11th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules That Non-Prosecution Agreement Entered into by Epstein Cannot Be Overturned
In April, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Jeffrey Epstein’s victims did not have the right to challenge the non-prosecution agreement entered into between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and Epstein under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) because there was never an actual indictment and/or federal criminal charges filed in Florida against Epstein, which is required under the Act. Epstein was accused of engaging in sex crimes and federal child sex abuse crimes with a number of women and minors between 1999 and 2007, and the agreement blocked his prosecution for crimes committed in Florida.
While a very controversial decision, as the court itself expressed frustration with the particular prosecutors involved in the case, accusing them of misleading the victims involved in the case, it is an important one in that it preserves the ability for prosecutors and defendants to directly negotiate and rely on these agreements without having to involve third parties.
How Epstein’s Non-Prosecution Agreement Came About
Non-prosecution agreements like these typically come about from the following circumstances: The police and the FBI conduct an investigation of the suspect’s conduct and, after developing substantial incriminating evidence, refer the matter for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, (which, in this case, involved the Southern District of Florida). The suspect’s defense attorney then engages in negotiations with these federal prosecutors in an effort to avoid indictment, while prosecutors will also sometimes correspond with the suspect’s victims in an effort to gather additional information on the suspect. Both sets of attorneys then go back and forth with prosecution memos, draft indictments, etc. alleging that crimes had been committed, letters back to prosecutors arguing that offenses had not been committed, etc., until drafts of what will become a non-prosecution agreement are produced. Pursuant to the agreement, Epstein would plead guilty in Florida court to two state prosecution offenses, identify several coconspirators, register as a lifetime sex-offender, and be sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in exchange for receiving immunity from federal prosecution.
Frustration with The Crime Victims’ Rights Act & Its Allowance of Secret Plea Agreements
Epstein’s victims were of course disappointed with the decision, indicating that they planned to file a petition for a rehearing en banc. They have reportedly been working for more than 11 years to overturn the non-prosecution agreement entered into between the prosecutors and Epstein blocking his prosecution and that of his co-conspirators in connection with the federal child sex abuse crimes in Florida.
Yet while the court indicated that the facts of the case told “a tale of national disgrace,” they also pointed out that Congress wrote the CVRA so as to allow federal prosecutors to essentially negotiate secret plea and non-prosecution agreements without ever having to confer with or even notify the victims before criminal proceedings have been instituted. Still, the court noted its hopes that prosecutors do not conduct themselves in this manner moving forward.
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