He could never have done it alone.
I'm not talking about his suicide. That he did himself.
I'm talking about his crimes.
Imagine if Jeffrey Epstein had had to find his prey himself. Imagine a sleazy middle-aged guy hanging around in front of a high school trying to pick up teenage girls.
People would notice. Teachers would see. The police might be called. The man would be told to leave.
A beautifully dressed, stylish socialite with a fancy British accident?
No one was afraid to talk to her. No teachers asked, "What is she doing here?" How could the lovely Ms. Ghislaine Maxwell be seen as a threat to anyone?
Under the law, an accomplice need not be an indispensable part of the plan. It's enough if he or she assists in any way and has the purpose of helping the principal.
But in this case, it is clear that Maxwell was not simply helpful. She was essential.
Accomplices are liable as principals for the crimes that are committed with their help. But oftentimes, when their role is a small one, deals are made to secure testimony against the principal in return for more favorable treatment.
Maxwell has no chits to trade. By killing himself, Epstein took away any leverage she might have had with prosecutors.
What kind of woman uses all her charms to entice teenage girls to have sexual relations with a middle-aged pervert?
When men do it, we call them pimps.
Maxwell has to be liable for what happened to each of the girls.
She has not been seen in public in years.
Epstein was a coward, beginning to end. He enlisted others to do his dirty work. When it came time to take responsibility, to face the music, to explain, to apologize, to compensate, the coward checked out, leaving Maxwell and the staff to take the hit. If that isn't the definition of a coward, I don't know what is.
As for the prison, and the outrage at the two guards who apparently fell asleep while working overtime (one of whom wasn't even a guard), one can only hope that outrage will extend to looking at the way other prisoners are treated in an overcrowded and dangerous lockup. There is a lot more going wrong in there than napping on the job. And notice it was the staff put on leave, not the warden.
Epstein is gone. Maxwell is just missing. She needs to be found. And arrested. She is responsible for what was done to those girls. She has no excuses. Pimps often use the women they victimize to recruit other women. But that wasn't Maxwell. She was no helpless runaway, no child herself. Was she really so desperate for a man, even if he preferred the little girls? These girls thought they were safe. They had no reason to know that they would be with some of the most dangerous people they would ever meet.
The whole Epstein matter shows the criminal justice system at its worst: the sweetheart deal in Florida, approved by the feds; Epstein's manipulation of the system; the resignation of the secretary of labor; and, of course, the ultimate suicide of the victim and the effort to cover up the naps. All bad.
But it is not over. These women, once girls, deserve better. If they cannot ever get closure with Epstein, at least they can secure it against the person who literally took their hand and walked them into harm's way. She is every bit as guilty as Epstein himself.
Susan Estrich can be reached at email@example.com.