The massive, yet secretive decade-old case surrounding wealthy elitist financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein has been in the news again in recent months, a fact which no doubt has been of great concern to former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary due to their close connections to the registered sex offender.
The continuously developing story took an unexpected turn over the weekend when an elderly judge overseeing a related lawsuit against an Epstein associate reportedly died on Sunday.
Judge found dead at vacation home
Numerous oulets reported that 96-year-old Manhattan-based federal district Judge Robert Sweet, who was appointed to the bench in 1978 by former President Jimmy Carter, passed away while on vacation in Ketchum, Idaho.
Sweet was the presiding judge in a lawsuit filed by one of Epstein’s then-underage victims against one of the disgraced financier’s close associates.
Epstein himself was the recipient of a dubious deal with federal prosecutors in 2008 — including then-U.S. attorney for Florida’s Southern District Alexander Acosta, now Secretary of Labor in the Trump Administration — which allowed Epstein to escape an array of federal charges by pleading guilty to minor state offenses, serving just 13 months in prison and paying restitution to his victims.
According to Politico, as part of the arrangement, Epstein was shielded from further lawsuits filed by his victims. However, his friends and associates remained fair game for litigation, and that group included a wealthy newspaper heir named Ghislaine Maxwell, who was sued by Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre in a case over which Sweet presided.
Maxwell, among other unnamed individuals, was alleged to have either facilitated or taken part in Epstein’s hiring and managing of a stable of underage girls in a number of locations who provided sexual services for Epstein and his high-profile friends and associates.
That suit was settled in 2017, but Sweet’s decision to seal all of the records in the case sparked tremendous controversy and further motions to unseal the records filed by a variety of interests ranging from journalists to other former associates of Epstein hoping to clear their names of implied wrongdoing.
Records questions still loom
A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeals agreed in recent weeks that the blanket seal on the case was excessive and unnecessary and was in the process of deciding whether to send the case back to Sweet or to a different judge for a determination of what should remain sealed and what could be released.
Deliberation over which judge should address the issue has obviously now been rendered a moot point by Sweet’s death.
Maxwell has opposed the unsealing of any records in that case, as have two anonymous individuals who recently petitioned the appeals court to keep anything related to any third parties sealed from the public.
It remains to be seen what will happen in this case, as well as with the broader controversy over the Epstein deal, but given the judge’s death and the many high-profile individuals involved overall, public interest in the matter isn’t going to diminish any time soon.