- Prominent billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy for crimes involving victims allegedly as young as 13.
- By 2008, federal prosecutors had identified 36 minors that Epstein had abused, and the Miami Herald later reported that they had independently identified nearly 80 women who had been victims of Epstein.
- He faced life in prison, but was given only 13 only months in jail after his lawyers made a deal with then-prosecutor Alexander Acosta, who is now the Secretary of Labor, and who many are calling on to resign in wake of the new charges.
- Epstein also has ties to prominent political circles, like those of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, causing many to wonder if they knew about the crimes Epstein committed.
Billionaire hedge-fund manager and financier Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy by federal prosecutors, according to an indictment that was unsealed Monday.
Epstein was arrested on Saturday and held in custody in New York, where he stood trial on Monday.
According to the indictment, Epstein, “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.”
From 2002 to 2005, Epstein “enticed and recruited” minors to “engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash,” the indictment stated. “Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein.”
“[The victims] were as young as 14 years old at the time they were abused by Jeffrey Epstein,” it continued. “Epstein intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18, including because, in some instances, minor victims expressly told him their age.”
The indictment also said that Epstein “worked and conspired with others, including employees and associates who facilitated his conduct by, among other things, contacting victims and scheduling their sexual encounters with Epstein.”
If found guilty, Epstein could face up to 45 years in prison. During his court appearance on Monday, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
However, shortly after, the Justice Department released a memo saying that federal agents had raided Epstein’s New York mansion and found “At least hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of sexually suggestive photographs of fully- or partially nude females.”
“Some of the nude or partially-nude photographs appear to be of underage girls, including at least one girl who, according to her counsel, was underage at the time the relevant photographs were taken,” the memo continued.
After the news of Epstein’s arrest broke, it was reported that prosecutors said several women came forward with complaints, including accusers who had not previously spoken to the government about their cases.
Epstein is no stranger to these serious accusations. For years, Epstein has been accused of preying on minors both in court cases and in police complaints.
An investigation into his misconduct was first opened in 2005 after the parents of an accuser in Florida went to the police.
That investigation grew rapidly. By 2008, federal prosecutors had identified 36 underage victims, according to documents reviewed by the Miami Herald.
The Herald reported that investigators found evidence of abuse dating back to 2001, and said that Epstein had abused girls as young as 13. The Herald also identified about 80 women who said they were sexually abused by Epstein and ultimately located about 60 of those women.
Federal prosecutors in Miami prepared a huge 53-page federal indictment against Epstein. If found guilty, he could have faced life in prison.
Then in 2008, prosecutors negotiated a last-minute secret deal with Epstein’s lawyers.
Under that deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges and was sentenced to only 13 months in jail. However, while in jail, he was given work-release privileges which allowed him to leave six days a week for 12 hours a day.
The deal also protected any co-conspirators, and notably, the prosecutors did not tell the victims they were representing about the deal they made until after it was approved.
After the deal was made public, it was met with significant backlash. Many accused the Justice Department of mishandling the case, and in turn, the department has faced litigation from Epstein’s accusers over the years.
In February, the Justice Department finally opened its own internal review into the decision.
Connections to Powerful People
Since the 2008 deal, some have claimed that Epstein was able to get off so easy because he is a powerful and influential man, and also because he prides himself on having a long list of even more powerful and influential friends.
Among other high-profile and powerful people, Epstein’s circle of friends included former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump.
In a statement, Clinton’s office said that he had flown on Epstein’s private plane several times for work involving the Clinton Foundation after his term as president.
The statement also said that the former president “knows nothing” about the crimes Epstein has been accused of.
President Trump also has ties to Epstein that go far back, with reports of Trump attending parties hosted by Epstein, and Epstein visiting Mar-A-Lago.
In 2002, Trump spoke to New York Magazine about Epstein.
“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump said. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
Additionally, in 2016, Trump was sued by a girl who claimed Trump raped her in 1994 when she was 13 at a party hosted by Epstein. The lawsuit has since been dropped, as the woman said she was receiving threats.
However, in 2017, an attorney for the Trump Organization, said that Trump “had no relationship with Mr. Epstein and had no knowledge whatsoever of his conduct.”
Connections to Others in Trump Administration
Beyond Trump himself, other officials in the administration have also been linked to Epstein.
On Monday, Attorney General William Barr said he was going to recuse himself from Epstein’s sex trafficking case, citing the fact that he had previously worked at a law firm Epstein has used in the past.
However, on Tuesday morning, Barr decided not to recuse himself from the case, though he will still be recused from department’s review of the 2008 plea deal Epstein reached with prosecutors.
That is not where the complications for the Trump administration end. The prosecutor that agreed to the controversial deal was Alexander Acosta, who is now Trump’s Labor Secretary.
Acosta responded to the situation in a tweet on Tuesday, and said that he was “pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.”
Acosta’s tweet followed numerous remarks from top Democrats calling for him to resign. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for Acosta to step down in a tweet on Monday.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to fire Acosta if he does not resign.
“I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign,” Schumer said. “It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor. If he refuses to resign, President Trump should fire him.”
Others in the Republican party chimed in as well. On Monday, Senator Ted Cruz responded to a tweet posted by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Tapper retweeted a Miami Herald article that named Acosta and others who they said enabled Epstein. In his tweet, Tapper indicated that he hoped Acosta and the others would go down with Epstein.
Cruz responded to the tweet, writing, “Fully agree.”
When asked by a Fox News anchor if he thought Acosta should resign, Cruz did not outright answer the question.
“I’m concerned about the allegations, but the Department of Justice has an ongoing investigation,” he said. “I think we should find out what happened, I think we should have imposed the toughest penalty we could have, based on the evidence, and I think we need to inquire if we did that.”
Epstein is due back in court on Thursday. On Monday, Epstein’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, said in a statement that the accusations had been settled in 2008.
“To us this indictment is essentially a do-over,” Weingarten said. “This is old stuff. This is ancient stuff.”
However, U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, who is prosecuting the case, said the agreement from 2008 only is only binding in the Southern District of Florida.
See what others are saying: (Miami Herald) (The New York Times) (The Daily Beast)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.