11th Circuit Court of Appeals Vacates Previous Opinion Regarding Epstein’s Agreement, Opening The Door for Victims’ Rights in Florida
After ruling in April that the non-prosecution agreement entered into between Jeffrey Epstein and the US Attorney‘s Office for the Southern District of Florida could not be overturned and Epstein‘s victims could not challenge it under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, in August, a group of judges with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals withdrew and vacated that decision, and ordered a rare en banc hearing to determine whether the federal government violated Epstein’s victims’ rights when prosecutors entered into the plea deal with Epstein. One of Epstein’s sexual abuse victims—Courtney Wild—will now argue in front of the full court that the plea should be rescinded.
Under Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, en banc hearings can be held when a majority of the circuit judges who are in regular service and not disqualified order that en banc consideration is necessary in order to maintain or secure uniformity of the court’s decisions or the proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance. The decision is of significant importance, and will have sweeping implications for victims’ rights in Florida, including during the pre-charge phase.
Crime Victims’ Rights Act Drafters & Co-Sponsors Weigh in This Time Around
The original 11th Circuit panel ruled that Wild and other victims could not challenge the agreement because there was never an indictment or criminal charges filed against Epstein, which the Victims’ Act requires. Specifically, US Circuit Judge Newsom indicated that extending victims’ rights under the Act in this manner could be devastating to police investigations and the everyday decisions of prosecutors, and could even end up requiring mandatory consultations with victims before raids and the issuance of warrants, for example, which could be problematic.
However, during the en banc hearing, Wild will now be armed with an amicus brief from the drafters and co-sponsors of the Act, who have indicated that the Act was intended to protect aggrieved victims; even before and without any prosecution underway; including during the detection and/or investigation phases of a crime.
Can A Plea Deal Be “Undone” If The Sentence Has Already Been Served?
Still, the question of whether a plea deal can be “undone” is a complicated one. While judges have the discretion to decide whether to accept or reject plea agreements, a judge already approved the 2007 Florida agreement, and Epstein already served the sentence provided for in it.
The agreement also included non prosecution protection for co-conspirators, such as Ghislaine Maxwell. Still, New York prosecutors have already rejected the argument that Maxwell is protected by the deal, indicating that her crimes lie outside of the agreement’s timeframe, that she was not explicitly named in it, and that they are not bound by what Florida prosecutors agree to anyway.
Contact The Best in Criminal Defense Representation
If you are facing criminal charges or have any questions about plea agreements or your civil rights, contact the Orlando criminal defense lawyers at The Baez Law Firm for representation.