Topline: A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered that 167 documents in a lawsuit that alleges famously well-connected financier Jeffrey Epstein participated in a sex-trafficking ring should be unsealed—and that many of his powerful friends could be named.
Key background: Epstein had previously been charged in 2007 in a 53-page indictment. As the Miami Herald revealed in its investigative series “Perversion of Justice,” Epstein managed to escape all federal charges through a plea deal that gave him and all of his coconspirators immunity, with all documents being sealed. Epstein ended up pleading guilty to one state prostitution charge in Florida. He then registered as a sex offender and paid unspecified restitution to three dozen victims identified by the FBI.
The contentious plea deal was orchestrated by U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, now President Trump’s secretary of labor. The Miami Herald’s reporting prompted calls for Acosta to resign, but he has remained in his Cabinet post.
In February, a U.S. district judge determined federal prosecutors, including Acosta, broke the law by failing to notify victims before Epstein pleaded guilty to the Florida prostution charge. That decision could potentially nullify Epstein’s plea deal, opening him up to new federal charges. But prosecutors are challenging this ruling.
Tangent: Contrary to popular belief, Epstein is not a billionaire. Forbes explained why all the way back in 2011.