What promised to be a salacious trial probing billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual relationships with underage girls won’t get underway next week as planned.
Citing the many unanswered legal questions that still swirl around the 8-year-old civil lawsuit pitting attorney Bradley Edwards against the 64-year-old Palm Beach convicted sex offender, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele agreed to delay the trial until March.
During a hearing Wednesday, Hafele made it clear that he doesn’t want the trial to become X-rated. When it comes to “graphic, sexual questions, the likelihood is that I will not allow them into evidence,” Hafele said.
But he acknowledged that his efforts to sanitize the trial will be difficult given that the allegations against Epstein involve lawsuits Edwards filed on behalf of three of dozens of teenage girls who claim they were paid to give the billionaire money manager sexually-charged massages at his Palm Beach mansion.
Further, Hafele said, it is likely jurors will be told about a controversial non-prosecution agreement Epstein negotiated with federal prosecutors. In 2008, he agreed to plead guilty to two state charges — soliciting prostitution and procuring a minor for prostitution — and served roughly 13 months of an 18-month sentence. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed not to pursue allegations that he had abused dozens of other teenage girls, instead allowing them to file civil lawsuits against Epstein.
Scarola agreed he would refrain from describing Epstein as “a billionaire pedophile” or “a convicted child molester.” He said he does intend to call Virginia Roberts Giuffre to testify. In a civil lawsuit, she claimed Epstein turned her into a sex slave at age 15 when she was working at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, years before Donald Trump became president. Epstein flew her around the globe in his private jet filled with various celebrities, including Britain’s Prince Andrew and former President Bill Clinton, she later claimed in a separate lawsuit.
Epstein’s new defense team, attorneys Scott Link and Kara Rockenbach, urged Hafele to limit the evidence to Epstein’s relationship with three teenage girls Edwards represented. Epstein paid $5.5 million to settle the lawsuits Edwards filed on behalf of the women, identified in court papers only as L.M., E.W. and Jane Doe, according to revelations Scarola made as part of the lawsuit. Epstein settled other lawsuits with nearly two dozen other women; those amounts remain confidential.
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