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Despite Jeffrey Epstein’s death, how his accusers could still find a measure of justice

On Monday, Attorney General William Barr sharply criticized the management of the Manhattan federal prison where wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his cell over the weekend. John Yang reports and talks to Cardozo Law School’s Jessica Roth about how the investigation into Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring will continue and what other avenues his accusers have to seek justice.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Attorney General William Barr today sharply criticized the management of the Manhattan federal jail where wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his cell this weekend.

    As John Yang reports, Epstein's death does not mean the end to the federal sex-trafficking investigation that led to his indictment.

  • John Yang:

    Amna, in his remarks today, the attorney general also pledged that any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims, he said, deserve justice and they will get it.

    So where does the case go now?

    Jessica Roth is a professor at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law, and joins us from New York.

    Jessica Roth, thanks. What do prosecutors in the case of the United States versus Jeffrey Epstein do now that Jeffrey Epstein is dead?

  • Jessica Roth:

    Well, the case against Jeffrey Epstein himself will be dismissed because he's now deceased and you can't proceed with a criminal case against a person who's dead, but the overall criminal investigation will continue. Over the weekend, U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Geoff Berman issued a statement in which he made clear that the criminal investigation would continue and he said that his office would continue to stand for the victims, stand up for the victims, and, in particular, he pointed to the fact that Jeffrey Epstein had been charged in one count of the indictment with conspiring with others to engage in sex trafficking and that's significant because the law of conspiracy requires proof that two or more persons agreed to commit a crime.

    And what that means is that Mr. Berman was prepared to prove in court that at least one other person and possibly others were engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Jeffrey Epstein.

  • John Yang:

    Well, we know that in the Flor — that highly criticized Florida non-prosecution agreement, there are named — were named four potential co-conspirators who were not charged, and in this New York indictment, there were three people cited though not named who also participated in this. Do you think we're likely to see indictments against those folks coming up in the coming days?

  • Jessica Roth:

    I don't know about the timeline, but certainly from everything that's been indicated by the U.S. attorney's office and what's been publicly reported, it would seem that they have significant evidence against other people. As you mentioned in the indictment, there are people identified not by name but in terms of the role that they played. So, clearly, the U.S. attorney's office has evidence against those other people and they will be pursuing that investigation and looking also at the evidence that was collected during the search of Jeffrey Epstein's home that was done on the day of his arrest to see what that yields at the involvement of co-conspirators and accomplices.

    It's been reported that his pilots have been subpoenaed for their testimony, and they would have significant information about who was else may have been involved in arranging the travel for the sex trafficking. So I think we need to be patient as the investigators reorient to a case in which Jeffrey Epstein will not sit at the table, but Mr. Berman made clear that the investigation is ongoing.

  • John Yang:

    And even without a conviction, can prosecutors go after his assets or in this case, I guess, his estate?

  • Jessica Roth:

    Yes. So there's still a process in which the U.S. attorney's office, through its U.S. attorneys office, can go after assets that were used to facilitate the crimes that have been alleged here. So, for example, his Manhattan town house, allegedly, was involved — was used as a place where some of the unlawful activity occurred. If his properties in the Virgin Island were involved. Those also could be sought through what's called a civil asset forfeiture proceeding.

    The advantage of that, first, is that it can be handled by the U.S. attorney's office, and any assets that were recovered distributed to victims for restitution through the federal government. It also allows a proof by preponderance of evidence standard which is a civil standard of proof rather than the criminal beyond a reasonable doubt standard. It allows offers an advantage frankly, of allowing the narrative of what unfolded in his crimes to be told, because much of the same proof would be offered that would have been offered in a criminal trial against Jeffrey Epstein.

  • John Yang:

    And, of course, this doesn't do anything to the civil lawsuits that might be coming from accusers?

  • Jessica Roth:

    No, those can proceed as well. So, the accusers have multiple avenues through which they can seek some measure of justice. None will be the same, of course, as actually confronting Jeffrey Epstein in a criminal case. But through the civil lawsuits, they can pursue his estate. As I mentioned, the civil asset forfeiture proceedings against specific assets that were used to facilitate his crimes is another avenue of potential relief, and then, of course, as we discussed a moment ago, there's a possibility of criminal proceedings against others who were his accomplices and co-conspirators.

  • John Yang:

    Jessica Roth of the Cardozo School of Law, thank you very much.

  • Jessica Roth:

    Thank you.

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