More than a year after Jeffery Epstein’s death, his victims are still waiting for a resolution. Criminal charges and a civil lawsuit are pending against Ghislane Maxwell for her part in recruiting and grooming Jeffrey Epstein’s victims. But now those proceedings have been put on hold until at least 2021.
Jeffrey Epstein victims have been searching for ways to get justice since at least 1993. That was the year Maria and Annie Farmer went to the FBI after each of the sisters experienced inappropriate sexual contact forced by Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Maria was 16 years old at the time, and Annie was an aspiring young artist. However, when both the FBI and the New York Police Department each dismissed their claims, the Farmers were left struggling to find a way to make their experience known.
Then in 2006, the FBI came back. New claims of Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of a teenager in Florida had started a nation-wide investigation. Criminal charges were filed based on that investigation in Palm Beach County. But then, in 2007, the FBI and local prosecutors quietly settled that case. The settlement allowed Epstein to plead guilty and serve 18 months of work release in a Florida jail in exchange for a non-prosecution agreement by the FBI.
That seemed like the end of the matter until 2015, when several victims of Epstein and Maxwell filed sexual abuse lawsuits in New York and elsewhere. In response to public criticism about the quiet settlement, in July 2019, New York prosecutors indicted Epstein on their own charges of child sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, saying they weren’t bound by the FBI’s non-prosecution agreement.
Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to the New York charges and it appeared his victims were finally to receive some justice. However, less than a month later, in August 2019, Epstein was found hanged in his New York jail cell. His death was ruled a suicide.
Unwilling to accept that as the end of the matter, Epstein’s sex abuse victims continued to pursue civil lawsuits against Epstein’s estate. They sought compensation for harms done by Jeffrey Epstein to dozens of teenage girls in Manhattan, the Virgin Islands, Paris, New Mexico and Florida. The case in the Virgin Islands resolved in the creation of the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Program -- a fund designed to facilitate payouts to Epstein’s sexual assault victims, no matter where they happened. The fund has reported it will even consider claims too old to be filed under local statutes of limitations.
No one is entirely certain how many victims Jeffrey Epstein had. However, the fund administrator, Jordana H Feldman, says that the program has enough assets to compensate more than 70 women, if they submit claims. Epstein’s estate is valued at $914.5 million and appears to have “sufficient liquidity to pay the claims.” Feldman told ABC News:
"If we need to get more money, I will certainly go to the estate and see what can be done about liquidating other assets."
The compensation program may resolve many of the victims of Epstein’s claims, but not everyone was satisfied with civil remedies. On July 2, 2020, federal authorities arrested his long-time companion Ghislaine Maxwell, for her part of the sex trafficking scheme. Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss told reporters:
"Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse. . . . In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse herself.”
However, that 2007 FBI settlement has clouded the prosecution. Maxwell’s lawyers say that even if she solicited minors for prostitution, the FBI promised Epstein they wouldn’t prosecute her as one of Epstein’s “unidentified co-conspirators”. Victims advocates have opposed this defense, saying that Epstein’s victims had been cut out of the settlement process in violation of the federal Crime Victims Rights Act (CVRA), and the plea deal was therefore invalid.
The new criminal case also raises privacy concerns for Jeffrey Epstein’s victims. Advocates have had to defend those who spoke publicly against Epstein in the past. The criminal court judge has now ruled that even if they made public comments to the media, they “still maintain a significant privacy interest that must be safeguarded.” Otherwise, prosecutors and victims’ advocates worry the women may be harassed or intimidated away from testifying in her trial, which is currently scheduled for July 2021.
At the same time, rather than opting into the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Program, one woman, identified as Jane Doe, sued Ghislaine Maxwell directly for her role in the sex trafficking scheme. The lawsuit alleged Maxwell groomed three minor girls for sexual abuse by Epstein in 1994 - 1997, and sometimes participated herself. Prosecutors and Maxwell’s lawyers both asked that the civil case be put on hold until the criminal matter is resolved. However, the victims’ advocates representing her have pushed to let the lawsuit continue. According to ABC News:
"[Doe] is seeking to hold defendant Maxwell accountable for the heinous and sick sexual acts she committed against [her] over the course of several years while [she] was just a child," wrote her lawyer, Robert Glassman of Panish, Shea & Boyle, LLP in a letter to the court. "[She] is best served by pressing forward with her claims -- not waiting even longer for justice."
However, on September 16, 2020, the federal magistrate judge overseeing that case found that the significant overlap between the civil and criminal cases meant that Maxwell would be forced to choose between defending her rights in the civil case and exercising her 5th Amendment right to remain silent in the criminal case. The judge stayed the civil lawsuit, forcing Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s victims to wait another several months before they can finally receive the justice they have been seeking for decades.
At ADZ Law, LLP, our victim’s rights attorneys understand how hard it can be to get justice and compensation from sexual abusers. We stand beside our clients in civil lawsuits and criminal courts, speaking up for their rights, privacy, and interests. If you have been the victim of sexual abuse, we invite you to contact ADZ Law, LLP to schedule a consultation to learn more about our team, and how we can help you.