Epstein charged again
Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier with connections to the rich and famous, was arrested on Saturday and charged by Southern District of New York federal prosecutors with the sex trafficking of minors. The indictment, unsealed Monday, alleges that from 2002 to 2005 Epstein “enticed and recruited” minor girls to visit his New York and Florida mansions “to engage in sex acts with him.” By paying victims to recruit additional minors to be abused, “Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit.” A search of Epstein’s New York City mansion uncovered a “trove of lewd photographs of girls” in a locked safe.
Epstein has pled not guilty, and he is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan as he awaits his detention hearing on Monday, July 15, when a judge will consider his bail request. On Thursday, Epstein’s defense lawyers filed a recommended bail package arguing that Epstein is “entitled” to bail, and that he should be released into home detention in his Manhattan mansion on a “substantial personal recognizance bond,” which could be secured by a mortgage on his Upper East Side home, valued at $77 million, as well as his private jet as collateral. Prosecutors argued in a bail memorandum that Epstein poses an “extreme” flight risk given his tremendous wealth and resources.
Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time of Epstein’s alleged criminal conduct, is under fire for his role in negotiating a secret non-prosecution agreement in 2007 in which Epstein avoided federal charges by pleading guilty to two state charges of soliciting prostitution from minors. Because of this “sweetheart deal,” Epstein only faced 13 months of jail time with work-release privileges, and “any potential co-conspirators” were granted immunity.
Acosta defended his handling of the Epstein case in a press conference on Wednesday following calls for his resignation. He said that his office intervened in the case, which was originally brought by a state’s attorney in Palm Beach County, so that Epstein wouldn’t have “gotten away with just that state charge.” Acosta explained: “The Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office was ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing. The prosecutors in my former office found this to be completely unacceptable and they became involved, our office became involved.” Though Acosta did not apologize to Epstein’s victims during the press conference, despite multiple prompts from reporters, he stated that “Epstein’s actions absolutely deserve a stiffer sentence.”
In a written statement, Barry Krischer, the Palm Beach County state attorney at the time in question, called Acosta’s portrayal of events “completely wrong”, adding that Acosta “should not be allowed to rewrite history.” Krischer further opined: “If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the state’s case, and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted.” The House Oversight Committee has requestedthat Acosta provide testimony about Epstein’s 2007 deal on July 23.
The 2020 Census
In a press conference on Thursday, Trump announced he is backing down from the effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, and would instead issue an executive order directing the Commerce Department to gather existing data on citizenship from administrative records held by agencies across the federal government.
The announcement comes two weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision that halted the government from adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census based on what Chief Justice John Roberts called a “contrived” rationale offered by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for its inclusion.
Trump’s decision is not a sweeping victory for opponents of the citizenship question, however, as the administration could use the information collected through the executive order to draw districts based on citizenship rather than total population during the next redistricting cycle in 2021, ultimately shifting power to areas with fewer immigrants and more Republicans, according to news analysis by Mother Jones.
It remains to be seen how Attorney General Bill Barr, who also spoke at the press conference, will proceed with the three separate ongoing census cases in Maryland, California and New York.