Hedges and balconies: the Epstein case in retrospect

Oct. 11, 2019, 2:51 a.m.

Private jets, one island and an entire sex trafficking ring: what exactly happens within the tightly-knit circles of America’s most prominent figures? 

And, most importantly, how do we trust the rich to hold the rich accountable for it?

The Epstein case then

Jeffrey Epstein, an affluent hedge fund manager centered in Brooklyn, was first indicted in 2008 for sexual involvement with a minor, a case that later ended in a plea bargain. Although this non-prosecution agreement initially helped him avoid federal prosecution and a possible life-sentence (resulting in a sentence of a meer 13 months of work release), he was later charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy in 2019 after outrage ensued following a Miami Herald article focusing on his 2008 plea bargain. 

The investigation which followed revealed that Epstein had sexually abused dozens of underage girls with many photos of nude and semi-nude girls found within his Brooklyn home. It also exposed an entire sex trafficking ring hidden within the hedges and balconies of America’s very own rich and powerful. 

Amid the investigation, with many other victims stepping forward and co-conspirators being discovered, a shocking and pivoting change of events came: Epstein was found unresponsive in his prison cell by what would be deemed an apparent suicide.

To the rest of the United States, this was the end of the Epstein case. But to those inside the investigation, this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The Epstein case today

While Epstein won’t ever have to face his victims (or the consequences of his actions) in court, the women affected are still pursuing civil claims against his estate. An investigation surrounding the rest of the sex trafficking ring is also still ongoing along with another case focusing on the mysterious details surrounding Epstein’s death. 

Even though the Epstein case is anything but over, to the American public and the media, it seems as if Epstein’s actions, sex trafficking ring and victims all died with him. Articles focusing on the case have dwindled off, the allegations against him and other affluent public figures have faded and his victims seem to have been forgotten.

To the rest of the United States, the lives of these victims and the trauma which they have faced have turned into a sitcom in which Epstein’s death was the finale. Unfortunately, however, these survivors are not just actors who get to return home after the end of the show. Rather, they are still fighting for even a shred of justice. 

Meanwhile, the rich and powerful, it seems, have returned to their mansions, trimmed their shrubs and closed their shades to continue to do whatever it is they see fit. 

And that’s what people seem to miss. The “Epstein” Case has never been about Jeffrey Epstein. It’s about the victims who never see justice. It’s about the rich not being held accountable. And, most of all, it’s about the American public not paying attention.

We complain and acknowledge that “something needs to be done” time and time again; yet, how can we expect anything to get done when we forget about the problem the moment it’s hidden away?

The sad truth is that we simply can’t trust the rich to hold the rich accountable. The only people who would be able to do so are likely the very people asking that question — that is, the rest of the United States. But, until Americans awaken from this fast-food style of fad and frenzy news,  shocking headlines will come and fade away, corruption will persist and the rich? Well, they’re just going to keep doing whatever they want because, after all, who’s going to check them?

Contact Damian Marlow at ddrue ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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