CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, May 22, 2023

Cook on Pedophiles, Prosecutors, and Power

Blanche Cook (Loyola University Chicago School of Law) has posted Jeffrey Epstein: Pedophiles, Prosecutors, and Power (Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, 2023) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy, white, billionaire child rapist, ran an international sex trafficking ring. Rather than prosecute Epstein, Alex Acosta, a former United States Attorney, brokered a deal with Epstein’s defense attorneys coined, “the sweetheart deal of the century.” When Acosta abdicated his role as a state functionary and allowed Epstein’s defense attorneys to dictate the terms of Epstein’s freedom, Acosta gave the power of the State to private parties to protect a recidivist child rapist.

The failure to prosecute Epstein is all the more problematic because it sits at the epicenter of mass incarceration. Through its carceral system, the United States disappears persons of color from existence, the political process, and the capacity to reproduce at rates both unprecedented and staggering. Epstein, however, inhabited a body that dictated the unprecedented process he received. Long before law enforcement discovered scores of Epstein’s child victims, Epstein’s race, class, and gender (his white heteropatriarchal privilege) incentivized the federal government to decline prosecuting him. Epstein’s body prescribed his humanity, while his victims, often poor and female, lacked humanity and received no process. Acosta declined to prosecute Epstein, when the United States incarcerates more people than any other county in the whole of human history when there is a desire to prosecute.

The preferential treatment prosecutors conferred upon Epstein demonstrates prosecutors’ active involvement in the social construction of white supremacy, white heteropatriarchy, white innocence, and Black demonry. The failure to prosecute Epstein constructs white male ruling class innocence in the same way that hyperincarceration constructs Black guilt. Both are sides of the same hegemonic coin. Epstein demonstrates the ways in which prosecutors distribute premature death in vulnerable communities and life and liberty for the rich and powerful. Epstein dramatically illustrates that white heteropatriarchy is the result of both individual decision-making and structural dynamics within the criminal legal process. This two-tiered system of criminal justice, life for the powerful and death and destruction for the vulnerable, solidifies calls for abolition. Abolitionism, thus, becomes neither hyperbolic nor hysterical, but rather, a measured and reasonable response to a criminal justice system that targets vulnerable communities for cultural trauma and freedom for the powerful.

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