As It Happens

Jeffrey Epstein is in 'a world of trouble' this time, says former U.S. federal prosecutor

Elie Honig says this time around, Jeffrey Epstein will probably go down for his alleged trafficking and sex abuse of underage girls.

The multimillionaire is not likely to get another 'sweetheart deal' on new sex abuse charges: Elie Honig

This July 30, 2008, file photo shows Jeffrey Epstein in custody in West Palm Beach, Fla. The hedge fund manager has been indicted again, this time in New York. (Palm Beach Post/Uma Sanghvi/The Associated Press)
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Jeffrey Epstein will likely go down for his alleged crimes this time around, says a former U.S. federal prosecutor.

Epstein, a multimillionaire hedge fund manager, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy for allegedly sexually abusing dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, between 2002 and 2005.

The Southern District of New York indictment accuses Epstein of running a sex trafficking network in which he allegedly paid underage girls for sex, then tasked his employees, associates and victims with finding and luring other girls for him to abuse.

The arrest comes 11 years after Epstein avoided a potential life sentence on similar allegations by signing what lawyer Elie Honig calls "a sweetheart deal" with Florida prosecutors.

Honig, a former state and federal prosecutor, spoke to As It Happens guest host Robyn Bresnahan about why he thinks Epstein won't get off so easy this time. Here is part of their conversation.

What do you make of these new charges against Jeffrey Epstein?

Jeffrey Epstein is in a world of trouble.... Epstein is looking at an awful lot of time behind bars. For a guy who's 66 years old, as Epstein is, it could be really the rest of his life.

This is not the first time he has faced criminal charges. Eleven years ago, Mr. Epstein signed a secret deal with prosecutors. And in that deal, which is called a non-prosecution agreement, Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. He ultimately served 13 months. In exchange, he received immunity from all federal criminal charges. What does that immunity mean for this case and these new charges?

First of all, the deal that Epstein got in the Southern District of Florida years ago is really unconscionably unjust. I've seen all manner of plea deals, non-prosecution deals. I've done hundreds of thousands of them myself. I don't think I've ever seen a deal that was this generous to a defendant.

There's so much wrong with the deal. The fact that he only got 13 months. And, by the way, he spent most of that on work release so he wasn't actually behind bars for much of it.

The fact that they didn't notify victims. You were required as a federal prosecutor to at least notify victims. The fact that they did not do that tells me they were trying to keep it quiet.

The fact that the deal even purported to immunize Epstein's co-conspirators, other people involved in running this organization or this network with him, that is also absolutely unheard of.

Now, fortunately, that agreement is only binding on the district that entered into the agreement with him, which is the Southern District of Florida. It is not binding on any of the other 92 U.S. attorneys organized geographically around the country, including the Southern District of New York. So it really does not do anything to preclude the indictment that we heard today.

A protest group holds up signs of Epstein in front of the federal courthouse Monday in New York City. (Getty Images)

The deal that we're just talking about, according to the Miami Herald, which has really been at the forefront of newspapers investigating this, it was brokered by the former U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, who now serves as [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump's labour secretary. Where does this all leave Acosta?

Acosta is in a very tough spot. I think he is going to have a really hard time defending his actions. Now, is he in criminal trouble? Almost certainly not, unless some brand new evidence pops up.

But I think Congress needs to investigate him. I think it's going to be really hard for him to stay in his position as a cabinet secretary in this administration.

I think if he did the right thing, he would resign. And if he doesn't, then I think Congress has a real obligation to dig in to find the facts and perhaps to consider impeachment [against him.]

U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, announces charges against Epstein on Monday in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Jeffrey Epstein had friends in high places. He was friends with [former U.S. president] Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, even Prince Andrew. What do you think is the potential political fallout here?

That remains to be seen. I do think there obviously were more people than Jeffrey Epstein involved in running this network and more people participated in the sexual abuse. I think that's clear from the reporting and the indictment itself. We don't know who those people are.

What we will learn, I think, will depend on how this case plays out. If it goes to trial, ultimately we probably will learn those names— but that's many, many months down the road. If it does not go to trial, I don't think we'll learn who else might have been involved unless and until there are other indictments that are brought.

Elie Honig is a former state and federal prosecutor who works as a legal analyst for CNN. (Lowenstein Sandler)

In an article you wrote for CNN, you said that Mr. Epstein dodged justice the first time, but this time you say he is "likely cooked." What convinces you of that?

It's the Southern District of New York now on the case, not the Southern District of Florida. There are plenty of competent and then some prosecutors on the case versus Secretary Acosta, who I think was incompetent in the way he handled this case.

Also as a practical matter, you have a very bright media spotlight on the case now. And I don't think there's any way this case gets sort of shuffled away in the shadows as it was down in Florida.

On top of that, it seems like the Southern District [of New York] has taken the evidence that Florida had and built on it further, and like I said, today they even announced they had found potentially child pornographic images on his computer, which further buries him.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Morgan Passi. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.