EDITORIAL: Epstein gone but case must go on
You’d be hard-pressed to find a death less mourned than that of Jeffrey Epstein.
The convicted sex offender, charged anew with sex trafficking and sexually abusing scores of underage girls, was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell earlier this month.
The suspected cause is suicide, although an official ruling is being delayed pending further investigation.
After all, the death of a billionaire inmate whose intimate circle has included past and current occupants of the White House, foreign royalty and moneyed interests from around the world is nothing if not suspicious.
Add the fact that Epstein sustained injuries in what was described as a suicide attempt a month earlier and that he was supposed to have been under heightened supervision in his federal holding cell, and the proliferation of conspiracy theories that have blitzkrieged social media since his death was announced on Aug. 10 become less surprising.
But let’s not let those largely baseless beliefs distract from what remains the central and still very important mission of law-enforcement officials: Delivering justice to the alleged victims of Epstein and his collaborators.
The end of Epstein’s life does not mean the end of his case — as the arrival of FBI agents on his private Caribbean island on Tuesday made clear. The focus will now shift to Epstein’s inner circle — those men and women who facilitated his crimes by procuring and transporting the young girls Epstein exploited, or by simply turning a blind eye to the disgraced financier’s misdeeds.
No less a legal authority than Attorney General William Barr has said as much, declaring that Epstein’s co-conspirators “should not rest easy.”
“Let me assure you this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” Barr said.
The attorney general also expressed anger at Epstein’s still unexplained death, citing “serious irregularities at this (detention) facility that are deeply concerning,” and the need to get to the bottom of them.
All well and good, but Barr would elicit greater confidence by placing ongoing investigations in the hands of other Department of Justice officials.
After all, President Donald Trump was among Epstein’s longtime friends and Barr, through his misrepresentation of the Mueller report, has already shown a willingness to defer to and defend the president.
Too, former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta was the U.S. attorney in Miami who signed off on a sweetheart deal that let Epstein off almost scot-free in 2008 following accusations of sexual abuse of multiple underage girls. Acosta — with whom Barr served in Trump’s Cabinet — resigned last month in response to renewed furor over his handling of the plea deal.
And Barr himself, during his confirmation hearings back in February, said he thought his law firm was involved in Epstein’s Miami proceedings, so he would recuse himself from the matter going forward. Apparently, that recusal hasn’t carried over to the current Epstein investigations, which are based out of the Southern District of New York.
Clearly, it would be better for all involved if Barr were to bow out. But either way, Epstein’s accusers will get their day in court.
New and pending lawsuits will see to that. One alleged victim, Jennifer Araoz, just this week filed a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate, his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed household staff.
And that’s just among the first of what are expected to be numerous legal actions brought in New York, where a one-year window allowing molestation lawsuits previously blocked by the state’s statute of limitations opened Wednesday.
The timing couldn’t be more beneficial for Epstein’s victims, even if his death deprives them of seeing him face the full weight of prosecution.
Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes are too heinous and the accusers too numerous for anything but a thorough investigation — and the delivery of justice, in whatever form that may take, to the victims.