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性侵幼女富翁狱中自杀,民事索赔之战才刚刚开展

Terry Collins 2019年08月18日

自杀不意味着一了百了,受害者仍然可能讨回更多公道。

近日,身陷性陷丑闻的美国亿万富翁杰弗里·爱泼斯坦在狱中自杀身亡。这意味着此案的受害者们不会再有与爱泼斯坦当庭对质的一天了,但这并不意味着爱泼斯坦就这么简单地一死了之了,也不意味着受害者们无法讨回更多公道了。

不过据曾经担任联邦和纽约州检察官的埃利·霍尼格表示,爱泼斯坦的死,虽然宣告针对他的刑事案件基本上可以结案了,但检方依然可以针对他的数亿美元遗产提起刑事附带民事追诉。

“只要(检察官)可以让法官相信,他们有充分证据证实自己的主张。”霍尼格说。霍尼格曾经担任纽约南区助理联邦检察官,此次负责公诉爱泼斯坦一案的,正是他曾经所在的部门。

霍尼格目前担任CNN的法律分析师。他表示,如果爱泼斯坦之死被查明确系自杀,那么反而会更加让法官确信,受害者们的主张是站得住脚的。

爱泼斯坦死前被羁押在曼哈顿大都会惩教中心等候审判,8月10日,狱方发现他对外界刺激失去了反应。此前,狱方已经对他采取了防自杀措施,他的监室里还有一名室友,狱警每半个小时就要来他的监室巡查一次。然而蹊跷的是,据媒体报道,在爱泼斯坦死前的一周,狱警并未按照规定频繁来监室巡查。

前加州圣克拉拉县地方检察官史蒂文·克拉克认为:“随着案情的公开,各种民事诉讼也被提上了日程。由于可能面临很长的刑期,加上还要面对公众的羞辱,爱泼斯坦先生可能感到未来非常黯淡。他已经习惯了某种特定的生活方式,随着牢狱之灾越来越近,他已经没有退路了。”

上个月,面临一起与未成年人进行性交易以及另一起策划与未成年人进行性交易的指控,爱泼斯坦坚称自己无罪。检察官称,2001年至2005年间,爱泼斯坦曾经在纽约上东区的豪宅和佛罗里达州棕榈滩的一处住宅中多次买春,那些女孩中最年轻的只有14岁。

如果这两项罪名都成立,爱泼斯坦将面临最高45年的监禁。美国司法部部长威廉·巴尔表示,爱泼斯坦虽然死了,但他的共犯们并不会逃脱法律的制裁。爱泼斯坦丧命的惩教中心正是美国司法部管理下的一处羁押场所。

8月10日,巴尔对记者们表示:“我向你们保证,此案将继续调查任何与爱泼斯坦共谋的人。任何一个共犯都不应该觉得自己逃过一劫,受害者们必须获得公道,她们也必将得到公道。”

在本案中,一个叫吉丝莲·麦克斯韦尔的名字反复出现。根据法庭文件,此人是英国的一个社会名流,是爱泼斯坦的老朋友之一,而且经常将未成年女孩介绍给爱泼斯坦。据《迈阿密先驱报》报道,在最近公布的一起诉讼中,麦克斯韦尔否认了她替爱泼斯坦与年轻女孩“拉皮条”的指控。

在谈到他的前同事,也就是纽约的检察官们时,霍尼格表示:“在将其他共犯绳之以法之前,南区检察官们绝对不会松懈下来。”

前联邦检察官、洛杉矶洛约拉法学院教授劳里·莱文森表示,随着爱泼斯坦的突然死亡,要想查明还有谁牵涉此案,是很不容易的,检察官们身上也承担了很大的压力。

莱文森指出,即便此案的刑事追诉部分已经结案了,受害者们也可以对爱泼斯坦的遗产提出民事追诉。“在民事案件中,举证责任较轻。”他补充道。

纽约南区前联邦检察官克里·劳伦斯则表示,虽然爱泼斯坦本人“可能不再会跟此案有什么关系了,但他的影响可能还会波及以后好几年。”

爱泼斯坦案两名原告的律师丽莎·布鲁姆表示,她仍然计划根据8月14日纽约州生效的《儿童受害者法案》提起诉讼。根据该法案的一项特别条款,从2020年2月起,在一年的时间里,任何儿童性侵事件的成年幸存者起诉施暴者或是存在过失的机构,不论性侵行为发生在多久以前。

布鲁姆8月10日还在推特上发了好几条帖子,其中一条要求“冻结爱泼斯坦的所有财产”,以便为那些正在提起民事诉讼的受害者进行赔偿。

“她们的生活因为他的性侵行为而破碎了,她们的事业也脱离了正轨,她们现在应该获得充分的、公平的补偿……”她还表示:“施暴者杰弗里·爱泼斯坦自杀了,我和我代表的受害者们很希望他能够活着接受法律制裁……受害者理应为他造成的终身伤害得到补偿。我们才刚刚开始。”

8月12日,布鲁姆并未立即回应我们的置评请求。

法学教授莱文森表示,爱泼斯坦遗产的执行人可能是他的家人、商业伙伴或者律师,他们很可能得“做好深呼吸”,评估当前可能面临的诉讼,看看自己可以就其中的哪些在法庭进行辩护。

“我不知道如果为所有这些指控辩护,对他们是不是有很多好处。他们可能有很多动力,去解决其中的大多数诉讼。不管怎样,这对他们都是一场艰苦的战斗。”她说。

我们目前还不知道爱泼斯坦死前是否留下了遗嘱,爱泼斯坦的遗产总额也依然是个谜。不过办理此案的联邦检察官们表示,爱泼斯坦在曼哈顿拥有一幢8层豪宅,价值7700万美元,他的很多性侵行为就是在这里进行的。此外他还在美属维尔京群岛有一个小岛,在墨西哥有一座农场,在棕榈滩和巴黎也各有一处房产。

另据联邦检察官上个月在法庭文件中称,爱泼斯坦的净资产据称在5亿美元以上。

霍尼格也补充道:“现在还远远没有结束。”(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

While Jeffrey Epstein’s death by apparent suicide means his alleged victims won’t have their day in court with him on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges, they—and the authorities—may still get some justice.

By most accounts, Epstein’s death essentially ends the criminal case against him. But prosecutors can take civil forfeiture action against his estate presumably worth hundreds of millions, says former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig.

“If (prosecutors) can get a judge to hear that they have a preponderance of the evidence, that could work in their favor,” said Honig, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the same office that charged Epstein.

Honig, currently a legal analyst for CNN, said Epstein’s suicide, if it is ruled as such, could actually help convince a judge that the victim’s claims have merit.

Epstein was found unresponsive in his jail cell on August 10 while he was awaiting trial at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. The multimillionaire financier was previously on suicide watch where he would be roomed with a cellmate and have prison staff check on him every half-hour. But, for more than a week leading up to Epstein’s death, those frequent checks reportedly weren’t occurring.

“The future looked very bleak for Mr. Epstein due to the disclosures and possible civil suits as he was potentially facing a significant jail sentence and public humiliation,” said Steven Clark, a former district attorney in Santa Clara County, California. “(Epstein) was used to a certain lifestyle and the walls were closing in and he apparently had no exit strategy.”

Last month, Epstein pleaded not guilty to one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. Prosecutors claim Epstein paid girls as young as 14 to participate in sex acts from 2001 to 2005 his luxurious Upper East Side mansion and a home in Palm Beach, Florida.

He faced a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison if convicted of both counts. Now, many of Epstein’s accomplices may face the wrath, said Attorney General William Barr, whose Department of Justice is in charge of the jail where Epstein died.

“Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who is complicit with Epstein,” Barr told reporters on August 10. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it.”

One name that continues to pop up is Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who is one of Epstein’s longtime friends and who is accused in court filings of helping bring underage girls to Epstein. According to the Miami Herald, in a lawsuit that was recently unsealed, Maxwell denied allegations she assisted Epstein with meeting young women.

Honig said about his former legal colleagues in New York, “The Southern District will not rest easy until they bring the other conspirators to justice.”

There will be a lot of pressure on prosecutors especially now with Epstein’s death to find out who else was involved, said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor, and a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Even with the criminal case closed, Epstein’s accusers will have the option of seeking civil cases against his estate, Levenson added. “The burden of proof is less in civil cases,” Levenson added.

Kerry Lawrence, a New York state-based former federal prosecutor who also worked in the Southern District of New York, said, while Epstein “may no longer have any involvement, his legacy will live on actively for the next several years.”

Meanwhile, Lisa Bloom, an attorney for two of Epstein’s accusers, said she plans to file lawsuits under the “Child Victims Act,” which takes effect on Aug. 14 in New York. One unique stipulation with the state law is starting in February 2020, there will be a one-year period when any adult survivors of child sexual abuse could sue an abuser or a negligent institution no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.

Bloom also posted several tweets on Twitter on August 10, including one demanding that Epstein’s estate “freeze all his assets” and hold them for his victims who are filing civil cases.

“Their lives have been shattered by his sexual assaults, their careers derailed. They deserve full and fair compensation NOW,” she said. “Predator Jeffrey Epstein killed himself. On behalf of the victims I represent, we would have preferred he lived to face justice...Victims deserve to be made whole for the lifelong damage he caused. We’re just getting started.”

Bloom did not immediately return a request for further comment on August 12.

Levenson, the law professor, said that executors of Epstein’s estate, which could be a family member, business associate or lawyers, will likely “take a deep breath,” to review what the potential lawsuits heading its way and if any can be defended in court.

“I don’t know if there’s a lot of profit in defending all of them. There may be a lot of incentive to resolve most of them,” she said. “Either way, it will definitely be an uphill battle for them.”

It is not immediately known if Epstein had a will. And, the exact size of Epstein’s estate also remains a mystery, but federal prosecutors said the estate includes the luxurious $77 million eight-story manse in Manhattan, where he allegedly ran his trafficking ring, an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a ranch in New Mexico and the property in Palm Beach and another in Paris.

Epstein also reportedly had a net worth of more than $500 million, federal prosecutors said in court documents last month.

Honig adds, “This is far from over.”

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