“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his 1926 short story, The Rich Boy. “They are different from you and me.”
Eight decades later, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein stretched Fitzgerald’s premise to an extreme that would have offended even a jaded novelist. Rich Boy Epstein, a serial sex offender with an astounding appetite for underaged girls, was able to use his wealth to reduce the offices of the U.S. Attorney, the Palm Beach State Attorney and the Palm Beach County Sheriff to simpering sycophants.
The hedge fund billionaire, now 65, had lured scores of young teens – perhaps hundreds – to his Palm Beach mansion for nude massage sessions, for sex or – as some of his victims alleged – for out-and-out orgies between 1999 and 2007. He pimped the teens out to his friends. He flew girls to New York or to his private Caribbean island on his jet, known as the “Lolita Express.”
The Herald’s Julie Brown, in an investigative series fairly bursting with outrageous details, found young women who described how, as teens as young as 13, they had been repeatedly exploited by Epstein and his buddies for their carnal amusement.
Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter told Brown that a dozen years ago, his investigators had accumulated damning evidence that corroborated victims’ accounts. Plus, he said, they had “all basically told the same story.”
When Reiter decided that the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office interested in prosecuting a local billionaire, he went to the feds. A federal grand jury issued a 53-page indictment, based on enough evidence to send a predator away for life. Except the rich are different from you and me.
Epstein hired a , including Roy Black, Alan Dershowitz, and former Watergate special prosecutor Ken Starr. Epstein’s private detectives went to work digging up material that could undermine the credibility of Epstein’s victims.
On June 30, 2008, Epstein copped to about the sweetest plea deal you could imagine.
You probably couldn’t imagine it.
State and federal prosecutors happily reduced scores of federal and state offenses to two piddling state charges — soliciting prostitution and procuring a person younger than 18 for prostitution. Meanwhile, the feds not only promised they would not ring him up on federal charges, they granted immunity to his various co-conspirators.
Prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team worked out the secret plea deal without bothering to inform his victims, else the young women might show up at the sentencing hearing and object to the deal that characterized them as a bunch of hookers who had misled the defendant about their age.
Epstein was sentenced to 18 months – an outrageous sentence matched by the outrageous accommodations afforded the newly convicted sex offender. Instead of state prison, Epstein was allowed to spend 13 months in the Palm Beach County stockade, and in a special wing away from the rabble. He was allowed to spend 12 hours a day, six days a week, entertaining visitors at his nicely appointed office in downtown under a “work-release” program. Nice work if you can get it.
He served the last five months of his sentence under house arrest. Which ain’t shabby, when the house is a luxurious waterfront mansion. Like Fitzgerald said . . .
While the Epstein case was being settled in West Palm Beach, 52 of his fellow sex offenders – the less affluent kind – were consigned to a wretched existence in the bowels of the Julia Tuttle Causeway between Miami and Miami-Beach. When Epstein moved back into his mansion, they were still camped under the bridge like post-apocalyptic trolls, in tents, scrap-wood shacks, rusting campers. No water. No electricity. No sanitation. Stuck there because city and county residency restrictions created so many overlapping forbidden zones – no living within 2,500 feet of schools, day cares, parks, playgrounds, school bus stops — that the middle of Biscayne Bay had become a registered sex offender‘s only allowable Miami address. (Broward County had a similar, smaller encampment under the U.S. 441 bridge just north of I-595.) Of course, Rich Boy sex offenders were exempt from such shabby inconveniences.
The scandal of the Epstein case has been roiling South Florida ever since, but it wasn’t scandal enough to keep Epstein’s friend and Palm Beach neighbor, fellow Rich Boy Donald Trump, from picking who signed off on this hinky plea deal, as his secretary of labor a decade later. But apparently the fresh details dug up by Julie Brown, along with from several of Epstein’s victims, have been too much, even for our womanizer-in-chief.
Acosta, reportedly, is no longer a candidate to replace departed Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Meanwhile, Epstein’s lawyers, armed with great dollops of Epstein’s money, have filed by his victims.
Epstein, reportedly, is still living very well. Because the rich are different from you and me.
Fred Grimm ( or leogrimm), a longtime resident of Fort Lauderdale, has worked as a reporter or columnist in South Florida since 1976.