Federal prosecutors unveiled sex-trafficking charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein on Monday (July 8, 2019), revisiting years-old allegations. But their announcement was quickly followed by questions about why prosecutors (led by then-U.S. Attorney, former-Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta) had treated Epstein leniently in the past and why it had taken so long to meaningfully target allegations of sexual misconduct that were long an open secret.
Victims’ advocates and legal experts say the #MeToo movement in the past two years has fueled cultural change, putting pressure on prosecutors to take action and creating public support for the sexual misconduct cases they pursue.
“While the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims, now young women,” Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference announcing the charges on Monday. “They deserve their day in court, and we are proud to be standing up for them by bringing this indictment.”
Berman declined to comment on what led his office to revisit the allegations now, but he said prosecutors were “assisted by some excellent investigative journalism” — an apparent reference to a November 2018 story by the Miami Herald that found 80 women who said they were sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006. It sparked a public outcry over Epstein’s lenient 2007 plea deal from Florida prosecutors, who allowed the billionaire to avoid federal criminal charges, plead guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution, register as a sex offender and serve 13 months in jail while being allowed to work in his office six days per week… more.