FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Financier Jeffrey Epstein is entangled in two legal fights that span the East Coast, challenging his underage sexual abuse victims in a Florida court hours after he was indicted on sex trafficking charges in a closely related case in New York.
The timing of the New York indictment against Epstein was unexpected, coming as a Florida judge mulled what to do about the government’s violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act in his original plea deal.
Epstein’s lawyer Roy Black filed a response late Monday on the Florida case after a federal judge ruled prosecutors improperly failed to consult victims when cutting a non-prosecution plea deal in 2008 that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to lesser state charges.
On Tuesday, two women who say they were Epstein victims years ago gave interviews on network television welcoming the new charges. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who was Miami U.S. attorney when the plea deal was reached, also offered support for the new charges.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he’ll look “very closely” at Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s handling of the Florida case.
Michelle Licata, who was 16 when she said she had sexual encounters with Epstein, said news of his arrest lifted a huge burden.
“The first moment of finding out that Jeffrey Epstein was put in jail was so relieving to me I felt safer,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I’ve waited for this one day just to happen and it’s finally come.”
Epstein’s filing in the Florida case contends the victims go too far in trying to remedy that violation by removing the plea deal’s immunity provisions for other people and opening the door for Epstein to be federally prosecuted in Florida again.
The victims, Black wrote, “are asking a federal court to do something that has never been done in the history of American jurisprudence” because they seek to punish Epstein for a government violation he had nothing to do with.
Black also defended the negotiations that led to the non-prosecution agreement.
“No bribes were paid to government officials. No threats or illegal inducements were made to them,” he wrote. “No one in the government was coerced. No one’s free will was overborne. No one obstructed justice.”
The filing came shortly after a disheveled Epstein, wearing a blue jail uniform, appeared Monday in a federal court in Manhattan and was charged in an unsealed federal indictment with sex trafficking and conspiracy during the early 2000s. He could get up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Epstein pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers said the new allegations were settled in the Florida plea deal. In that case, Epstein pleaded guilty to prostitution-related charges, served 13 months in jail was required to make payments to victims and register as a sex offender.
New York prosecutors said Monday they are not barred by that plea deal, and revealed they discovered a “vast trove” of lewd photographs of young women or girls during a weekend raid in his New York City mansion. Epstein’s lawyers say the original plea agreement should stand.
Authorities also found papers and phone records corroborating the alleged crimes, and a massage room still set up the way accusers said it appeared, prosecutors said.
Acosta said in a series of tweets Tuesday that the passage of time in this case may be an advantage because more evidence is known and more victims are willing to come forward.
“Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice,” Acosta tweeted .