NEW YORK (AP) — Before Jeffrey Epstein’s jailhouse suicide last year, his defense hinged on a 2008 deal with federal prosecutors in Florida over his alleged sexual abuse of multiple teenage girls. His lawyers said it prevented him from being charged with further crimes.
Could that same deal now help Ghislaine Maxwell, the Epstein confidante arrested Thursday, evade charges she helped lure at least three girls into sexual liaisons with him?
Maxwell’s lawyers haven’t outlined their defense strategy, but her legal team is bound to raise the issue in the months ahead.
The British socialite was arrested Thursday in New Hampshire on charges that she acted as a recruiter of underage girls for Epstein, usually under the guise of hiring them to perform massages, and sometimes participated in his sexual abuse of the teens.
The allegations against the couple date back many years, but Epstein, for a while, appeared to have resolved them under a deal with federal and state prosecutors in South Florida in which he pleaded guilty to lesser state charges and served 13 months in jail and a work-release program.
After a Miami Herald expose brought new attention to the case, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan brought new charges against Epstein last July, arguing that the 2008 deal only applied to the specific U.S. attorney’s office in Florida that made the agreement — not all 94 federal prosecutor’s offices in the country.
A key for Maxwell is that agreement also sought to prevent criminal charges from being brought “against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein.”
The agreement lists four women by name, possibly because they received subpoenas or “target letters” from the government over allegations they were paid to recruit girls for Epstein. However, the agreement notes, it is “not limited to” only them.
Maxwell was not one of the four women identified by name in the agreement, but former Miami federal prosecutor David Weinstein said the “not limited to” wording is broad enough for her lawyers to contend it applied to her, too.
Maxwell’s lawyers could argue “just because her name wasn’t mentioned doesn’t mean she wasn’t protected by the agreement,” Weinstein said Friday.
Gerald Lefcourt, a lawyer who negotiated the 2008 agreement, told the AP last year that he “would never have signed the agreement or recommended it unless we believed that it resolved what it said: all federal and state criminal liability.”