- 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)
Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices
A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.
As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits
American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.
In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers.
To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.
But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.
ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.
According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above — earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.
“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.
Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.
Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices
To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.
In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.”
The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.
The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.
During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.
“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”
“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down
After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.
The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.
Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.
A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.
The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.
In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.
The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.
A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.
Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye
“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.
Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.
Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.
“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.
When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.
“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.
On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)
U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide
India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.
One Million Dead
The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.
Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.
The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.
By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.
The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.
The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.
The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.
People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.
Fifteen Million Dead
On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.
Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.
Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.
The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.
“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.
Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.