Silver lining in Epstein saga: New focus on victims’ rights


The Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Jeffrey Epstein case has brought national attention to victims’ rights, from prosecutors shunning Epstein’s accusers more than a decade ago to the same women speaking about their suffering at an extraordinary court hearing last month.

If there was a silver lining to the saga, attorneys for the women said, it was the emphasis on the victims that permeated the most recent proceedings — a night-and-day difference from their treatment the first time Epstein found himself under federal investigation.

That enthusiasm was dampened Monday when a federal judge in Florida denied Epstein’s accusers compensation from the U.S. Justice Department, even after ruling that prosecutors violated their rights by failing to consult them about the 2008 plea deal they reached with Epstein.

Lawyers for the women are weighing an appeal, worried not only about precedent, but also the thousands of hours for which they were denied attorneys’ fees after 11 years of litigation.

Despite those setbacks, several advocates said, the Epstein case bolstered the national victims’ rights movement, an effort that has gained momentum in recent years as more states pass measures guaranteeing victims a voice in criminal proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra echoed that sentiment in his ruling Monday, saying Epstein’s accusers could take solace “in the fact that this litigation has brought national attention to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and the importance of victims in the criminal justice system.”

“It has also resulted in the United States Department of Justice acknowledging its shortcomings in dealing with crime victims, and its promise to better train its prosecutors regarding the rights of victims under the CVRA in the future,” Marra wrote.

Some observers said the Epstein case could have a lasting impact on the treatment of victims at a time when the #MeToo movement has brought a greater focus to restorative justice.

By Josh Bovee

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