OPINION: Change In The Age Of #MeToo And The Court Of Public Opinion


Conchita Sarnoff Executive Director, Alliance to Rescue Victims of Trafficking
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On April 26, 2018, the captivating 81-year-old actor, comedian, television personality and civil rights advocate Bill Cosby was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting an adult woman, Andrea Constand.

Ms. Constand, a former Temple University employee was an apprentice of Mr. Cosby. Cosby was sentenced 3-to-10 years in a state penitentiary. Cosby is legally blind, has difficulty walking and is somewhat incapacitated. Despite physical limitations, he was denied house arrest and refused entry to a partial or full-time work release program.

Unlike the Hollywood of yore — say, during the time of the O.J. Simpson trial —Hollywood is not leaping to Cosby’s defense.

While I am not condoning the abhorrent crime, the aged Cosby does not pose a risk to society at large. Perhaps in the Age of #MeToo and The Court of Public Opinion, his sentencing might be Deserving.

A decade before #MeToo, in October 2007, a far more egregious case didn’t make headlines. Instead, a 55-year-old white male, Wall Street hedge fund billionaire, generous party donor, serial pedophile and registered level 3 sex offender, Jeffrey E. Epstein, signed a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA). The NPA was considered a triumph and a sweetheart deal at the Department of Justice.

Epstein was found guilty in a state court. His indictment: Two counts of Solicitation of Prostitution with a Minor, in spite of the two dozen 14-year-old girls he sexually molested.

For the sexual crimes perpetrated against minor girls, Epstein was sentenced to 13 months in a Palm Beach County jail followed by 18 months under house arrest at his Palm Beach estate.

While serving time at the county jail he was allowed excessive privileges. He left his private cell in a private building at six in the morning to work at his office in Palm Beach until ten in the evening.

In the original indictment, his crimes included but were not limited to child sex trafficking, money laundering, and child pornography.

Imagine more than 100 underage girls filed complaints with the Palm Beach Police Department. Six principal procurers were identified in police reports.

All 6 pimps were exonerated by the Department of Justice. Ghislaine Maxwell, Sarah Kellen, Lesley Groff, Haley Robson and Nadia Marcinkova, Adriana Ross have never faced criminal charges.

Epstein currently faces two pending cases in New York’s Southern District. New York attorney, David Boies, recently fired by The New York Times for misconduct and dishonorable behavior while acting on behalf of his client, Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, coincidentally another recipient of Epstein’s largesse, is representing a second Epstein victim, pro bono.

The victim, Spanish-born Sarah Ransome, was underage when Epstein trafficked her for sex: Jane Doe #43 vs. Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, Sarah Kellen, Lesley Groff, and Natalya Malyshev.

In Florida, another pending related case filed by two victims Epstein sexually abused is awaiting judgment: Jane Doe 1 & Jane Doe 2 vs. United States Government.

Preceding the 2016 heated presidential campaign, Secretary Clinton’s close friend and attorney, David Boies, agreed to represent Virginia Louise Roberts Giuffre pro bono on a defamation case against Ghislaine Maxwell. She called the victim “a liar.” A close friend of the Clinton’s, Maxwell attended Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. Do you wonder what the connection was?

Maxwell and Epstein were romantically involved when she recruited Virginia Louise Roberts to give him sexually charged massages. The incident occurred when the 14-year-old was a part-time bathroom attendant at Mar-a-Lago.

In the end, Roberts Giuffre, a key witness to the prosecution, agreed to settle the claim against Maxwell. Apparently, the victim was a strategic client for Boies. Was her pro bono representation prompted by the presidential campaign and the political implications of the Clinton-Maxwell-Epstein relationship?

The stark differences in the final sentencing of the two equally distinct cases are extraordinary. Would Cosby have been adjudicated more leniently before #MeToo came into existence?

Both are monstrous crimes. However, punishment must fit the crime. The range and number of sexually violent offenses committed against dozens of children, in contrast to the sexual assault of one adult woman, should carry at least equal weight.

In the new age of politically ‘unbiased’ jurisprudence, race, social connections and generous political donations play a significant role.

Court files revealed that Epstein and Maxwell were feted the world over by the rich and powerful. Recently, another source revealed, Epstein was one of many financial investors to oversee investments for HRH Queen Elizabeth and HRH Prince Andrew. Epstein befriended the Duke of York thanks to Maxwell and joined The Prince during a weekend shooting party at Sandringham.

The in-crowd of powerful guests aboard his 727 included: President Bill Clinton, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack, actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker, attorney Alan Dershowitz and many others. Professor Dershowitz, a friend of Maxwell’s and Epstein’s also served as Epstein’s counsel.

Perhaps Epstein’s lenient sentence was thanks to his counselors’ limitless access to decision makers at the Department of Justice. His lawyers included: Kenneth Starr, Gerald Lefcourt, Roy Black, Martin Weinberger and Guy Lewis.

Despite Cosby’s worldwide fame, he did not have the same access. No doubt that in the absence of #MeToo, Epstein got off easy. Too easy. Could the new social order and power given to The Court of Public Opinion become the newfound instruments that facilitate freedom, overturns The Constitution and allows predators to escape equal justice?

In October 2017, the world witnessed a woman’s revolution that steered high profile alleged sexual assault cases to the Court of Public Opinion first. Cases including Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Les Moonves, and Harvey Weinstein, were first arbitrated by the mainstream media. Then followed the path to a Court of Law.

As the Protectors of The People in the age of #MeToo, prosecutors should consider revisiting The Constitution. Verdicts of sexual abuse must be tried in a Court of Law not in The Court of Public Opinion.

Where to from here? In the struggle between justice and injustice hangs the safety of at-risk victims who continue to take a back seat to money, power and politics.

Conchita Sarnoff is the executive director of the Alliance to Rescue Victims of Trafficking. She is also a research professor at American University.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.