By Larry . . . For those who cherish our Constitution, this is a sad time for our country. I deeply believe in the presumption of innocence and that the presumption of innocence follows those who have been charged with crimes through the duration of the process until they either plead guilty or are convicted by a jury of their peers. Despite the protests of victim advocacy organizations, this is the America I believe in and will champion at every possible opportunity. I also deeply believe that persons who are presumed innocent should be released pending trial so that they can assist with their own defense. There is no question that persons held in detention cannot have the same access to attorneys or resources which permit them to assist with preparing for trial that those not in custody have.
Prior to the Bail Reform Act (BRA) of 1984, it was very uncommon in the federal system for people to be held in detention unless they could not post a monetary bond. That all changed when President Reagan signed the BRA into law. The BRA made it possible for the prosecution to move for pre-trial detention, regardless of whether or not the person could post bail. The Supreme Court upheld the BRA in 1987 on a 7-2 vote. See USA v. Salerno. Now after more than three decades of the BRA, nearly everyone accused of a federal crime is subject to some type of confinement pending trial, which can range from house arrest to confinement in a halfway house or correctional facility. This was the case for Jeffrey Epstein; he was confined to the Metropolitan Correctional Facility (MCC) in Manhattan, one of our nation’s toughest prisons.
Many victims’ advocates contend that Epstein was a coward who, with his suicide, took the easy way out. Of course, they are entitled to their opinion, but it is one with which I disagree. I believe that Jeffrey Epstein probably was totally dejected once he recognized that the American system he believed in did not exist. He presented many options for his pre-trial release that were categorically rejected by the court because to grant release would have enraged those who advocate for the victims. These advocates do not share my belief in our Constitution’s presumption of innocence.
Mr. Epstein complained about the harsh conditions he was subjected to at MCC. Could it be that he gave up on life once he realized that the system does not care? Many of our supporters agree that improving conditions in our jails and prisons is a goal worth pursuing. If that is what one believes, how can the opinion that Mr. Epstein, or anyone, deserves such harsh conditions be justified?
The ultimate tragedy is that we will never know if the government had a strong case or if they simply filed charges to satisfy the angry mob. This is the same angry mob that drove Alex Acosta from his job as president Trump’s Labor Secretary for his decision not to prosecute Epstein years ago. And it’s the same angry mob that drove Judge Persky from office in the case involving the Stanford University swimmer. As far as Mr. Epstein, it is my personal belief that major contributing factors to his prosecution were greed, desire for fame, and class envy, which is sad.
My final comment is that our system of justice has lost, and the only winners are the people alleging to have suffered abuse at Epstein’s hands. He is now dead, which opens the door for many to make allegations which may or may not be true. The angry mob will feed on the carcass of the Epstein estate until it is completely decimated, and then they will go after the insurance companies. It is with sadness that I may be one of the few to understand the long-term damage this does to our nation. This situation, coupled with the abolition of the statute of limitations and the constant erosion of the right of confrontation, which victim advocates insist is revictimization, is allowing due process to crumble before our eyes, and there is hardly a whimper from the citizenry.
Larry serves as NARSOL’S treasurer and is publisher of the Digest. He writes the “Legal Corner” column for the Digest and legal analyses for the NARSOL website. He is a regular on the “Registry Matters” podcasts.