85.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 16, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsJane Does Suing USVI Over Epstein Seek Records from JPMorgan Case

Jane Does Suing USVI Over Epstein Seek Records from JPMorgan Case

The attorney representing six Jeffrey Epstein victims in a lawsuit against the V.I. government is seeking a court order granting access to the unredacted filings and transcripts from the USVI’s complaint against JPMorgan Chase.

The JPMorgan suit, which alleged the bank violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in its dealings with Epstein, was settled for $75 million in September, but not before V.I. officials were deposed, including some that are now being sued by the Epstein victims in the same Manhattan federal court where the complaint against the bank was heard.

Those officials include former First Lady Cecile de Jongh, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, former Senators Celestino White and Carlton Dowe, who now heads the V.I. Port Authority, former Attorney General Vincent Frazer, and former Governors Kenneth Mapp and John de Jongh.

The class action suit, first filed in November by Jane Does 1-5 and amended in December to add a sixth plaintiff, accuses the V.I. government of violating the TVPA in a sprawling conspiracy to aid in Epstein’s sex-trafficking scheme. A registered sex offender who pleaded guilty to procuring a minor for prostitution in Florida in 2008, he died by apparent suicide in August 2019 at age 66 while in detention in New York on federal trafficking charges.

Epstein’s primary residence was Little St. James, his private island off St. Thomas where for years he ran a complex web of shell companies registered in the USVI that enabled his crimes.

According to the motion requesting the order — filed Monday before the judge in the JPMorgan case by Jordan Merson, the attorney for the Epstein victims known as Jane Does 1-6 — the plaintiffs have failed in their efforts to get the records by conferring with the V.I. government, as the judge had ordered after Merson first sought to intervene in early April.

“Plaintiffs have provided a list of documents and transcripts they seek from the USVI, however counsel for the USVI refuses and continues to object to production,” he alleges.

During the meet-and-confer, USVI’s “counsel represented that only transcript excerpts had ever been filed and that, in accordance with this Court’s Order, Plaintiffs were not entitled to the balance of the transcripts because they were never filed on the docket,” Merson claims.

Redacted filings in the JPMorgan case are on the court docket and are public record, but Merson said not allowing the plaintiffs in Doe 1 et al v. Government of the United States Virgin Islands et al access to the full record would “rub salt in the wounds of the real victims of the sex trafficking scheme — Proposed Intervenors — to bar them from the evidence needed to prosecute their claims against the other conspirators in the scheme.”

The documents were filed under a protective order that permitted both sides to deem confidential “any information of a personal or intimate nature regarding any individual.” Merson argues that its broad and vague language “resulted in the parties shielding the vast majority of discovery from public disclosure. Proposed Intervenors are now hamstrung by their ability to prosecute their claims against Defendants in the Doe action, including the USVI.”

Merson said he is not proposing that the shielded information be made public — as the New York Times has sought in a separate motion to unseal the documents that the judge has not yet ruled on — but that the plaintiffs and their counsel be granted access under the same rules as governed their disclosure to parties in the JPMorgan case.

“The USVI, which benefitted from the Protective Order in this action, is using it as both a sword and a shield. When it served the USVI’s interest to consent to confidentiality, it did so in order to prosecute claims, ostensibly on behalf of the victims of the sex trafficking venture. In the Doe action, the USVI is now using it as a shield, by moving to dismiss on grounds including a failure to plead with specificity,” Merson alleges in his motion.

“It is the height of hypocrisy for the USVI to use the Protective Order to prevent the victims that gave the USVI standing to sue JP Morgan and others from accessing evidence supporting their claims. Even a cursory review of the redactions on the docket reveals that the redactions pertained to the privacy of many of the Defendants in this action — the government officials who benefited from the sex trafficking scheme,” he states.

“The USVI is in possession of all of the filings in this case and so can hardly oppose an order which places Proposed Intervenors on the same footing as them,” the motion claims.

The V.I. Justice Department, which is representing Mapp and Frazer, and attorneys for the de Jonghs and Plaskett have all moved to dismiss the Doe case. The plaintiffs have until May 8 to file an omnibus reply to those motions, and a pretrial conference has been set for June 21.

Besides the de Jonghs, Mapp, White, Frazer, Dowe and Plaskett, the suit also names John Does 1-100, who it claims were “employees of the USVI.”

That list includes John Does 1-10 and 51-100, who were “USVI customs agents and/or officers”; John Does 11-20, who were “USVI air traffic controllers”; John Does 21-30, who were “USVI airport baggage check agents”; John Does 31-40, who were USVI police officers, and John Does 41-50, who were “USVI coast guard agents.”

Central to the motions to dismiss is whether the District Court for the Southern District of New York even has jurisdiction to hear the case, and whether it is the proper venue, given the alleged crimes occurred in the U.S. Virgin Islands. While Epstein owned a mansion and other properties in New York, and the plaintiffs all live there, all the defendants are residents of the USVI and had little to no interaction with him in that state, let alone business dealings, according to court filings.

Plaskett’s motion to dismiss also argues that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act claims alleged by the plaintiffs are barred by the 10-year statute of limitations, so any that occurred prior to Nov. 22, 2013, should be dismissed, given that the lawsuit was filed on Nov. 22, 2023.

The plaintiffs have alleged violations of the TVPA and conspiracy to violate the TVPA from 2001 to 2019, while Jane Doe 4 and Jane Doe 5 allege injuries that accrued between 2001 and 2009, and Jane Doe 6 in 2004, in effect “bootstrapping” their expired claims to timely claims, she argued.

The motions to dismiss also question why a suit against the V.I. government names the John Does as “employees of the USVI” when their listed occupations/roles are federal government operations or the purview of private companies.

The allegations “border on nonsensical,” they have alleged, with Cecile de Jongh calling the lawsuit “a 225-paragraph mess of vague and scattershot allegations” in her response.

The defendants have until May 13 to respond to Merson’s motion in the JPMorgan case, and the plaintiffs have a deadline of May 20 to file a reply.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.