The trial had been highly anticipated: It would be a 10-day event and would potentially reveal details about billionaire sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged abuse of teenage girls. But moments before jury selection was set to begin in Florida on Tuesday, the case settled — an outcome that some say did not bring justice to the women.
Epstein, 65, who has connections to President Trump and former president Bill Clinton, was at the center of the case, where he is alleged to have molested dozens of girls at his Palm Beach mansion when they were teenagers. He pleaded guilty to felony solicitation of underage girls in 2008 and received a sentence of 13 months in jail that gave him a high level of freedom — he was allowed to leave his jail cell during the day.
In the case at hand, Epstein had been suing attorney Bradley Edwards, who represented the women, alleging that Edwards helped gin up false accusations as part of a fundraising scheme. The settlement ended their nearly decade-long legal battle.
On Tuesday, Epstein apologized for “false and hurtful allegations” he made against Edwards. Epstein was not present in court, and he didn’t directly apologize to the women Edwards represents.
But Edwards said the women, now in their late 20s and early 30s, can take solace in the outcome of the case.
“This not only vindicates me; it vindicates them and their credibility,” Edwards said.
Though Epstein was held accountable on the state level, his accusers have long argued that the sentence was light and that federal charges — which were not pursued under then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta — shouldn’t have fallen by the wayside. Jack Scarola, an attorney for Edwards, on Tuesday called the outcome of the criminal case “a backroom sweetheart plea deal” that didn’t bring justice.
The drama isn’t over: Edwards and Scarola are still trying to overturn the non-prosecution agreement that Acosta arranged, and they vow to have the women speak openly about what happened.
“In that case, as many victims as want to testify will be able to testify,” Edwards said. “The number that were identified by the U.S. attorney is 36 to 40 women. There are more. It depends on how far you want to go. The operation was to recruit underage females, then have those underage females recruit others. It’s like a spider web of child molestation.”
Tuesday’s agreement also includes an undisclosed financial settlement.
Epstein’s attorney could not be reached for comment. Epstein owns an island in the Caribbean and has homes in Palm Beach and New York. During the time he was charged with molesting teenage girls more than a decade ago, he attended parties at Mar-a-Lago, and Trump flew on his private jet at least once.
As part of his 2008 conviction, Epstein is required to register as a sex offender.
Scarola and Edwards said the #MeToo movement helped encourage their clients to speak out. Scarola said what Epstein “did to his child victims is heinous” and that Epstein settled the case because he didn’t want their stories told in open court.
“The worst thing that could have happened to him from his perspective was a prolonged trial, where there would be news stories every day about just how bad his conduct was,” Scarola said.