What we know about the life and conduct of Jeffrey Epstein is deeply unsettling at almost every turn—on matters ranging from how he amassed his wealth to how his federal non-prosecution deal came about, and how he came to die in federal custody in 2019, among other questions. The latest legal twist is an appeals court decision which held that federal prosecutors did not have an obligation under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA or the Act), to tell Epstein’s victims of the decision not to prosecute Epstein for sex trafficking. In re Wild, 955 F.3d 1196, 1205 (11th Cir. 2020).
In the CVRA, Congress gave “crime victims” the right to be heard at critical junctures in a prosecution, as we previously explained in Elkan Abramowitz and Jonathan Sack, Victims’ Rights and White-Collar Defense, N.Y.L.J. (July 11, 2017). Under the CVRA, victims of Epstein brought suit, claiming that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida violated their rights by failing to confer with the victims before entering into a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein in 2007 (the NPA). Many years later, the victims prevailed in the district court, though the issue of an appropriate remedy was still undecided at the time of Epstein’s apparent suicide in August 2019. Following Epstein’s death, the district court dismissed petitioner’s suit, and the victims sought a writ of mandamus in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. In April 2020, the Eleventh Circuit held that rights of crime victims under the CVRA do not attach prior to the filing of criminal charges.
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