Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein on Tuesday abruptly settled a civil suit in West Palm Beach, Fla., avoiding a trial in which his accusers could've testified about abuse they endured as teenagers.
Epstein apologized to attorney Bradley Edwards, the lawyer representing two of Epstein's accusers, and agreed to pay a cash settlement after he attempted to connect the attorney with Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein. He dropped the suit when Rothstein confirmed there was no truth to the allegation and Edwards countered with a defamation suit, The Miami Herald reported.
The settlement was reached a short time before the civil trial was set to begin.
"The lawsuit I filed was my unreasonable attempt to damage his business reputation and stop Mr. Edwards from pursuing cases against me," Epstein said a statement that was read aloud in the West Palm Beach, Fla., courtroom, The Palm Beach Post reported. Epstein was not in court.
Edwards had countersued to allow Epstein's accusers, now in their 20s and 30s, the chance to testify and tell their stories, The Herald reported. Edwards said he will move forward with a federal suit attacking an immunity agreement signed by Alexander Acosta, the former South Florida prosecutor who is now labor secretary in the Trump administration.
The agreement allowed Epstein, whose acquaintances include President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, to serve barely a year in jail on two state prostitution charges, despite being investigated by the FBI in a case that involved as many as 80 minor girls.
None of the accusers were notified of the deal. Edwards is charging in the suit the agreement violated the Crime Victims' Rights Act, since his clients were never notified or given a chance to speak about it when it was signed 10 years ago.
The Herald, in an in-depth series on the case last week, reported that emails between prosecutors and Epstein's attorneys showed they deliberately attempted to keep the accusers and news media in the dark about the settlement.
Edwards said his clients and other accusers should know why they weren't allowed to testify against Epstein, and why they were never allowed to challenge the deal.
Acosta has said he wanted to make sure Epstein would pay his victims restitution as part of the agreement, and feared he would escape punishment without the deal, the Post reported.
Florida Rep. Lois Frankel and 11 House members asked Monday that an inspector general investigate why Acosta agreed to the plea deal for Epstein.