Crime Victims Now Have Constitutional Rights

Epstein Case Highlights Role of Victims’ Rights Attorneys

April 5, 2019

Epstein Case Highlights Role of Victims’ Rights Attorneys

Jeffrey Epstein is well-known for his connections to rich and powerful men, including former President Bill Clinton and current President Donald Trump. A millionaire himself, he is also an accused pedophile who is alleged to have trafficked teenage girls for sex. Yet despite substantial evidence against him, in 2007, a prosecutor signed off on a secret deal to ensure that he would never spend a day in prison. That prosecutor — then the U.S. Attorney in Miami, Alexander Acosta, now the Secretary of Labor under President Trump — agreed to seal the indictment against Epstein and signed a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) guaranteeing that Epstein would not be prosecuted.

Epstein’s alleged victims did not know about the deal until after it was signed. Recently, these women (now in their 20’s and 30’s) filed a lawsuit with the help of victims’ rights attorneys under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA). In February 2019, a federal judge ruled that the deal violated the CVRA because the victims had no opportunity to be heard.

The CVRA, like many victims’ rights laws, guarantees victims several rights — including the right to confer with prosecutors and to be reasonably heard at hearings that involve pleas and sentencing. Because prosecutors chose to conceal the existence of their deal with Epstein, it violated the CVRA. The judge then requested that attorneys for both sides determine what remedy should be applied to the case.

Meg Garvin, executive director of the National Crime Victims Law Institute, stated that she is unaware of any case where the CVRA was used to invalidate this type of deal. She believed that the government’s refusal to not help remedy the victims’ rights was extreme, and noted that this kind of fierce representation on behalf of victims is not guaranteed. According to Garvin, “The only survivors being listened to are those with lawyers. So what the lawyers in this case are doing is helping set precedent in the hopes that there isn’t another egregious moment of ignoring victims’ rights — so those survivors in the future who don’t have lawyers get some benefit from all of this.”

The Epstein case may represent an extreme example of an alleged abuser with money and privilege who was able to escape prosecution with a special deal. Yet far too often, defendants in criminal cases are offered favorable plea agreements without real consideration for the victims and what they want or need. That is why an Irvine victims’ rights attorney can be an invaluable advocate for anyone who has been the victim of a crime.

In California, the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights was enacted in 2008 as an amendment to the state’s constitution. Known as Marsy’s Law, it gives victims certain enumerated rights, such as to be treated with fairness and respect, to be reasonably protected from the defendant, to restitution and to a speedy trial. Several of these rights — such as the right to be heard at any proceeding — are only available upon request. An Irvine victims’ rights attorney can advocate for you if you have been the victim of a crime, and help to ensure that your rights are protected.

A former prosecutor, attorney Michael E. Fell is now devoted to working with and for California crime victims. His law firm, Justice 4 Crime Victims, represents Californians who have been the victims of all types of crimes. Contact us today at 949-585-9055 or mfell@fellesq.com to schedule a free initial consultation with an Irvine victims’ rights attorney.