ART BY SHIRLEEN KWONG
In June 2002, Music producer Robert Kelly was indicted for 14 counts of child pornography.
Fast forward 17 years later, Kelly was indicted for ten counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse in February of 2019. Two days after his arrest, he was released on a $1,000,000 bail.
When it was time for the hammer of justice to strike, Kelly slipped away. Currently, Kelly is in custody for child pornography charges without bond. In a similar vein, notorious film producer Harvey Weinstein was indicted for charges of rape for cases that spanded for three decades just last year.
Of course, both of these men are now subject to the American justice system, but is that enough?
Why is it that the most affluent members of society are criminals? Similarly, but more importantly, why are these criminals our most affluent members of society? To answer this question, look no further than Harvey Epstein. Epstein was arrested on July 6 of this year for child sex traficking. A gross illustration of the power dynamic that wealthy men possess in America, Epstein encompasses the corruption existing within society today and breathes new life into the old truism “money is power.”
In the early 1980s, Epstein founded his money management firm J. Epstein and Co. catering to wealthier investors and handling billions of dollars in client assets.
The surge to this economic apex bought Epstein the largest home in Manhattan, a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a beach house in Florida and the largest home in New Mexico—all estates where he would commit child sex traficking, rape and other sexual abuses. Epstein easily became one of the most influential men in the era, aligning himself with even more influential men.
But, to no one’s surprise, Epstein has had a complex and troubling history of sexual allegations. Dozens of women stated they were once sexually assaulted by Epstein when they were children. The abhorrent claims detailed that Epstein would pay these minors to “massage” him; Epstein would allegedly masturbate in front of the girls, and would even go as far as molesting them.
But, Epstein’s crimes would not continue for long, Palm Beach police held an investigation where multiple women attested to Epstein’s sexual abuses. In an interview with Vox, Joseph Recarey said Epstein operated a “sexual pyramid scheme.” In 2007, Epstein was indicted.
Yet, despite the stacks of evidence piled against him gathered by the FBI, Epstein signed a non-prosecution agreement with US attorney and President Trump’s former labor secretary, Alexander Acosta. This allowed Epstein’s sentence, which could have been a life long sentence, to be cut down 13 months where he would be allowed to stay in a private wing of a Palm Beach jail. In fact, Acosta hid the agreement from the victims, so these women could not challenge it in court.
And this agreement is another slice of injustice that lays within the power dynamic of US society. The very concept of the country’s economic system places a strong emphasis on one’s socioeconomic status. Why was Epstein allowed to serve a light sentence when thousands are prosecuted longer for lesser crimes? This elitism allows for the wealthy to circumvent the punishments of the justice system; moreover, this elitism is institutional: essentially, Epstein’s connections run deep within politics.
Before his indictment, Epstein held close ties to Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. In an interview in 2002, Trump said to New York magazine, “[Epstein is] a lot of fun to be with, it is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Given Epstein’s charges, this quote eerily brings into question Trump’s connection to Epstein.
What’s more is in 2016, a Jane Doe sued Trump for allegedly assaulting her at a party thrown by Epstein when she was 13. While Clinton has not been accused of any sexual offences, many have speculated him and Trump’s involvement. Considering that Acosta was President Trump’s labor secretary up until Epstein’s 2019 indictment, it brings into question his involvement.
Assuming the speculations are true, then two of the most politically influential figures of the country participated in these sexual abuses. In fact, Epstein’s deal with Acosta shut down possible investigation into any co-conspirators of the crimes prior to his 2007 indictment; essentially, it protected them from any repercussions.
This is injustice, inequity and corruption. When it comes to the misdeeds of the elite, the justice system fans over them; if not, it protects them take, Brett Kavanaugh. Acosta is a prime example of wealth affecting the weight of one’s crimes.
In the era of #MeToo, it is unfortunate that the prosecution will not proceed forward. The voices of women and efforts of the police have become null and void. Yes, there is speculation if Epstein committed suicide or if foul play was involved, but the underlying issues is that him and potentially so many others got away with it. Like Kelly and Weinstein, the rich and powerful can face the punishments of the courts, but in the end, they won’t.