As trials approach in the civil suits against Palm Beach billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a legal strategy is beginning to take shape. His high-priced attorneys appear intent on forcing Epstein's alleged victims to relive their most traumatic sexual experiences.
Of course, a certain amount of that is unavoidable in cases where sex abuse is at issue. But attorneys for the alleged victims say that Epstein lawyers have gone way beyond the standards of professional decency.
Brad Edwards, attorney for a victim identified only as Jane Doe, sums up the Epstein defense strategy thus:
Let's try to humiliate, embarrass, and harass these girls, expose everything bad they've ever done and then hope they go away.
Adam Horowitz, an attorney for seven women who claim to be victims of Epstein, said the same. He remembers a particularly objectionable line of questioning during the single deposition he's had with a client, when the Epstein attorney asked:
You've had a couple of abortions. How did that make you feel?
In a motion Horowitz filed December 1, he tells of Epstein's team hiring aggressive investigators, making "invasive" discovery demands about his clients' sexual activities with men who aren't Epstein, and asking "badgering" questions. All cruel weapons, he wrote, against women "who generally have low socio-economic backgrounds and poor self-esteem."
A federal magistrate agreed with Edwards and Horowitz. From an order that Linnea R. Johnson filed last week:
A review of the deposition transcript reveals numerous instances of Jane Doe 4 (Horowitz's client), being subjected to repetitive questioning about exceedingly sensitive issues such as the emotional pain caused by having three abortions, the sexual positions she's engaged in, and Epstein's treatment to her.
The judge continued:
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Counsel for defendant (Epstein) must be mindful that the depositions of the plaintiffs in these cases covers the most intimate at private details of their lives and if not handled correctly may serve to needlessly revictimize, embarrass and humiliate them.
Johnson ordered Epstein's attorneys to "refrain from repetitive questioning."
Of course, that's a hard order to enforce. What exactly is the difference between a repetitive question and a follow-up question meant to clarify. Asked whether the judge's order will have any impact on the Epstein team's depo-aggression, Edwards gave a dry laugh and said, "That remains to be seen."
This issue, it seems, is far bigger than the two cases. Edwards has stated in court his belief that there are many other victims of Epstein who have yet to come forward. If so, victims may take a peek at what fellow victims endured in bringing suit, then decide whether it's worth filing a suit of their own.