- By Jane Musgrave Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A long-awaited-for trial that promises a first-ever exploration of the sexual misdeeds of billionaire convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is expected to begin Dec. 4 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
During a two-hour hearing on Wednesday, Circuit Judge Donald Hafele dispensed with a series of routine motions filed by attorneys representing Epstein and those representing his longtime nemesis, lawyer Bradley Edwards.
Unless the two agree to settle their differences during yet another mediation session on Sept. 21, the civil lawsuit is expected to go to a jury nearly 10 years after it was filed.
However, the money manager who counts President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew among his friends has no plans to be there, his attorneys said.
As a result, attorney Jack Scarola said he will be forced to read excerpts from Epstein’s sworn statements. The part-time Palm Beach resident refused to answer nearly every question — ranging from how many times he had sex with the girls at his waterfront mansion to how much he is worth. In each case, he invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Epstein attorney Scott Link said the strategy is simply to vilify Epstein. “Mr. Scarola and Mr. Edwards want to show what a horrible person Mr. Epstein was,” he said. “They hope the jury dislikes Mr. Epstein enough to award Mr. Edwards lots of money in damages.”
While Judge Hafele threw out some of the questions, he said Epstein’s relationship with the young women and his net worth are relevant to the malicious prosecution lawsuit Edwards filed against Epstein.
Link argued that Epstein has good reason not to answer questions about his relationships with young women. While Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution and soliciting prostitution and served 13 months in jail, Edwards is trying to convince a federal judge to reopen the investigation.
Until U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra decides whether federal prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not telling the young women that they agreed to drop their investigation if Epstein pleaded guilty to the state charges, Epstein is not off the hook, Link said.
Epstein and Edwards have been duking it out in court for years. Edwards successfully sued Epstein on behalf of three women who claimed he paid them for sex when they were in their teens.
After Epstein paid $5.5 million to settle the three lawsuits and undisclosed amounts to settle dozens of others, he sued Edwards and his former boss, disbarred lawyer and convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein. Epstein claimed Rothstein and Edwards used the cases they filed against him to lure investors into the $1.2 million Ponzi scheme. Investors were lured by tales of bogus settlements of various lawsuits filed against high-profile people.
After Rothstein was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison, Epstein dropped the lawsuit. Edwards responded by suing Epstein for malicious prosecution to clear his reputation. Epstein knew Edwards wasn’t part of Rothstein’s scheme but sued him to punish him for representing the young women, Scarola claims.
Link disagrees. At the time, he said Epstein had good reason to believe Edwards was part of the scam.