For years, Epstein was able to operate and be fêted in the social, financial, and academic worlds, despite barely bothering to conceal his illicit activities. Visitors to his various homes would see young women there who looked as if they should still be in school. In Florida, in 2008, he had secured a shamefully lax plea deal, which U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta signed off on. (Acosta later became the Labor Secretary for Donald Trump, who had had his own interactions with Epstein; so, as Trump has practically been shouting on Twitter, did Bill Clinton.) Prosecutors there knew of dozens of alleged victims who were minors, but Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to a pair of state prostitution charges, which both hid and distorted the girls’ stories. The lack of respect for young victims is another pathology that extends beyond the Epstein case. Before the Miami Herald published an investigation of that deal last November, Epstein had managed to return to his life in New York, and to evade accountability.
Money offers one explanation for why people seemed to ignore what was plain to see. But money, here, is really shorthand for a range of ways to exert influence.