July was a really shitty month for Jeffrey Epstein.
August is starting out much the same.
Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that wealthy people who have been charged with crimes have no right to be freed from jail and watched at home by private guards while they await trial.
The ruling came in a case involving Jean Boustani, an executive at the Privinest maritime companies who is awaiting trial for his role in what prosecutors allege was a $2 Billion fraud and money-laundering operation.
Boustani was appealing the denial of his proposed bail package that included private armed security guards to ensure that he did not escape from his residence.
Epstein had proposed a similar arrangement that would allow him to remain at his Manhattan mansion while he prepared for trial.
No Two-Tiered Bail System
U.S. Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes, who was one of the three judges on the panel that heard the appeal in the Boustani case, made it very clear the Second Circuit was not going to have different bail standards for wealthy defendants.
“The Bail Reform Act does not permit a two‐tiered bail system in which defendants of lesser means are detained pending trial while wealthy defendants are released to self‐funded private jails,” Cabranes wrote for the unanimous opinion of the three-judge panel.
The ruling pretty much put an end to the types of arrangements that had previously allowed uber-rich defendants to remain in their homes while they awaited trial.
Among the defendants who were previously accorded such arrangements are Bernie Madoff, who headed-up the largest-ever Ponzi scheme; Marc Dreier, the New York law firm founder who was charged in a $400 million fraud scheme; and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund who was accused of sexual assault by several women (Charges were eventually dropped against Strauss-Kahn but Madoff and Dreier both pleaded guilty and were given lengthy sentences).
The appellate court in the Boustani case quoted from a prior case in which U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman had denied bail to another uber-rich defendant who had proposed similar terms and conditions (Berman is also the presiding judge in the Epstein case).
Granting bail to defendants because they can afford to pay for private armed guards is unreasonable “because it helps to foster inequity and unequal treatment in favor of a very small cohort of criminal defendants who are extremely wealthy”, Berman wrote.
“Danger to the Community” Was Another Factor in Epstein Case
In Epstein’s case, Berman noted that his denial of the proposed bail deal was also due, in part, to the fact that he considered Epstein to be a “danger to the community”.
Although the lower court did not cite the “danger to the community” factor in the Boustani case, it did note it was concerned about the seriousness of the charges he was facing, the strength of the evidence against him, and his frequent travel to countries that don’t have evidence against him.
As a result, it is unclear whether the Second Circuit has entirely done away with the notion that an uber-wealthy defendant could be granted bail that included private armed guards.
Still Concerned About the Witness Testimony at Bail Hearings
There is one aspect of Epstein’s bail hearing that still bothers me.
And that’s the fact that Judge Berman allowed two of Epstein’s alleged victims to testify at his bail hearing – each of whom indicated that they still considered him to be “dangerous” (It’s pretty obvious they were coached to use that particular word in their testimony).
Although I think Epstein is a slug who needs to be incarcerated for the rest of his life – and have his dick cut off before he’s assigned to his permanent prison – I’m bothered by the fact that the judge relied on the testimony of two unchallenged witnesses for his finding that Epstein was a “danger to the community”.
I would much prefer that we adopt fixed standards for bail determinations than rely upon the testimony of unchallenged witnesses (This is basically the same bullshit that goes on in Grand Jury proceedings – which I would prefer be replaced by Magistrate Judges who would decide whether someone should be indicted).
How about we just adopt the standard that says if you’re facing more than 25 years in prison, you’re not getting bail?
Wouldn’t that be much fairer than letting the testimony of unchallenged witnesses determine whether someone gets to stay at home while they await trial?
Had my proposed standard been in place, Keith Raniere and Allison Mack would have been incarcerated while they awaited trial but their co-defendants would still have been eligible for bail.
And what would have been wrong with that?
Whether a defendant has money – or access to money – should not determine whether someone is granted bail.
Nor should an unchallenged witness who testifies on behalf of the prosecution…