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Compensation Fund Takes Shape For Jeffrey Epstein's Accusers

The structure of a compensation fund for victims of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein now rests with the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, where Epstein had a home.

U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George went to court in January to block the executors of Epstein's estate from setting up a fund to compensate his alleged victims. Dozens of women have accused Epstein of sexually abusing them at his estates in Palm Beach, Fla., and in the Virgin Islands. Epstein owned two islands in the U.S. territory and lived in a lavish estate on one of them.

George wants an expert on child sex abuse, Marci Hamilton, to play a key role in administering the fund. Hamilton is a child protection advocate who was recommended by attorneys representing Epstein's victims. The attorney general also objects to a proposed requirement that victims who receive compensation must sign a release preventing them from suing others who may have participated in Epstein's alleged sex trafficking.

Lawyers for the Epstein estate want a more limited role for Hamilton. And they say the release would preserve more money for victims because if victims sue former Epstein associates, those people would likely turn and sue the estate. That could drag out proceedings and draw down funds, estate lawyers say.

Epstein was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges when he was found dead in his jail cell last year in what was ruled a suicide. A decade earlier, a secret plea deal allowed him to avoid federal sex trafficking charges by pleading guilty to state charges that allowed him to serve just 13 months in jail, with lenient work release terms. Epstein's accusers have been trying to have the plea deal overturned, but a federal appeals court in Atlanta this week rejected their bid.

In the Virgin Islands, after months of discussions about the compensation fund, the attorney general and Epstein estate lawyers said they were unable to come to an agreement. Both parties are asking the court to rule on how the fund to compensate victims should be set up and administered.

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As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.