The attorney general’s office reached an agreement in principle Friday for a victim’s compensation program with the estate of deceased pedophile and V.I. tax break recipient Jeffrey Epstein, according to the Department of Justice.
The new agreement includes measures Attorney General Denise George sought. George will now allow the release of a portion of the estate funds for the victims, according to the release.
In June 2008, he pleaded guilty in Florida to sexually abusing a female minor, under what later became a highly controversial plea agreement that was kept secret from the dozens of other plaintiffs who charged Epstein sexually assaulted and/or raped them. Several were as young as 14 at the time of the alleged assaults. Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges in July of 2019. He died of an apparent suicide in prison in August of 2019, leaving an estate valued at more than half a billion dollars.
Epstein had ties to many world leaders and prominent people. President Donald Trump knew him for many years and has been photographed and filmed with him on several occasions. One of President Bill Clinton is known to have flown on Epstein’s private jet at least once and the New York Post published photos it claims are of Clinton on Epstein’s plane. The United Kingdom’s Prince Andrew has been tainted by suspicion over his connections and time with Epstein.
Locally, Epstein owned two small islands off St. Thomas: Little St. James Island and Great St. James Island. Former Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s wife Cecile was listed as office manager and principal contact for Epstein’s corporate entity registered for tax breaks with the V.I. Economic Development Authority.
On Jan. 15, Justice officials announced the filing of a civil lawsuit against the Epstein Estate, seeking compensation for the territory and victims who were believed to have been subject to abuse at Epstein’s compound on Little St. James cay in Pillsbury Sound. The lawsuit alleges violations of the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Shortly before the V.I. government’s lawsuit, the estate filed a motion in V.I. probate court to seek approval for a claims fund to provide an alternative resolution process for numerous victims who filed claims against the Estate. George raised a number of concerns about the proposed process, which she asserted did not comply with the laws and public policy of the USVI or fully protect the rights of Epstein’s victims.
According to the Justice Department, the victim compensation fund now includes several changes they sought.
It now includes involvement of victim advocate Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA and the country’s preeminent expert and advocate on child sexual abuse issues. This is one of the changes George sought and she said it will help ensure that the decisions of the fund administrator are fully informed by and sensitive to the unique experiences and needs of survivors of trafficking and sexual abuse.
It also now reportedly has dedicated funding to ensure that victims who have not yet come forward or who are not satisfied with the claims process or award can opt-out without sacrificing the chance of a judgment or recovery.
And, according to the Justice Department, it contains protections to ensure that information shared by victims in the claims process is not provided to the estate and, potentially, used against the claimant or other victims.
It reportedly also includes access to counseling and referral services through the FBI Victim Services program and Child USA, and approval of the program’s administrative budget by the Probate Court and monthly reporting to the Attorney General’s Office and the Probate Court on the number and value of claim awards.
George opposed the estate’s initial demand that, in order to obtain funds under the program, victims be required to sign broad releases to protect other individuals who sexually abused them. With that broad release in place, she felt the fund could not ensure a fundamentally fair and legally sufficient process for victims who choose to participate.
Now, the parties now agree, and the program administrator has committed, that no information obtained solely through the program by the Estate will be disclosed publicly or used by the Estate in defending itself from any claim, regardless of forum.
Lastly, the Estate has agreed that there is no assertion that the V.I. attorney general’s release of compensation program funds does not act as a waiver of any ability by the V.I. government to object to the program’s administrative expenses, including those paid with these initial funds.
“I continue to admire the tremendous bravery and strength of the women who have come forward to work with my office on this process,” George said in a statement.
“I’m hopeful the Agreement will receive final approval, so these women are able to receive the help they need. My office will forcefully continue its work to hold accountable Epstein’s criminal enterprise through the government’s CICO lawsuit and send a clear message that the USVI is not, and will not, be a safe haven for sex traffickers or sexual abuse,” she said.