The federal judge in Florida said the victims should "take solace" that their lawsuit helped spur an investigation leading to Jeffrey Epstein's arrest in July. File Photo courtesy of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice
Sept. 16 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Florida ruled Monday that a non-prosecution agreement for Jeffrey Epstein must be kept secret due to the financier's death last month.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra said he can't reveal the details of the secret agreement in which the 66-year-old was allowed to plead guilty to lesser state charges to avoid serious federal sex crimes charges. His victims sued, saying that under the Crime Victims' Rights Act, prosecutors should have notified them in 2007 that Epstein would not face federal charges.
"As a result of Mr. Epstein's death, there can be no criminal prosecution against him and the Court cannot consider granting this relief to the victims," Marra wrote.
Instead of federal charges, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges and served 13 months of an 18-month sentence in prison work-release.
Epstein died Aug. 10 in his Manhattan Correctional Center cell in what authorities believe was a suicide. He was arrested in July for separate charges.
The non-prosecution agreement also gave immunity to other people who allegedly helped Epstein recruit dozens of teens for sex. Marra's ruling means the victims won't receive monetary damages.
The judge urged the victims to "take solace" in the fact that their lawsuit brought attention to the Crime Victims' Rights Act and the Justice Department's mishandling of the case. He said their case also played a role in another investigation that led to Epstein's arrest in July.
The attorneys who represented some of the victims issued a statement to WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., that their clients should be "proud" of their efforts.
"As Judge Marra alluded to in his Order, this case undoubtedly elevated public awareness of Mr. Epstein's crimes and played a vital role in his eventual arrest in New York," Brad Edwards and Paul Cassell's statement read.
"Of course, this is not the ending we had hoped for, but the enormous progression of victims' rights through this case will ensure that violations like this never happen again in this country."
Epstein was arrested in July as part of a joint New York City Police Department-FBI investigation and he was charged with one count each of sex trafficking and conspiracy. He pleaded not guilty.
The millionaire financier, who was forced to register as a sex offender in Florida for the 2008 conviction, was accused of giving girls "hundreds of dollars in cash" to engage in sexual acts at his mansions in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla., and sometimes paid victims to recruit other victims. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said the reported incidents occurred between 2002 and 2005.