Epstein’s co-conspirators — people victims say helped him lure young girls to his Florida mansion — were largely let off the hook by a deal Epstein struck with the federal government. It’s a deal Paul Cassell and his client, Courtney Wild, believe was illegal.
Cassell appeared Thursday before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals via Zoom to make the argument. A decision is expected from the 11 judges as soon as early March.
If Wild wins, the federal government would nullify a deal that blocks federal prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges against Epstein’s associates.
“This agreement gave Epstein essentially a blank check,” Cassell said. “Not only was he protected from a federal prosecution, but all of his co-conspirators were protected as well.”
Epstein pleaded to a lower state charge in Florida as part of the deal. He served 13 months, though local media report much of it was on work release.
Cassell says the deal represents a dark chapter in American justice.
“Sadly shows that if you have wealth and resources you’re able to get a better deal in the criminal justice system, than if you’re an ordinary citizen,” he said.
The professor argued that federal law requires victims of crime get a seat at the table when prosecutors are making deals with defendants.
“Miss Wild was not told about his plea deal, and that makes it a violation of victims’ rights, her rights,” Cassell said.
The case isn’t about money. Cassell says his client’s aim is for people close to Epstein to once again be eligible for trial and prison.
“What professor Cassell did yesterday morning is the peak — what every lawyer basically dreams to do,” said Alex Allred, a law student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
Allred was among a group of students Cassell enlisted to help him prepare for the oral argument, simulating what he’d encounter.
Think of them like a scout team, the people that run an opposing team’s plays during practice.
“This was a pretty unique opportunity for us to instead turn the tables on him, and play judge for his argument,” Allred said.
The students thought of just about everything.
“They came up with basically all of the hard questions I had to face from the real judges,” Cassell said.
Allred said students got a thrill out of the experience, lending a small hand on a high profile case.
“It reminds us as students that the work that we do really matters. It has a huge impact on real people and on institutions,” Allred said. “It’s fun to be able to describe that to your wife, to your friends. ‘Hey, I had at least a small role in this.’”
There are hurdles for Wild.
The co-conspirators have rights too. Even if Cassell’s argument convinces the courts that Epstein’s deal was illegal, dismantling it would involve the federal government reneging on its word — something opposing lawyers would fight hard.