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I’m troubled… as I’m sure many were when finishing the documentary about Jeffrey Epstein. I must (shamefully) admit, I knew nothing about Jeffrey before going into the documentary, outside of his extreme wealth. The title of the doc did nothing to inform me, either— FILTHY RICH… how about “Jeffrey Epstein — SEXUAL PREDATOR,” or is that too disarming for the public?
The Netflix doc starts with him raising his right hand as someone off camera asks “do you solemnly swear the testimony you’re about give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” as he smiles at her; a smile that says ‘no fucking way am I saying anything’ he nods and replies with a “yes, ma’am.”
As he squirms in his chair, admitting to a crime he was convicted for years prior, he states the charge was ‘soliciting a minor for prostitution’; the interviewer asks if he in fact committed said crime, to which he replies, “I’m going to enact my fifth amendment right.” It was then, I knew I was in for a ride that would both fascinate and enrage me. It’s quickly made clear that Filthy Rich is not an understatement to describe Epstein, as he claims he has vacation homes in New Mexico, Paris, Florida, and the Virgin Islands… Virgin — that irony isn’t lost on me. And as the cliche goes, the wealthy elite have friends in high places — the predator is seen with big name lawyers, like Alan Dershowitz, politicians, like Bill Clinton, business men, like Donald Trump, and countless beautiful women, including the ever cunning Ghislaine Maxwell.
Okay, so the guy is rich and powerful and has friends in high places… I’d say it’s safe to assume there are some skeletons in the closet. A sad notion, but if we look at history, the most wealthy and powerful don’t tend to have a well-functioning moral compass.
We then meet Vicky Ward, an investigative journalist for Vanity Fair tasked with drafting up a piece on Jeffrey back in 2003. Turns out, Vicky was good at her job, and uncovered a story about sisters Maria and Annie Farmer, who were abused by the billionaire back in 1996; the claims were substantiated by these women, which would be to their detriment for years to come. In summary, the story was swept under the rug by Graydon Carter, the former Editor in Chief who looked like a grown Pillsbury Dough Boy with gray hair permanently blowing in the wind.
What I found deeply bizarre and manipulative about Annie’s recount of her experience, was Jeffrey’s offer to pay for her to go to school abroad. He’d just met her and felt the need to own her. Because the assault happened outside of New York, authorities in the state didn’t have jurisdiction, so they had to escalate Maria’s report to the FBI. Not surprisingly, the mogul had connections within the bureau, which meant Maria’s case would remain in a file somewhere, buried for years.
Her life would also be threatened by Ghislaine Maxwell.
“I know you like to go running every morning,” Ghislaine called Maria. “You never know when it might be your last.” Her threats continued, forcing Maria (the extremely talented painter) to move every few years. And as Vicky put it, “this is just the tip of the iceberg.” Cut to Palm Beach, Florida, where we see a row of mansions on the beach and find out James Patterson was a neighbor (and producer for the documentary). He [Epstein] would frequent Mar-A-Lago to visit his great friend, Donald Trump… Donald said the following about Epstein: “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with and likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” And there you have it, from our President. Shocked? I didn’t think so.
So what happened in Palm Beach, exactly? Michael Reiter — the former Police Chief will tell us, with the help from a slew of women.
The first report came from the step-mom of a girl that had $300 on her after school; she told her step-mom that she went to an old man’s house to massage him. With that, an investigation was underway — they found countless young girls with the same story — that they went to massage him for money and he would pleasure himself.
These girls were teenagers and Jeffrey Epstein was in his 50’s. Just let that sink in.
Brains still developing, for some, this was their first sexual experience… a creepy old man jerking off in a secluded room as his victims stood frozen, without the ability to leave, because who the hell has a conversation with their kids about what to do in this situation?
And, these girls often came from broken homes — another manipulative scheme the predator so carefully crafted with the help of Ghislaine.
One of the victims, Michelle Licata, recounts Jeffrey’s request to take off her clothes as he laid there naked on the massage table. “Okay, so if I try to leave, or be like, ‘uh no, we’re not gonna do this’ how would you leave? Is there a gun somewhere he’s gonna pull out? As a young girl, because he’s an adult, you just do what someone asks you to do.” This observation is so telling — something that I’m sure rings true to the majority of girls in their youth… not having a voice, or not knowing it’s okay to use it.
“He touched me down there,” she tells an officer in 2005. “I just remember thinking ‘get this over with’” Michelle recounts with tears in her eyes. “Afterwards, he told me to take the $200 on the table, which I did. Then I walked downstairs and just felt so used… like I was just this dirty person.”
We see a shot of Michelle with her family next to the Christmas tree before being brought back to her interview. “Before Epstein,” she covers her face with both hands as her voice cracks, “before Epstein… I was… something else.” We then meet Shawna Rivera who says she was recruited by a friend and tells a similar story to Michelle’s. Next, comes Haley Robson, who was brave enough to stand up to Epstein, but when he offered her money to bring friends, she agreed, recruiting 24 girls, according to her estimation.
The string of young women starts to make itself known, except, I don’t think we’ll ever know the full extent of his monstrous behavior.
After months of investigating, the police had enough information to execute the search warrant; not surprisingly, someone tipped him off as computers and hard drives were removed from the premises. Fortunately, though, the victims’ accounts were detailed enough, and there were memo pads found showing notes like, ‘Susan in school until 2:30’ or ‘has a dance recital.’
THESE OTHER [GROWN] WOMEN WERE WRITING THESE NOTES DOWN FOR JEFFREY. Hello?! What?!
The investigation continued for months, and seemed to hit roadblock after roadblock, as there were people within the force undoubtedly bought off by Epstein, trying to keep him from being arrested.
Rewind to 1999, when the charismatic Ghislaine Maxwell meets a blonde Virginia Roberts (Giuffre) in the locker room at Mar-A-Lago; she notices the slender young Virginia reading a book about massage therapy and tells her “I know this guy who’s looking for a traveling masseuse. If you want, you can come by after work and meet him.”
Story starts the same — massage bed, naked man, face down. She massages Jeffrey as Ghislaine sits in the room with her asking questions about her past. Oops. Virginia reveals she was a runaway and was abused most of her life.
DING DING DING
Ghislaine sure has a radar for vulnerable young women. Moments later, she was asked to take off her clothes as Ghislaine stripped down.
Similar to Michelle, she didn’t know what to do or how to respond, so she started undressing. “I just did what they said and then Ghislaine was touching me, and then it went from oral sex, to ‘get on top,’” Virginia recalled with a straight face. “Afterwards, they said the interview went great; they said ‘you’re gonna come back tomorrow,’” she paused… “and I did.”
Virginia didn’t think her life could be better, so she stayed and in her words, ‘escalated up the latter quickly.’ She recalls being there for his every need, from sexual to putting his socks on before bed.
I’m sorry, what? Who wears socks to bed? I don’t want to make light of something that’s so inherently repugnant in his sexual abuse, but seriously… socks, in bed?
The eloquent blonde informs us Epstein soon trafficked her to very powerful men; men with the highest accolades in their chosen profession, which brought her to the realization that even if she tried to get out, with Epstein’s connections, the police either wouldn’t believe her, or they wouldn’t do anything about it. Not long after, her thoughts would be validated by the rapist’s arrogant statements that he OWNED the Palm Beach police department.
Fast forward to 2006, when State Attorney, Barry Krischer received the evidence against Jeffrey Epstein; what at first seemed like a home-run case that would put Epstein behind bars, turned into a single solicitation charge, which he posted bond for within hours of his arrest.
Epstein’s attorneys went after the victims so heavily that only one girl agreed to testify; unfortunately, though, she was not the ideal victim, as her MySpace page displayed pictures of her underage drinking with boys in her grade…
So, Palm Beach’s Chief of Police, Michael Reiter does something extremely unconventional… he escalates the case to the FBI.
The evidence was overflowing, with a 53-page indictment, including an influx of possible charges; if he even got convicted of ONE, he would be in prison for the rest of his life.
U.S. Attorney, Alexander Acosta, had something else in mind.
The case against Epstein had been with the Bureau for over two years and when the Palm Beach police officers asked for updates on the case, the agents stated they were unable to release any information, which is well outside of the norm for law enforcement.
Some time in 2008, Acosta met with the predator’s lawyers outside his office, not long thereafter, the indictment was gone and the investigation was closed. There were formal statements made by FBI agents opposing this outcome, which ultimately, wouldn’t matter because on June 30th, Epstein showed up at the Palm Beach County Courthouse for a last minute hearing; he quietly went up to the bailiff and got finger printed before being escorted out of the room.
What should’ve been a life sentence was reduced to 18 months in a detention center with immunity from state and federal charges, BOTH FOR HIMSELF AND ANY NAMED OR UNNAMED CO-CONSPIRATORS. But wait… there’s more. The government that was supposed to protect the dozens of named victims, or at the very least, give them their day in court, stifled the girls, calling them prostitutes, and then allowed the filthy rich predator to actually leave the prison for twelve hours a day, six days a week, for work release? In addition, the door to his cell was left open, he was served food the other inmates didn’t get, he was provided a TV room, and he could meet with lawyers whenever he wanted to.
I mean… in what world…
A counter suit was filed to try and get a new hearing in front of a federal judge.
In the meantime, we learn about the three 12-year-old girls a friend sent him from France on his birthday, who were flown back home after fulfilling their sexual duties.
We’re then introduced to the demure but well spoken, Sarah Ransome, living in Spain; she moved there years prior to get away from Epstein after meeting him in New York and traveling with him to the Virgin Islands, also known by the victims as Pedophile Island. Photo by Kevin Wolf on Unsplash
In Sarah’s words, “the more he saw you being damaged, the more he enjoyed it; the more it excited him.”
The film crew follows Sarah towards some gentle waves crashing against a rock structure, where she recalls her time on the Island.
“This reminds me of the spot I tried to escape from, after being raped three times that day,” she looked down before unsteadily recounting the horror. That day, as she made her way down the rocks, willing to swim into the ocean to get away from the monster that was Jeffrey Epstein, she looked over her shoulder to see him.
“It was then, I knew I was being watched 24/7. There were cameras all over the island.”
Released from prison in 2009 after 13 months, he violated his probation on a daily basis. He so clearly knew he was above the law, he left Florida on his private jet to New York to throw a party, where dozens and dozens of people showed up, including Prince Andrew and Woody Allen.
What a perfect way to raise the middle finger to all the already silenced victims, really enforcing the narrative that what they’ve been through does not matter.
As a sexual assault victim, myself, I can only imagine the additional trauma I would’ve endured, had I came forward against a public figure three times older than me, only to be shunned, potentially threatened, and shown that the perpetrator is still beloved.
We hear the women recount their lives after Epstein, with drugs, prison, depression, and self mutilation, as they hold onto the small speck of hope that one day, justice will be served, not only against the rapist billionaire, but against everyone else that participated in his sex trafficking scheme. Yes, I’m looking at you, Ghislaine Maxwell… Prince Andrew… Alan Dershowitz.
SOUND THE SAVIOR BELLS
Towards the end of 2017, actress and activist, Alyssa Milano makes a call on Twitter, for everyone that’s been assaulted or harassed to respond ‘Me Too’ which garners over sixty thousand replies and would ultimately lead to the arrests of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein.
Two years later, after review of the lawsuit, Judge Marra issued a ruling that the federal government did, in fact, enter into a conspiracy with Epstein to violate the Crime Victims Right Act.
Justice is served
Again, kind of…
The heinous 66 year old was arrested in New York in 2019 and would be held for a bond hearing.“Finally,” Michelle Licata said, “finally he’s going to be treated like every other criminal, forced to live in an orange jump suit and shackles.” The survivors would be given an opportunity by Judge Richard Berman to address Epstein directly, if they so chose, and you better believe they so chose.
Upon conclusion of the victims’ statements, despite the offers of over $500 million in bail money, Epstein was denied the chance for his freedom, being forced to await trial.
Except the trial wouldn’t happen because Epstein “committed suicide” in his cell. I won’t bring us into the conspiracy theory spiral surrounding that hanging — I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
That said, despite the unwanted ending to Epstein’s life, the women were still granted their day in court by Judge Berman.
“It ignited the dragon in me to speak my truth; to have my voice heard” — Chauntae Davis
“I was touched by the strength of these women” — Annie Farmer.
“Judge Berman changed my life; it was the first time I saw someone in a position of power that gave us respect. He listened, and that’s all I ever wanted” — Sarah Ransome
“Judge Berman gave me back something I never thought was possible. He gave me back a piece of myself that was missing for so long” — Virginia Roberts
Fast forward nearly a year and the FBI arrest Ghislaine Maxwell, on Thursday, July 2nd, 2020. According to Virginia, “it’s one of the best days of my life.”
She’s scheduled for her bail hearing on Friday, July 10th.
Despite what happens with Ghislaine, or any of Epstein’s co-conspirators, these women found their voice and they are empowered to use it, and together, they, with the help of so many courageous survivors, will change the world.