PALM BEACH (FL)
Nov. 24, 2019
By John Pacenti
Law deemed many of Jeffrey Epstein’s teen victims were not sex-crime victims. Some state lawmakers want to change that.
Palm Beach police handed State Attorney Barry Krischer in 2006 the names of five victims and 17 witnesses to build a case of rape and serial sexual molestation against Palm Beacher Jeffrey Epstein.
The girls had been lured with the promise of $200 for an hour’s work giving Epstein a massage only to find themselves trapped with a modern-day Caligula.
Eight of the witnesses were 16- and 17-year-olds. All said Epstein had molested them.
But under Florida law, those eight were too old to be molested. And that remains the case today.
Any potential charges filed against Epstein for what he did to these girls would never have risen above misdemeanor battery.
Under state law, anyone over the age of 16 who is molested but not penetrated can at best hope their assailant spends a year behind bars — the penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor.
For victims, that means the potential punishment for their abuser is far less than a sex crime and the statute of limitations is far shorter.
Sexual battery, a felony charge, applies to instances of intercourse or digital penetration, not fondling. Lewd or lascivious offenses for fondling or indecent exposure also constitute a felony but only for victims under 16.
While much attention has been paid to how Krischer — and subsequently the U.S. Justice Department — fumbled the case against the multimillionaire, the renewed interest in everything Epstein gives advocates a chance to urge legislators to close this loophole.
“A misdemeanor battery is not a sex offense crime,” said Palm Beach Gardens attorney Michael Dolce, himself a sex abuse survivor.
“So when somebody feels they’ve been subjected to a sex offense, the expectation is that the law will respond by categorizing it as a sexual crime.”
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