The lawyers defending Jeffrey Epstein, the billionair friend-of-presidents of any stripe and long-time underage sex accused, have a job on their hands. However new lead lawyer Reid Weingarten also had to get his rape definitions in order during his client’s arraignment.
The jet-setting Epstein, 66, was arrested Saturday when his private jet landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, following which he was held in jail over the weekend as he awaited his first court appearance.
Epstein’s multiple homes in Europe, the Virgin Islands, Manhattan and elsewhere, as well a his two jets and fleet of vehicles have helped the money- and girl-loving jet setter to mix with rich-and-famous figures who may now be trying to dodge the Epstein bullet.
Before joining the firm, he served as a trial attorney for the Public Integrity Section of the US Department of Justice and as a deputy district attorney for Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
Together with former US Attorney Eric Holder he is also chairman and co-founder of a non-profit program, See Forever Foundation, is designed to assist juvenile offenders in rehabilitation to prevent recidivism.
The experienced attorney did, however, experience a ‘senior moment’ during an exchange with the Judge during the Monday arraignment hearing.
The prosecutors from the Southern District of New York alleged that Epstein, 66, “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations,” and created a “vast network of underage victims,” some as young as 14 years old.
The prosecutors also argued that Epstein was an “extraordinary flight risk” and should be denied bail and detained for the duration of his criminal trial, saying that Epstein had “every motivation in the world to flee” rather than face trial.
Weingarten’s response to the prosecution, as reported in Law & Crime, was that the government was acting in bad faith by reneging on a signed non-prosecution agreement and exaggerating his client’s behavior, which he said was already addressed by Florida authorities in a “three year sophisticated investigation” that only revealed evidence of prostitution.
“Maybe a Lot of Prostitution”
Weingarten argued that because Epstein did not force or coerce any of the girls to do things against their will, he should not be charged under sex-trafficking statutes which he said were enacted to protect girls from being forcibly raped by “15-20 guys” in a brothel under threat of violence.
There was no rape here, Weingarten said, although maybe Epstein did engage in “maybe a lot of prostitution.”
That prompted Judge Pitman to interject and question Weingarten’s legal reasoning.
“Isn’t it rape if the girls are underage?” the Judge asked.
Weingarten paused for a moment: “well…statutory maybe,” before moving on.
Law+Crime reported that the packed gallery ‘responded with a combination of audible laughter and shocked gasps as Epstein’s attorney appeared to be admitting his client had committed rape.’
Weingarten addressed his gaffe, telling Pitman his reference to statutory rape was a “senior moment,” insisting Epstein had not committed statutory rape because there was “no penetration.”
Lawyer No. 2 – Marc Fernich
Manhattan-based criminal defense attorney Marc Fernich is the second team member on the Epstein defense.
“Those accused of committing crimes in New York will hardly find a better advocate than Marc A. Fernich. He handles a full range of criminal defense matters, including serious state and federal felony charges. Many of his clients are of high profile, ranging from politicians to sports figures to rock stars. He has also successfully defended cases involving clients accused of mob ties.”
Interestingly, having an attorney like Marc Fernich on the team may also be keeping options open for the very long-term sentence Epstein could face. His website notes –
that his professional focus is on “sophisticated appeals and legal motions that can toss charges at the trial level or pave the way for future appeals.”
See Why The Trump White House Has a Wary Eye on the Epstein Case: