Gee: Should wealth protect people from consequences?

Jul 12, 2019, 12:51 PM
epstein, Jeffrey Epstein...
Is Jeffrey Epstein really dead? (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
(Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Have we actually moved closer to living in a world where having lots of money won’t excuse you from abusing children?

From R. Kelly to Micheal Jackson — and sadly, many more — we’ve seen some amazing pieces of journalism showing us how some very public men, with money, have been able to do some very questionable things in their private lives and seem to skirt consequences and accountability. Now we are hearing reports about another billionaire that, quite frankly, my head cannot even process. And this story is entangled with a cabinet-level official.

President Trump announced Friday that Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is stepping down. He leaves amid criticism over a plea deal he struck with a convicted sex offender while Acosta was a federal prosecutor in Florida.

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Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire businessman who has socialized with Presidents Trump and Clinton, was charged with luring teenage girls to his Palm Beach mansion for sex. But he previously received a lenient punishment under a plea deal that Acosta negotiated in 2008 when he was a U.S. attorney.

Under that 2008 agreement, Epstein — who otherwise faced a potential sentence of life in prison — pleaded guilty to two felony solicitation charges and was sentenced to 13 months in county jail. He received permission to work from his office six days a week.

Acosta has denied any wrongdoing, but the lenient plea deal gave rise to criticism that Epstein was granted favorable treatment because of his wealth and social connections.

Through all of this, I feel compelled to remind everyone why all of us need to stand firm behind the premise that a free press matters.

The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Some in the media want to jump to telling us how Epstien is or was a friend of Trump or of the Clintons. That’s a lazy story. Rich people, billionaires especially, are going to bump into one another. They might even friend each other once in a while. That’s not the story.

Thankfully there are other media outlets that focus on the real story, that children were being sexually abused by a predatory billionaire and when he was caught and accused, he was able to somehow use his money and connections to weasel out of any justice.

With the spotlight on Epstein, have we finally drawn the line in the sand? Are we finally saying that this is not OK not matter who you know or how much money you have?

A protester holds a sign of Jeffrey Epstein in front of the federal courthouse on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Rich and powerful people leverage their friendships with other rich and powerful people to find windows of opportunity, or a backdoor to get away with bad behavior. And for some, they use these relationships as a “get out of jail free card” too.

The system works better to protect the rich and guilty than the innocent and poor.
– Bryan Stevenson

We have learned that the criminal justice system has failed innocent little girls. That’s what they were — little girls. Some in the media marginalize the issue by referring to them as “young women.”

Young women? That is a great term to refer to 12- and 13-year-old girls when they are at a business skills conference. But how on Earth are they “young women” when referring to them as victims of sexual misconduct and the victims of sexual criminal activity?

Thank God for the great journalism by the Miami Herald, and a salute to them for sticking to a story that needed to be told. If not for their hard work, and dedication, Epstein would likely still be doing what he was doing. And what he was doing, is so wrong by so many standards, that I can’t imagine anyone disagrees with me here.

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There are many wrongs in this world we live in. One of the most powerful weapons we have to fight against those wrongs is a spotlight of justice. That spotlight is shined by the hard working men and women of the news media.

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Gee: Should wealth protect people from consequences?