17:49 GMT23 November 2020
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    A probe has been launched into the notorious 2008 plea deal that allowed Epstein to walk free after 13 months and eventually build his purported sex trafficking ring, despite police findings about dozens of potential victims of the sex offender.

    An attorney who defended late financier Jeffrey Epstein, Lilly Ann Sanchez, had a brief relationship with one of the Florida prosecutors, who worked on the lucrative plea deal for the sex offender in 2008, the New York Daily News has reported. The news outlet's findings are based on a review of the 2008 plea deal recently conducted by the US Department of Justice, but which had never been published in full over victim privacy concerns.

    Only a summary of the report by the Office of Professional Responsibility was published by the DoJ, which made no mention of a romance between Sanchez and one of the prosecutors on the case - Matthew Menchel. Neither Menchel nor Sanchez has commented on the news outlet's findings.

    According to the reported contents of the review provided to the NY Daily News by an anonymous source, Menchel and Sanchez dated for a few weeks in 2003, when they both worked at the Southern District of Florida's US Attorney's Office. Menchel never notified the authorities about a potential conflict of interests, the source, who provided the report, told the New York Daily News, adding that the situation "stinks to high heaven".

    FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on Thursday, July 2, 2020, on charges she helped procure underage sex partners for the financier
    © AP Photo / New York State Sex Offender Registry
    FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on Thursday, July 2, 2020, on charges she helped procure underage sex partners for the financier

    Menchel should have reported his previous affair with Sanchez according to the reported conclusions of the DoJ's Office of Professional Responsibility. The office reportedly indicated that Menchel would then have been removed from the case.

    The prosecutor later left the Epstein case before it was closed, and he also claimed in his filing for the DoJ's report that the brief romance with Sanchez had not affected his handling of the Epstein plea deal. It is unclear how much influence Menchel could have wielded on the terms of the 2008 deal before his departure.

    Notorious Slap-on-the-Wrist Deal

    The DoJ previously ordered the review of the 2008 plea deal, handled by then-Florida Federal Prosecutor Alex Acosta, and which effectively allowed Epstein to walk free after serving only 13 months of his 18-month sentence, despite initially being accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls. The report on the case condemned Acosta for exercising "poor judgement", but stopped short of accusing him of any wrongdoing.

    After walking out of prison, the disgraced financier purportedly built an extensive sex trafficking ring involving underage girls and allegedly involving clients in high places. He was arrested in 2019 on sex trafficking charges, but was never convicted as he died in a jail cell after committing suicide the same year.

    Not long before his death, Epstein was taken off suicide watch, his cellmate was transferred and never replaced, and the guards did not check up on him as regularly as they were supposed to. This series of events apparently allowed the financier to end his life, sparking a multitude of speculations that they were not accidental. Some conspiracy theories went as far as to suggest that Epstein was, in fact, assassinated, to prevent him from negotiating another plead deal in which he would spill the names of his powerful clients. However, the results of a probe into the circumstances surrounding his death indicated that the financier had indeed committed suicide.

    Related:

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    New Details on Epstein's 'Abuse', Info on Prince Andrew are Reportedly Set to Be Unleashed by FBI
    Lawyer for Epstein's Accusers Hopes Biden Admin Will Be 'More Aggressive' in Probing Prince Andrew
    Sex Predator Epstein's Ex-Lover Battles to Keep Dynamite New 'Sex Files' From Being Made Public
    FBI Agents Wanted to Arrest 'Judge' Epstein at Virgin Islands Beauty Pageant in 2007, Report Reveals
    Tags:
    conflict of interest, sex offenders, Jeffrey Epstein, US
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