We know that Jeff Epstein got an extremely favorable plea bargain deal from the chief prosecutor. The media is now questioning if there was due process, or someone powerful got into the way of the due process.

What can the U.S. government do to prevent powerful people to get extremely favorable plea bargain deal like Jeff Epstein? Is there something in the legal process that allows powerful people to allow to manipulate the legal and political process to get favorable outcomes?

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    The question to me seems quite broad. Whole books could probably be written about 'how can the influence of very wealthy people be limited', or 'how can the US government fight corruption'.
    – Time4Tea
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 17:45
  • I agree that this is too broad, so just an idea: in Spain there is the possibility of "private prosecution", a lawyer hired by the affected party that can push charges independently from the public prosecution. So if the private prosecutor does not agree with a deal, he can still press charges to see the matter judged (that said, in practice the public prosecution's opinion still carries a lot of weight)
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 20:45
  • There is even the "popular prosecution" that allows an entity not directly affected but with interests in the case(e.g., a women's rights association in a rape case) to press charges.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 20:46
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    I think any reasonable definition of "powerful people" necessarily means they are better able than others to obtain favorable deals. "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
    – emory
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 1:53
  • I think this question is impossible to answer at this time because it’s still not clear why Jeff Epstein got an extremely favorable plea bargain deal. Even if you assume that he got a favorable deal because he’s rich and powerful, we don’t yet know how he used his wealth and power to get the deal.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 10:58

3 Answers 3


A plea bargain already has to be signed off on by the District Attorney and a Judge. Supposedly this should be enough to prevent extreme leniency, as the DA, and much moreso a Judge, should be unbiased and justice-minded.

In practice, legislation like mandatory notification of victims of a deal, as well as giving appeal jurisdiction to higher courts could provide a mechanism for victims to challenge an egregious deal.


Is there something in the legal process that allows powerful people to allow to manipulate the legal and political process to get favorable outcomes?

In the specific case of Jeff Epstein, the allegation is that he is a blackmailer who collects money from some of his victims and favors from others. It is worth noting that he has not been convicted of blackmail, only of things related to having sex with minors. Blackmail is thus a speculative explanation of his situation.

The United States (or whatever country) could do better vetting of public officials. If candidates for public office had to face a security check where negative information was then published, it seems much less likely that there would be many who were then able to give preferential treatment to people blackmailing them. Same thing for appointees. Then spot check officials periodically to ensure that they had not become corrupt or vulnerable in the meantime.

Another allegation was that he paid off witnesses. As such, it is possible that he would not have been convicted even if brought to trial. This is harder to prevent, as it is already illegal. It is possible that sufficient resources would have been able to catch either his agent or he himself paying off the witnesses.


Very simple : ban plea bargains.* Alternatively, make a maximum percentage discount. However this would not prevent various other methods, of avoiding justice, so, whilst closing of an easy avenue, cannot guarantee results in all cases.

* There are other good reasons to do so, and possibly also drawbacks

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    The issue with "maximum discounts" is that someone can be indicted for is not an exact science. And the attorney may ask for the maximum possible punishment or the minimum. So the attorney can decide to retract the charges for murder for which he asked 25 jail years and to accuse instead of manslaughter and ask for the minimum time of 5 years, and suddenly the "maximum discount" rule is no longer an obstacle.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 20:39
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    And for "drawbacks" of forbidding plea bargains, count in "the collapse of the judiciary system". The number of cases that actually get sentenced is a really tiny fraction of the total (I have seen numbers as low as 7%), ban plea bargains and you suddenly have multiplied by 14 the resources of the judiciary...
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 20:53
  • This simply moves the problem from the judge imposing the sentence to the prosecutor deciding which charges to bring (and is already quite an issue due to mandatory minimum sentences.)
    – arp
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 1:28
  • @SJuan76 some countries (allegedly Germany, Japan up until 2018 or so, though its hard to find exact information given different legal systems) manage to function without them, but yes, definitely less cases could go through. Though when you consider that the US locks up more of its citizens than almost everywhere else, less prosecutions might not be the worst thing in the world.
    – mbrig
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 2:03
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    @mbrig I fail to see the point you are trying to make, since "less prosecutions" is exactly what is wrong with Epstein's case.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 15:30

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