Pointing to the Jeffrey Epstein case, a Florida Democrat has paired up with a Wisconsin Republican to bring out a bill to hold prosecutors and judges more accountable in protecting crime victims.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., unveiled the “Crime Victims’ Rights Act” (CRVA).
“This legislation would install reforms to prevent any recurrence of a plea agreement like the one made by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Florida which allowed Epstein to plead guilty to a lesser state court charge resulting in a lenient 13-month jail sentence for a single prostitution charge. However, the reality was that dozens of victims had been identified at that time, and the deal was withheld from them,” Wasserman Schultz’s office noted.
The bill would create the Office of Crime Victims’ Rights in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which “will be led by the Crime Victims’ Rights Coordinator and will receive, investigate, and adjudicate complaints of a CVRA violation” and “will submit a final order on CVRA violation allegation within 180 days of receiving a complaint, and a victim can request a hearing.
“If the Coordinator determines a federal attorney knowingly violated the rights of a crime victim, the Coordinator can impose disciplinary action that can include: suspension or termination of employment; referral to each state bar association in which the attorney is a member; suspension from practicing law on behalf of the United States; referral to the U.S. attorney if there is evidence of criminal misconduct,” the congresswoman’s office added. “Both the victim and attorney will have the right to be represented by legal counsel, and victims will be provided a pro bono attorney.”
Wasserman Schultz offered some of the reasons why she proposed the bill last week.
“If federal prosecutors re-victimize innocent victims – as Epstein’s horrific plea deal did – they must be held accountable, in a timely fashion,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This legislation would give our justice system vital tools to prevent such gross miscarriages of injustice from being repeated. His victims deserve to know that no one will suffer the way they have again.”
“This bipartisan bill strengthens our criminal justice system by ensuring that crime victims are not mistreated by bad-intentioned prosecutors,” Sensenbrenner said. “It also increases accountability and provides a better avenue for the Justice Department to identify and root out abuse and corruption.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee last week. So far, there is no companion bill over in the U.S. Senate.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.