If Jeffrey Epstein gets nailed, will he bring any of his powerful friends down with him?

Jeffrey Epstein.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, File)

Federal agents arrested billionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein when his private jet landed in New Jersey from Paris on Saturday evening, and an hour later, the FBI raided his home in Manhattan, the Miami Herald and The New York Times report. Epstein, 66, reportedly faces charges including sex trafficking of minors between 2002 and 2005. He served 13 months in a Florida jail under a heavily criticized 2008 plea deal signed by Labor Secretary Alex Acosta when Acosta was U.S. attorney in Miami.

This new Epstein case is being prosecuted by the Southern District of New York's Public Corruption Unit, assisted by investigators with the sex trafficking division, and "there are indications that others involved in his crimes could be charged or named as cooperating witnesses," the Miami Herald reports. The most likely targets are Epstein's alleged sex trafficking accomplices, but since his circle of powerful friends includes former President Bill Clinton, Britain's Prince Andrew, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and President Trump, there's a lot of interest in where this case might lead.

The public corruption unit doesn't "typically handle cases involving child exploitation, so there may very well be some bombshells here of other people's involvement," former federal prosecutor Francey Hakes tells the Herald. On MSNBC Sunday, Herald reporter Julie K. Brown explained that in her reporting on Epstein's 2008 slap-on-the-wrist deal, she saw the names of powerful people appear regularly on "message pads where they would call Epstein and leave messages such as, 'I'm at this hotel.' Why do you do that except that you're expecting him perhaps to send a girl to visit you at your hotel? So there's probably quite a few important people, powerful people, who are sweating it out right now."

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Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah adds at The Daily Beast that "Epstein would have to have some very valuable and verifiable information to trade for a cooperation agreement" at the famously hard-nosed SDNY, and "it's too soon to say" what the involvement of the public corruption unit means. "It could mean that a public official is being investigated or will be charged with Epstein," she writes. "That could be a minor public figure or a major one. It could mean that SDNY is investigating misconduct in the plea that Epstein was given in 2008. Or it could mean none of those things."

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