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Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffery Epstein

Review

Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffery Epstein

Let us state at the outset that FILTHY RICH is not a scholarly work by any means. It’s redundant in some places; in others, dates of events overlap and skip, creating some confusion. The text is unsupported by source footnotes and/or indexes, though it does quote verbatim (apparently) from transcripts, affidavits and depositions. Warts and all, though, it is an interesting, even fascinating look at a world beyond the reach and inclinations of most people.

Jeffrey Epstein is a billion-dollar financier to the rich and famous who was accused of sexually abusing and molesting scores of underage girls in multiple locations, including a compound on an island he owns on the Virgin Islands. Pursuant to a plea bargain, he ultimately pled guilty to one count of soliciting an underage girl for sex and served 13 months of an 18-month sentence (in jail, as opposed to prison). The foregoing is a matter of public record, easily accessed without reading FILTHY RICH. What the book attempts, with varying degrees of success, is to document all of Epstein’s sins and trace the connection between his wealth and the brevity of his jail sentence, in relation to the seriousness of his crime.

"...an interesting, even fascinating look at a world beyond the reach and inclinations of most people."

FILTHY RICH is divided into six parts: “The Crime,” “The Man,” “The Women,” “The Investigation,” “Incarceration” and “Aftermath.” There is also a Coda, which attempts to bring the reader up to date on the individuals who figured prominently in the story, as well as an Epilogue, wherein co-author James Patterson (I presume) lists a number of questions that he would ask Epstein had the man not declined to give an interview. “The Crime” focuses on the acts and the victims, the latter of whom are teenage girls, recruited by other teenage girls to go to Epstein’s mansion in West Palm Beach and give him a massage. The young ladies weren’t trained in such an activity, and the uniformity of their separate descriptions indicates that little or indeed no training was necessary. The acts described are disgusting, given the ages of the victims, who were primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The Man” focuses entirely on Epstein, detailing his background and the manner in which he attained his wealth and influence, two symbiotic elements of which each affected the other. The remainder of the book describes, to the extent possible, what occurred when an attempt was made to bring Epstein to justice. It leaves a large question mark, through no fault of the authors. What is known is that a plea bargain was made, and, as the book demonstrates, Epstein extended his wrist, which in turn was judiciously slapped.

The connection between Epstein’s light treatment in court and his wealth and influence is made within these pages, but the book still doesn’t quite explain how the former resulted in the latter. Truth be told, stories with respect to such crimes occur on a daily basis, even when those accused are not people of means. Two weeks before these words were written, an individual in Montana who repeatedly raped his 12-year-old stepdaughter was sentenced to 60 days in jail and probation. Spend an hour in any courthouse in the country, and you’ll hear deals being struck for crimes similar to those of which Epstein stood accused and, indeed, to which he admitted committing.

How did we get here? One could argue that it is the result of a combination of the plea bargaining element baked into the criminal justice system and the creeping influence of moral relativism, which has resulted in the premise that it is perfectly acceptable --- at any level --- to violate laws with which one disagrees on social principal, with the understanding that the penalty for such will be marginal. With respect to the Epstein offenses, there are those who make the argument that using age as a marker for the ability to give sexual consent is arbitrary. Their voices are becoming louder and, alas, more influential.

The authors --- James Patterson, who needs no introduction; John Connolly (no, not that John Connolly), an investigative reporter; and Tim Malloy, a journalist and television reporter --- all have had some tangential contact with Epstein. Patterson is his neighbor, though is not acquainted with him; Connolly worked for a national magazine that was one of the first to highlight the firestorm that was about to erupt around Epstein; and Malloy, while working for a south Florida TV station, experienced first-hand Epstein’s reach and influence.

FILTHY RICH exhibits the style that Patterson has developed for his fiction, which isn’t necessarily adaptable in an effective manner to a true crime work such as this. Nevertheless, the book provides a cursory and interesting introduction to a current event that is still playing itself out. A more scholarly and complete approach is needed, but has yet to be written.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 4, 2016

Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffery Epstein
by James Patterson and John Connolly, with Tim Malloy

  • Publication Date: April 18, 2017
  • Genres: Nonfiction, True Crime
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1455542644
  • ISBN-13: 9781455542642