2019-07-10

The Jeffrey Epstein Case Is Like Nothing I’ve Seen Before?

Quiet, innit? Don't worry, there have been plenty of fireworks behind the scenes. It turns out that there are places where writing "I like stoats" is a mistake. But moving right along - skipping for now the Graun's Molly Scott Cato: ‘It’s the wealthy who are causing climate change’, but don't worry, I'll get back to it5 - we come to The Jeffrey Epstein Case Is Like Nothing I’ve Seen Before; Great wealth insulates people from consequences, but not always, absolutely, or forever by Ken White in The Atlantic. This post will be another attempt to discuss some of the ODOV ideas I tried to discuss in Aristotle's politics. Do not fear! I know this discussion is doomed, just like the previous one: I'm really just writing down my thoughts.

Anyway, let's begin by quoting enough of the article to get the substance of the case:
In 2006 and 2007, [billionaire Jeffrey] Epstein—once a reliable companion of the well connected—faced extensive, detailed allegations that he paid multiple minors for sexual contact and for their services in procuring other minors. Most people, hammered with that kind of evidence, would spend the rest of their lives in prison. But Epstein could afford the lavish attention of a defense team staffed by legal luminaries such as Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr. Most of us hope an attorney will defend us competently at trial, but the superrich can afford to go on the offense. Epstein’s lawyers hounded the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, which was considering federal charges... Epstein’s team secured the deal of the millennium... Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges, register as a sex offender, and spend 13 months in county jail, during which time he was allowed to spend 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, out of the jail on “work release.” In exchange, the Southern District of Florida abandoned its criminal investigation of Epstein’s conduct, agreed not to prosecute him federally...
Why did the Department of Justice cut such a deal? the article plaintively cries, before answering with the obvious "because he was very rich"1. There is an ideal that justice is the same for all. Indeed, this is one of the bedrocks of the liberal society, and a society that did not strive towards this ideal would be poorer. But we all know that in practice the ideal isn't true. If you're rich, you can afford better lawyers. In some senses, this is a condemnation of our legal system: a good legal system would be far more immune to quality-of-lawyer in cases. But we2 don't have a good legal system: we have a tolerable4 one. This is the point to recall Adam Smith's quote: Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.... Generally people quote that for the easy taxes bit, and sometimes for the justice part (when contrasting with, say, Russia or Nigeria or Venezuela) but people usually omit the "tolerable" from consideration; or if they include it, they read it as tolerable-or-above. But the thought I wish to think here is that AS meant "at least tolerable, and not too strict". Law is custom, and so an over-strict attempt to adhere rigidly to the written law, if that doesn't fit custom, will not succeed; or will strain society; whichever you prefer3. This is but one particular example; there are many others, which of course escape my mind at present.

Update


Not strictly relevant here - I didn't even mention his name - but via the Economist I see Editor’s note: Alexander Acosta announced his resignation on July 12th 2019. See-also Aunty.


Notes


1. As a light side-issue - which is why it's down in the notes - I draw your attention to the article's "The personal attacks on the prosecution likely helped too: Federal prosecutors aren’t used to being on the defensive". I think this is true, but actually just points to a different problem on the other side: rephrased, it could be "FPs are used to being high-n-mighty and having people tremble before them".

2. Countries of the West: the US, the UK, Europe, other happy countries.

3. In a doomed attempt ot prevent people falsely accusing me of suggesting rich malefactors should get off scott-free, I point out that I didn't suggest that, and he didn't.

4. Arguably rather better than tolerable in some ways, in view of the next few sentences, but I couldn't think of a better word.

5. Update: actually, I can't be bothered.

Refs


* Ooh! Another good one: Mike Pompeo’s Faith-Based Attempt to Narrowly Redefine Human Rights by Masha Gessen in the New Yorker; or you may prefer his own words rather than MG's interpretation: Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press.
Kepler was wot, you don’t say?
An appeals court says Donald Trump may not block critics on Twitter
* The Broader Effects of Trade and Tech by Bryan Caplan
* Was Jeffrey Epstein’s plea deal fishy? - the Economist

26 comments:

Russell said...

It is a pretty rich story - in addition to the Carribean Island, it feature'sa pirate captain's daughter as a supposed accomplice-Ghislaine Maxwell is the late Captain Bob's kid.

David B. Benson said...

What is the name of the maximum security federal prison in Colorado?

Russell said...

Taking Epstein's last prison stay as a Bayseian prior, it could be The Broadmoor.

Andy Mitchell said...

I believe one of the claims in the Jimmy Saville case was that he was never prosecuted because the police believed they could never beat his legal team and would end up paying him large damages.

iirc. In the Roman Republic there was a law that it was illegal to accept payment for defending someone in court. Doubtless the rich still got off more often than not.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

What you consider "tolerable" is, apparently, ensuring that rich rapists of young girls may continue to rape. Because having to spend his evenings in his private prison was punishment enough.

Your failure to understand Aristotle's central point is again clear. You simply don't care that your prescriptions will inevitably lead to the disintegration of justice.

I don't know about the UK, but in the US we already have a system where dollars are more important that votes, and it's not working very well.

THE CLIMATE WARS said...

Does Pompeo have a stoat for a speechwriter ?

His linked remarks include the immortal

" democracies have a tendency to lose sight of the big picture in the hurly-burly of everyday affairs"

Toby said...

Epstein left jail, where he was in a private wing anyway, 6 days a week to spend 13 hours in a comfortable office.

He got out after 11 months (of a 13 month sentence).

On return to New York, the New York District Attorney very obligingly petitioned the court to have his crime re-categorised so that he did not have to register as a sex offender.

The judge (a woman) threw the application out, declaring (in a strange echo of this post's title) that she had never seen anything like it. But, that's ok - it was tolerable.

Was the bold Jeffrey discouraged? No - he did not bother to register anyway, knowing that the tolerable legal system would imperfectly allow rich guys like him to do their own thing.

If this is tolerable, then the Catholic Church was tolerable in posting paedophiles to new parishes.

William M. Connolley said...

> Aristotle's central point

We disagree as to what his central point was. I think the "book" (actually lecture notes) is sufficiently rambling that it's hard to claim any central point. But if there is, the one he returns to again and again is the need to balance different power blocks / sections / factions / influences in society in order to obtain the desireable result of a stable constitution.

> Pompeo:

Good, innit? I plan to return to it.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

I don't doubt balancing was important to Aristotle. What I don't get is why you are so sure that it's rich people who don't have their share of control.

I suppose you could be rich - or are convinced that you will be.

William M. Connolley said...

> why you are so sure that it's rich people who don't have their share of control

I don't know why you think I think that. I can try again I suppose: the simplistic OMOV (and then a totally neutral idealistic govt) seems to be a model that many people defend as the ideal. A's view (simplistically represented as some blend of OMOV / ODOV) is that that model isn't even a good ideal. I think we're closer to the OMOV / ODOV mix, and that things would be better if we'd both admit that it is true, and reasonable.

David B. Benson said...

What is OMOV? ODOV?

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

@DBB Translating Connolley speak: OMOV -> One Man One Vote and ODMV -> One Drachma One Vote

@WC - If you really want to balance power ala Aristotle, votes should be inversely related to wealth. For example: top 1% get no vote, 80th% to 99th get one vote, 60th to 79th get two votes, 40th to 59th get 3 votes, second lowest quintile, 4 votes and lowest quintile get 5 votes.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

@DBB - Alternative theory - Omov and Odov are the names of WC's male children.

David B. Benson said...

CIP --- Using theory 1, I advocate OWOV strictly enforced.

William M. Connolley said...

> votes should be inversely related to wealth

But they already are: the top 10% of the wealth has only 0.01% of the vote...

> OWOV

Wouldn't help. But does point out another advantage of ODOV: no gender.

Phil said...

End point for ODOV is the Pharaoh.
Has all the Drachmas, so has all the votes. So he can rape all the little girls he wants to.

Or remembering Hastert, little boys.

William M. Connolley said...

...which is why you need to rad Aristotle. Or, the words I write. Extremes are bad. Is this a hard idea to understand? Extreme govt by money is bad. You can understand that yourself, because it fits easily into your prejudices. Extreme govt by voting is also bad. You struggle with this idea.

Phil said...

No, I agree that democracy is a bad system. Said that multiple times.

Phil said...

I'd even go so far as to say that democ­ra­cy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment...

Phil said...

...except for all those oth­er forms that have been tried from time to time.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

@WC 13:38 - Actually, wealth has zero votes. The top 0.01 of voters by wealth has 0.01 of the votes and roughly 40% of the control.

THE CLIMATE WARS said...

What about the Aristotlacratic form of government ?

It aspires to the Good by limiting the franchise to voters named Aristotle, reasoning that as people tend to read books with their names on them,far more voters would read the Politics than is the case with the present electorate.

David B. Benson said...

Don't know as it has never been tried. Don't just Make Stuff Up.

David B. Benson said...

What are the odds that Scotland will leave the union before Northern Ireland?

Unknown said...

David Brin commented some years back that those interested in a political career should beware situations setting people up in compromising positions to have the possibility later of using that to blackmail them.

THE CLIMATE WARS said...

David, nobody could make up Aristotle Onassis