The Jeffrey Epstein case establishes beyond a doubt that if you’re a sexual predator, it pays to be a rich and connected sexual predator.
Epstein, now dead of an apparent suicide before his accusers had their day in court, worked the system and benefited from advantages and breaks unimaginable to anyone who didn't jet around with influential friends.
The multimillionaire financier who lived in Palm Beach, Fla., and Manhattan, N.Y., used his resources to build a network of sexual predation and then used his resources to escape meaningful legal punishment. Even after registering as a sex offender, he lived a life of ease and glamour unavailable to even most of the 1 percent.
Epstein was the Jay Gatsby of sexual abuse, relying on his wealth to perfume over what should have been the overwhelming smell of sulfur.
He hired a highly credentialed, aggressive legal team that wooed and overawed prosecutors who were supposed to hold him accountable for his crimes. A decade ago, the state prosecutor in Florida took a pass, and former Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida at the time, applied the minimal possible sanction while affording Epstein every possible consideration.
There are overzealous prosecutors, then there are prosecutors overly intimidated by boldfaced defense counsel. In a letter explaining his handling of the case, Acosta described "a year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors." The proper response of an office invested with the awesome powers of government, arrayed against a lowlife and his hired guns, should have been to double down. Instead, Acosta's office buckled.
If any of the nameless victims had been rich or famous themselves and able to hire an Alan Dershowitz or a Jay Lefkowitz, the result surely would have been different. A couple of years ago, Taylor Swift pursued, on principle, an assault case against a man who groped her at a meet-and-greet, and won a symbolic $1. But none of the Epstein’s victims were Taylor Swift, or anything like her. They were selected for abuse — because they were vulnerable. And failed by their government — because they were vulnerable.
Having minimized Epstein's offense in Florida, his lawyers got busy minimizing the consequences. They somehow convinced a prosecutor in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to petition a judge to lower Epstein's sex-offender status. The shocked judge rejected it out of hand. Vance said later that the request had been a mistake.
This held true to the pattern — all mistakes always worked in Epstein's favor.
It was a mistake that Epstein got to leave 12 hours a day, six days a week, while briefly in jail in Palm Beach so he could pursue his "work" (including bilking one of his clients).
It was a mistake that New York City police didn't enforce the requirement that Epstein check in with them every 90 days as required under his sex-offender status. (Don't you know, Epstein's primary residence was a private island in the Caribbean, not New York?)
All the while, Epstein continued to socialize with fancy people, buying his way into their company and entertaining the great and the good at his New York City mansion.
It was only when the Miami Herald unearthed the enormity of his crimes that Epstein's world began to unravel. He got charged with sex crimes by the Southern District of New York. Although, still, Epstein's lawyers got what they wanted on at least one key request. They reportedly asked for him to be removed from suicide watch while in custody despite a prior suicide attempt. The authorities assented, and Epstein apparently killed himself, a punctuation mark on the futility and incompetence of a government that had ample opportunity to bring him to justice and failed every single time.
It shouldn't be possible for a hideous monster to game the American system of justice, but it's exactly what Jeffrey Epstein did, from loathsome beginning to unforgivable end.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org