worrisome for Trump, reports emerged Thursday that Trump was the third person in the very room where Cohen and David Pecker (the head of AMI) discussed the hush money payments — making it very hard for Trump to assert a non-campaign-related purpose.

Finally, all the money that changed hands in the Edwards case came from an individual. In the scheme to prevent Karen McDougal from talking about an affair she says she had with Trump, some payments originated from a corporation — AMI. The use of corporate funds to make a contribution to a presidential campaign has been illegal for decades. That makes the offense in Trump’s case significantly more serious than the charges against Edwards, or even the already serious charges Trump could face for conspiring with Cohen to make illegal and unreported individual contributions. And because the source of the payments can ultimately be traced back to the Trump Organization, prosecutors have many robust sources of evidence to comb. Those sources already suggest there were false payments (which would likely violate federal and state tax laws) and “grossing up” of Cohen’s money to account for his personal taxes. All of this may amount to consciousness of guilt and may also be a path for prosecutors to discover who authorized the payments in the first place (likely “Individual-1” or one of his children). The evidentiary record is going to reveal how involved Trump and his family was in these payments — a corporate record that was completely nonexistent with Edwards.

Trump’s legal adviser Rudy Giuliani has argued that the jury in the Edwards case vindicated Edwards, but, in fact, the jurors acquitted him on only one criminal charge and deadlocked on the others. And at any rate, as Giuliani (a former federal prosecutor before he was mayor of New York) should know, criminal jury verdicts are not legal precedents. The Edwards jury, applying the law to the particular facts of that case, did not find Edwards guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is 100 percent irrelevant to whether Cohen’s guilty plea proves that Trump broke the law based on very different facts.

The final Trump defense being floated, that everyone breaks the law, fares no better. As its chief expositor, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), put it, “I don’t care” if the law has been broken, “all I can say is he’s doing a good job as president.” He added, “The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president. Anything.”

As individuals who have devoted their lives to nonpartisan enforcement of the law, we cannot think of a more dispiriting statement. Hatch is wrong about every aspect of this statement. The accusations against Trump come from career prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (otherwise known as Trump’s own Justice Department). But the more important point is this: We will rue the day a senator trotted out such callousness about federal felonies.

The whole idea of our criminal justice system is to enumerate those offenses that are so egregious that they demand serious jail time. Those felonies are the bread and butter of our criminal justice system. Of course, every criminal defendant seeks to minimize his crimes. But such defendants don’t have a cheering squad composed of United States senators. If Trump wants to argue he didn’t commit the crimes, as he used to assert in April, fine. He’s entitled to that defense. But the grievous minimization of serious campaign finance violations by members of Trump’s political party further corrode our commitment to our age-old ideal of being a “government of laws, and not of men.” If Hatch thinks too much activity has been criminalized, he is in a welcome position to change the laws as a member of the Senate. He shouldn’t denigrate the law in the process. After all, the campaign disclosure requirements at issue here were enacted by Congress (as key post-Watergate reforms after President Richard Nixon’s personal lawyer Herbert Kalmbach went to prison for paying hush money to potential witnesses out of secret cash campaign contributions).

The bad arguments being floated in Trump’s defense are emblematic of a deterioration in respect for the rule of law in this country. The three of us have deep political differences, but we are united in the view that our country comes first and our political parties second. And chief among the values of our country is its commitment to the rule of law. No one, whether a senator or a president, should pretend America is something less.