July 12, 2019

Prosecuting cases against wealthy defendants has often been an uphill battle for sex crime survivors. The Epstein case suggests a change in attitude – and the potential for greater equity.

New charges against Jeffrey Epstein have not yet been proven in court – and it could be years before any final resolution of the child sex trafficking case brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan Monday.

But when the financier and registered sex offender went to jail this week, relief was palpable among a growing chorus of people who say he avoided serious criminal penalties more than a decade ago because of his extreme wealth and social connections.

The new criminal charges – and the resignation Friday morning of Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta for his role overseeing a plea deal for Mr. Epstein when he was a federal prosecutor – have stirred their hope that the balance of power may be shifting when it comes to pursuit of justice against high-profile people.

The willingness to prosecute Mr. Epstein sends a strong message “to other survivors, which is, ‘Keep pressing forward and one day you will be heard,’” says Michael Dolce, a Florida-based lawyer who handles sexual abuse cases at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

The persistence of some of Mr. Epstein’s Florida victims to challenge the plea bargain in federal court there, and a deep-dive investigative journalism project by the Miami Herald late last year, encouraged New York officials to pursue their own investigation.

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