Community Reacts to Avis Article About deJongh

Oct. 23, 2006 — An article in the St. Croix Avis that attempts to link gubernatorial candidate John deJongh to a Florida sex scandal has created a backlash throughout the community, resulting in numerous phone calls to various media outlets and extensive discussion on local radio programs.
A movement has begun to obtain a petition of 5000 signatures from residents who will commit to stop buying the paper. Sources close to the Avis say they are already receiving negative letters to the editor about the story, published in the Oct. 22-23 edition.
The story, which carries no byline and is credited to "Avis Staff," claims that "questions being raised" about deJongh stem from his wife's business relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, founder of the J. Epstein Foundation. The article references an affidavit filed by the Palm Beach (Fla.) Police Department that implicates Epstein in a "child sex scandal."
"Questions are being raised about … John deJongh and his wife's association with an arrested billionaire who was indicted in July following a year-long investigation into child sex charges," the article states.
According to national news reports, Epstein was indicted in late July on one count of felony solicitation of prostitution after accusations by teenage girls. But one of Epstein's attorneys said Monday that a grand jury later determined the allegations against Epstein were not true.
DeJongh's picture is prominently displayed on the Avis' front page, under a headline that reads, "Accused Billionaire Linked to V.I. Candidate."
The story also mentions that the Source, in an unrelated article written in March, identified Cecile deJongh as director of the J. Epstein Virgin Islands Foundation. Because of the way the article is structured, the Avis story seems to imply that the Source article addresses the Epstein sex scandal.
In reality, the Source story referenced by the Avis discusses an event sponsored by the Epstein Foundation in which some of the nation's top physicists visited the territory. (See "Top Physicists Talk Gravity at Antilles School.") The Source article does not contain information regarding either the sex scandal or the police affidavit referenced by the Avis.
"I am appalled that an editor of any quality would seek to use the Source to legitimize this despicable act of yellow journalism," said Shaun A. Pennington, the Source's publisher, on Monday evening.
"This is truly a non-story," Pennington continued. "Apparently Ms. [Rena] Brodhurst was unaware that the Daily News also published this non-story, taking it from another publication in Florida months ago."
Brodhurst, publisher of the Avis, did not return phone calls made by the Source Monday to discuss the matter.
An attorney for Epstein, Gerald Lefcourt, released a statement to the Source on Monday afternoon, saying the Avis article "flies in the face of facts."
"Over a month ago the Grand Jury, comprised of 21 randomly chosen Palm Beach citizens and … both the state attorney and the chief of the sex crimes unit determined that the allegations contained in the misleading police reports were not true," he writes. "Moreover, Mr. Epstein conclusively passed an extensive lie detector test, given by one of the state's toughest practitioners …."
Lefcourt adds that certain evidence relative to Epstein's case had not been made public, due to an officer's "frustration" with the decision of the grand jury.
"In contrast, both the grand jury and prosecutor's office had access to both sides [of the story] and determined that no serious offense had occurred," Lefcourt wrote.
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