Wearing a black sweater, black slacks and silver handcuffs, a 28-year-old John I. Leonard High School graduate was brought into federal court by U.S. marshals on Tuesday to represent dozens of other young women who were allegedly sexually abused by Palm Beach billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
The handcuffs, her attorney Bradley Edwards said, are the most visible signs of the ongoing trauma she suffers from being turned into a high-paid sex toy for Epstein when she was 14. Once a driven high-school student, her life spiraled out of control after being lured into prostitution by Epstein, Edwards said. Convicted of petty theft on the west coast of Florida, she is now back in jail for violating her probation.
But the handcuffs didn’t stop the woman from spending four hours negotiating with federal prosecutors in an attempt to settle the lawsuit she and another victim filed against the U.S. government for striking a deal with Epstein allowing him to escape serious federal charges. The lawsuit by Jane Does 1 and 2 alleges the government violated the victims’ rights by striking the non-prosecution agreement without first notifying them.
Epstein later served 13 months of an 18-month sentence in the Palm Beach County Stockade after he pleaded guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution and soliciting prostitution.
The case made international headlines after another victim, in a sworn statement, claimed Epstein, now 63, offered her to his powerful friends, including Britain’s Prince Andrew — an accusation he denied.
U.S. Magistrate Dave Lee Brannon, who presided over the unusual settlement talks, said no accord was reached Tuesday.
He urged the two sides to continue to negotiate. If no settlement is reached, the lawsuit, accusing the U.S. Attorney’s Office of violating the Crime Victims Rights Act, could be headed to trial.
Like virtually everything about the case, which erupted in June 2008 when federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute Epstein as long as he pleaded guilty in state court to the two prostitution-related charges, the negotiations are shrouded in secrecy.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Marie Villafana declined comment on the closed-door session. Edwards would only talk in generalities.
The decades-old crime-victims law doesn’t allow the women to receive any money. Instead, Edwards said, Jane Doe 1 and the roughly 40 victims she said she represents want an official acknowledgment that what happened to them was wrong and assurances it won’t happen to others. Edwards also indicated he wants the government to pay a fine, hopefully to be used to help crime victims.
He also said his client wants federal prosecutors to pursue Epstein for federal crimes. “She wants him in jail,” Edwards said. “Since the June 2008 plea, that’s always been her No. 1 priority. Treat him like you treat anyone else who did this.”
Edwards acknowledged progress was been made since the first negotiating session with Brannon in May. But, he said, major sticking points remain. Prosecutors, he said, disagree with his claim that Epstein’s victims should have been notified of the non-prosecution deal before it was approved.
When Epstein agreed to plead guilty to the state charges, he also agreed to pay attorneys who represented more than two-dozen underage girls who filed lawsuits or settled claims against Epstein, alleging they were lured to his Palm Beach mansion to give him sexually charged massages and/or sex in exchange for money. Jane Does 1 and 2 are among those who received confidential monetary settlements in civil cases.
The negotiating sessions have been difficult for Jane Doe 1, Edwards said. “She’s carrying a heavy weight and is thinking of a class of victims that she went to high school with and who brought her to (Epstein’s) house. She’s trying to do right by them.”