A federal investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein had flagged scores of potential underage victims, including the 14-year-old girl who first alerted police. But when he pleaded guilty in state court in 2008, the only minor Epstein was convicted of soliciting was 16 years old at the time the offenses began, according to information obtained by The Washington Post.
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.
They were cutting a plea deal. It wasn’t a prosecution,” said attorney Spencer Kuvin, who represented the 14-year-old girl who alerted police, referencing the number of victims court records say federal prosecutors identified. “They had a grab bag of 40 girls to choose from.”
He and his client believed she was the victim in the state case in part because of her role in reporting Epstein. Upon learning that she was not, Kuvin said: “It’s unbelievably upsetting. The rug has been swiped out from under the one girl who was brave enough to come forward and break this thing.”
Epstein, now 66, was charged with soliciting a minor between Aug. 1, 2004, and Oct. 9, 2005, according to court documents. Based on the birth date provided by the state attorney’s office, this victim would have been 16 when the solicitation began and on the eve of her 18th birthday — the age of consent in Florida — when it ended.
Epstein has met the registration requirements in Florida and in the Virgin Islands, authorities said. In the Virgin Islands, where he is classified as a low-risk offender, and in Florida, his reporting requirements are far less stringent than they are for many other sex offenders, authorities said.
In New York, where he owns a 19,000-square-foot mansion in Manhattan, Epstein’s attorneys went to court in 2011 to challenge a state board’s decision to classify him as posing the highest level of risk, on a scale of 1 to 3. Asked by the judge about the victim’s age, attorney Sandra Musumeci said the Florida victim and Epstein met when she was 16 or 17. The age of consent in New York is 17.
“She gave him approximately 15 massages, including with sexual contact, and ultimately when she is 17 had intercourse with him,” she said, according to a transcript of the Jan. 18, 2011, hearing. Media coverage of the hearing made little or no mention of the victim’s age.
“She is a child,” said Supreme Court Judge Ruth Pickholz, adding, “He procured her at 16.”
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.
In 2010, days after Epstein completed his probation under house arrest in Palm Beach, he notified Florida officials that he was heading to his ranch in Santa Fe County, records show. Authorities in Florida, in turn, alerted New Mexico officials, who sent Epstein a letter telling him that “you are a sex offender and that you meet the requirement to register in New Mexico.”
Two days after Epstein registered, state officials reversed course because in his case the law requires registration only if the victim is under the age of 16.
“You are not required to register with the State of New Mexico at this time,” they wrote.
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