NY federal prosecutors confirm 2016 decision not to pursue Jeffrey Epstein

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Stephen Rex Brown, New York Daily News
·4 min read
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NEW YORK — Manhattan federal prosecutors confirmed in court papers made public Friday that they chose not to pursue Jeffrey Epstein in 2016, with one former assistant U.S. attorney saying she “felt horrible” after learning of Epstein's abuse of the criminal justice system in Florida.

The disclosure by the Southern District of New York came in a 212-page filing responding to Ghislaine Maxwell’s legal challenges to an indictment charging her with grooming underage Epstein victims in the mid-1990s and lying under oath.

The Daily News exclusively revealed last year that lawyers for Epstein accusers met with then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kramer in 2016 and urged her to open an investigation of the notorious sex offender.

Sources told The News that they also urged her to investigate Maxwell. But prosecutors wrote in the new filing that Epstein was the main subject of the Feb. 29, 2016, sit-down in a conference room at SDNY headquarters in lower Manhattan.

“The focus of the meeting was on Epstein, and (Kramer) understood that the attorneys were advocating that the USAO-SDNY open an investigation into Epstein,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe wrote. “During the meeting, the attorneys referenced multiple individuals who worked for and/or helped Epstein, including Maxwell, but the attorneys primarily focused their presentation on Epstein.”

Kramer recently spoke to an FBI agent and prosecutors on the Maxwell case about the 2016 meeting. Notes from the phone call, which were included in the new filing, referred to Kramer by her initials, AK.

Kramer “had the impression that the lawyers who came in to meet with AK were disorganized,” the notes read. She suspected that the victims’ lawyers wanted the feds to open a criminal investigation because it would give them an upper hand in civil litigation with Epstein, the documents reveal.

After the meeting, Kramer met with her then-supervisor, Dan Stein. The prosecutor recalled being concerned that Florida FBI agents were allegedly not pleased with how an earlier investigation into Epstein concluded. So Kramer contacted the FBI’s then-head of sex crimes against children in New York, Sean Watson, and asked him to speak with FBI agents in Florida. Kramer wanted Watson to ask colleagues in the Sunshine State whether they “were unhappy with the outcome and felt like justice had not been served,” according to the notes.

The inquiry hit a dead-end after that. No Epstein investigation was opened in response to the 2016 meeting.

“Sean never called AK back. AK doesn’t recall ever affirmatively following up with Sean, but she took the radio silence to mean that the FBI agents in Florida did not express dissatisfaction,” the notes read.

Epstein's victims say he used his wealth and influence to avoid federal charges in Miami in 2008, despite evidence he ran an underage sex trafficking ring. Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in a highly unusual sweetheart deal with then-Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta. Epstein only served 13 months in Palm Beach County jail, including home releases, then allegedly continued to abuse minors. The episode remains a major embarrassment for the Justice Department.

That saga was highlighted in a bombshell Miami Herald investigation published in November 2018, which prompted Manhattan prosecutors to open the Epstein probe that resulted in his arrest for underage sex trafficking. Epstein committed suicide behind bars in August 2019.

Kramer spoke with her SDNY colleagues after the story broke.

“Part of the reason AK felt horrible when reading the Miami Herald article was because AK took no action after calling Sean Watson,” the notes read.

“AK remembers telling them that she felt terrible reading the Miami Herald series.”

Sources told The News that Kramer had a second meeting with attorneys for Epstein victims in the summer of 2016, after Maxwell was deposed in connection with a civil suit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre. Victims’ lawyers David Boies and Stan Pottinger urged Kramer to consider charging Maxwell with lying under oath, the sources said.

Prosecutors wrote in the new filing that the second meeting never happened — though Kramer did have a phone call with Pottinger on May 2, 2016.

“(Kramer) does not recall the details of that conversation, nor is the Government aware of any notes or other records documenting the substance of the call,” Moe wrote in the filing.

SDNY wrote it could find no records indicating Kramer communicated with attorneys for Epstein and Maxwell accusers after May 3, 2016.

Maxwell is accused of lying in depositions in April and July 2016. Her legal team argues victims’ attorneys were improperly in cahoots with the feds, compromising aspects of her criminal case. She has pleaded not guilty.