As Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be king.” Every other Level 3 sex offender living in New York has to check in with the police every 90 days — unless, apparently, they have lots of money and powerful friends. Jeffrey Epstein has never once complied with New York state law, and the NYPD never did a thing about it, the New York Post reported last night:
After being labeled a worst-of-the-worst, Level 3 sex offender in 2011, Epstein should have reported in person to verify his address 34 times before he was arrested Saturday on federal child sex-trafficking charges.
Violating requirements of the state’s 1996 Sex Offender Registration Act — including checking in with law enforcement — is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison for a first offense.
Subsequent violations carry a sentence of up to seven years each.
But the NYPD hasn’t required the billionaire financier — who owns a $77 million Upper East Side townhouse — to check in since he registered as a sex offender in New York over the controversial 2008 plea bargain he struck in Florida amid allegations he sexually abused scores of underage girls in his Palm Beach mansion.
The Post reports that rank-and-file NYPD officers are “shocked” to learn this, and not in an ironic Captain Louis Renault sort of way. It’s tough to credit too much shock in this case, though, because it’s come up before. In March, the Washington Post followed up on Epstein’s sex-offender regimens in multiple jurisdictions and found that he wasn’t being watched anywhere. In New Mexico, he wasn’t required to report at all:
The decision to charge Epstein with a crime involving an older teen — part of a plea deal that has already been criticized as overly lenient — has eased his obligations to register as a sex offender. In New Mexico, for instance, where Epstein has a 7,600-acre property called Zorro Ranch, he is not required to register because his victim was not under 16, state officials said.
In New York, however, a court ruled that Epstein’s ownership of a residence meant he was required to comply with reporting regulations commensurate with his Level 3 offender status. The Washington Post confirmed in March that Epstein hadn’t done so in nearly a decade, and that the police were aware of it:
At the 2011 hearing, Musumeci also argued that Epstein primarily lives in the Virgin Islands and maintains only a vacation home in New York City. “To require Mr. Epstein to register as a Level Three offender in New York would actually require him to come to New York more than he does normally, it would require him to come every 90 days and renew his registration,” she said.
Pickholz, again, was unmoved.
“I am sorry he may have to come here every 90 days” she said. “He can give up his New York home if he does not want to come every 90 days.”
New York City police see his obligations differently. Epstein does not have to check in every 90 days because he’s claimed the Virgin Islands as his primary residence, said detective Sophia Mason, a police spokeswoman. She said the last time Epstein checked in was in 2010, before the hearing.
As both reports make clear, that New York court ruling still stands, so it’s not at all clear why the NYPD has adopted Epstein’s losing argument that his Virgin Islands residence mooted the reporting requirements. According to the NY Post, the NYPD is pointing the finger at Cyrus Vance’s office, and Vance is pointing the finger right back at them:
The NYPD cop assigned to monitor Epstein has repeatedly complained to Vance’s Sex Crimes Unit that Epstein wasn’t in compliance, according to a source familiar with the matter.
But prosecutors told the cop to merely send Epstein a letter reminding him of his reporting requirement.
A Vance spokesman denied that allegation, saying “the NYPD — which is the agency responsible for monitoring SORA compliance — has repeatedly told us that Mr. Epstein was in full compliance with the law.”
“Our office vigorously prosecutes all failure-to-verify cases. Our prosecutors did not and would not discourage the NYPD from making an arrest,” Vance spokesman Danny Frost said.
Thus far, nothing in the indictment involves conduct since Epstein’s last plea deal. If it does, though, the lack of enforcement in New York will have lots of fingers pointing at both the NYPD and Vance. Had they arrested and charged Epstein with failing to register, would they have prevented any more girls from falling victim to him?
Even apart from that, this reeks of special treatment. How does an identified Level 3 sex offender get away with this kind of behavior, even after the Washington Post’s report exposed it? As noted above, it helps to have lots of influential friends in high places:
The billionaire, arrested July 6 for sex trafficking of minors, attended high-profile events like the ‘Batman v Superman’ premiere and frequented Oscar season parties even as the #MeToo movement took down other powerful figures.
On March 20, 2016, guests at Warner Bros.’ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice premiere in New York began whispering about one man mingling among the A-list crowd. No, it wasn’t the film’s Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill, or Affleck’s hulking bodyguard, who almost knocked over the studio’s former marketing head Sue Kroll as the VIP area became too crowded.
The surprised looks were aimed at Jeffrey Epstein, who was being introduced to guests by New York society doyenne Peggy Siegal. When a Warners executive was asked at the time how a highly recognizable level-three registered sex offender landed the hottest ticket in town, the executive offered no comment. …
Even in the post-#MeToo era, Epstein, 66, frequently attended industry events, like the Gotham Awards in November 2017. Amid a climate where figures including Harvey Weinstein and CBS’ Leslie Moonves had instantly become persona non grata for alleged misconduct, Epstein had been convicted and still enjoyed film-world access. As he traveled behind the velvet rope with ease, his alleged co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell was also embraced. At the time of Epstein’s conviction, Maxwell was not charged thanks to a highly controversial nonprosecution agreement.
This was particularly despicable, given the knowledge of Epstein’s crimes, but perhaps particularly unsurprising as well. Epstein quietly invested in films, buying his way into the circles of cultural power and making himself relatively indispensable to Hollywood. Epstein provides a creepy parallel to another Hollywood hero, Roman Polanski, whose own sex crimes were not all that dissimilar to Epstein’s except in scale. Only in the last year or so has Polanski fallen in Tinseltown lore from persecuted genius to disgusting sexual criminal, and even that transition hasn’t been entirely embraced yet.
Hollywood will have a lot to answer for when the Epstein tale gets its complete reveal. But in this case, it’s going to be secondary or tertiary to other corridors of power.