tv Julie K. Brown Perversion of Justice CSPAN November 28, 2021 5:43am-6:41am EST
thank you. not only for this book, which is part of your trajectory which is a beacon for how to have these conversations, how to live within the conversations and then for me, the little girl. thank you. talk. you can purchase her book at the table outside of the room. with this, i will introduce our master ceremony for this evening who will introduce the speaker. this is maria meyer. the executive director of the women's fund, miami-dade. 1 billion rising global coordinator for miami, she has worked with the abyss across the u.s. to create the awareness and solidarity necessary to and staggering statistics of gender violence. maria is a member of the task force. miami-dade doing trafficking
coalition. [applause] >> good evening to all that are present. whether virtually or in this auditorium. i am very proudly representing. the book fair and the women's fund from the foundation. to get there tonight, we will focus here on power. power of one writer's proverbial pen, the power of narcissism and unmitigated privilege and the power of investigative journalism to focus a critical magnifying lens long and hard enough on the facts to spark the collective outreach necessary to leverage action. miami herald investigative journalist julie k brown relentlessly pursued jeffrey epstein's year-long engagement
in exploitation and sex trafficking remain unchecked. for decades he freely move through high society and lyrical circles leaving more and more survivors in his wake. the version of justice is trying to put a spotlight on these crimes and longtime avoidance of any real consequences. not legal, not financial nor personal. it is a fascinating and in-depth look at the growth miscarriage of justice. as director of the foundation journalism program, the phila traffic focuses on investing a new message for excellence in journalism and civic media. as a way to support informed local community. and that is what is about to happen here. please join me in welcoming her and author julie k brown to the miami book fair.
[applause] >> hi, julie. hi everyone. thank you so much for coming tonight. let's get started. we used to work together at the miami herald. but i am not sure that everyone knows her very well and there is quite a bit in this book that i learned about her. why don't we start by learning a little bit about you. where you from, how did you grow up? how did you end up in journalism. >> thank you all for coming, by the way. it is good to be back in person at the book fair. i grew up in a tiny town called sellersville.
and, you know, my mother was a single mom with three children. needless to say, we struggled quite a bit. i think that it instilled in me some of the things that my mother went through. i remember one time came home and all of the furniture was gone from the house because my mother could not pay utility bills. just, you know, injustice that i felt she suffered instilled in me at such a young age that i wanted to do something about it. that kind of led me into writing writing was an outlet for me when i was very young. the fact that, you know, i would read stories about great people and how they overcame obstacles in their lives. i think that that made me also want to write stories about people like that or in some way to make a difference in other
people's lives. >> you studied your career in philadelphia. what was that like? what were you writing about? what were you reporting on? >> i wrote for every small paper you could ever really imagine. i started at the bottom doing obituaries which are actually very good training ground, actually. you have to learn every single thing about a person and tell a story about them in a very respectful way. i just really went up the ladder and in the beginning, i mean, i could not support myself on a journalism salary. i worked as a waitress, you know, sort of like actors do, starving actors. i was a starving journalist. i worked a couple of jobs just to pay the rent. and then i finally got a big break when i was hired by the philadelphia daily news which was a metropolitan, big
metropolitan newspaper in philadelphia. then i moved to the big city. >> and then you eventually ended up in south florida. >> yes. you talk about it in the book. then you eventually went back to reporting. why don't you tell us about what it takes to be a reporter. how do you get your stories. you reported on prisons for a number of years. >> you know, i always felt like one of the ways i could stay in this business was make sure that i could do everything. i could learn a little bit about everything. so, i just tried to be very nimble. every time they asked me to do something, i said yes. i knew i would be able to keep my job if i worked hard enough and just never argued. at least in the beginning of my career i did not argue a lot and i did everything that i was told to do. as i became more experienced, i started arguing more.
yeah, you know, running after murder scenes in the worst neighborhoods in philadelphia, fires in the middle of the night, car crashes. probably almost everything i have done at one time or another. but, i really like the crime, i really kind of got a niche with covering crime. from crime i realized, you know, the police did not always do a good job of investigating. i realized that i could find out things that the police did not even know and that is when i got involved to do more investigative work. >> again, you had been covering women's prisons and done really exceptional work. you were looking for something else. how did you really find this story. what is it that you first saw that really made you want to go deeper? what shock do you?
>> well, you know, this is an old story contrary to what some people say. i did not break the jeffrey epstein's story. it did get a lot of coverage in certain places. particularly in palm beach at the time that it happened originally. it did not get much traction nationally. i think it kind of dropped off the radar f there everyone concluded that because he is very wealthy he got off. it is not a good enough reason i felt like there was more to it. i always expected there was some kind of corruption involved in a. and then when donald trump was nominated, i'm sorry, when donald trump was running for president, a woman had filed a lawsuit against him and jeffrey epstein claiming that he had
sexually assaulted her along with jeffrey epstein as well. there was an article that i read in the newspaper where they were sort of taking the mainstream media to test for not looking into this whole story about epstein and trump and this woman you know, i had already known about the case and i thought this does seem weird. maybe i should take a look. as i was picking away at the case, trump had elected in any nominated his labor secretary and i knew that he was a person that signed off on this sweetheart plea deal that epstein received. i thought at the time, i wonder what these victims who were young, you know, 13, 14 years old at the time, now they are in their late 20s, i wonder what they think about the fact that pretty much let their predator off the hook was now in charge
of a large agency with oversight on human trafficking and child labor laws. my initial goal is just to try to see if the victims would finally come forward and talk to me. as i started digging more and more into the story, i found, you know, there was so much more to this story. the victims, how they were treated, but also how epstein managed to manipulate just about every part of this case. and the prosecutors kind of looked the other way as he was doing it or relented, continually let him get away with it. >> the thing about the reporting is it really looked at the entire system. you speak about that a lot. you wrote about that a lot in the book. just the different, he would hire attorneys that were married to other attorneys and somebody would be eliminated.
there was conflict of interest. tell me a little bit about the process. you know, investigative reporting, there is a mystery around it. you spent time digging into records and it does not necessarily turn something up or sometimes you go down to many rabbit holes. why don't we get into the process of the work that you did. >> you know, no one wakes up one day and just decides to be an investigative reporter. there are a lot of reporters that don't like doing investigative work. there a lot of reporters that do great journalism. there was aspects of, you know, journalism that i could not do. you have to, you know, i think the thing that led me to do investigative journalism is because i just always wanted to get to the truth. i felt like there was so much going on in our country and in
society that sometimes we just really do not know how this happened. how this particular person ended up in this particular place. that always fascinated me. also, when i looked into it, that is what we do. even though it is a lot of digging. it is also about telling stories because that is what makes people interested. so, it is kind of twofold and you have to kind of dig through this dense, horribly boring documents that are written by lawyers. >> you have to kind of make sense out of it. it is not really easy to do that in this particular case there were tens of thousands of documents that have been filed
over the years. there were all of these different lawsuits that were filed. like a dozen civil lawsuits. each one of them had like 200 entries in the system. so, i realize, at first i thought when i did it, i could do what i always do which is usually what a reporter does. they take a motion for summary judgment. a motion for summary judgment the two documents that you know they are laying out their case and then you can write a story off of that. i would read something in the motion for summary judgment and then i would be like what? where did they get that. and then that document i would be like there is no way i am cherry picking documents. i have to read every single thing. by doing that, i was able to take this story apart and put it
buying these documents that you buy is part of what goes into the price of the newspaper. so, really highs and lows, there is times for your digging deep and you are not finding things, there are times where there are just some highs. tell me, and the reporting process, in this year and a half, what was a moment that was a big win. what was a moment that was
really difficult? >> the most challenging part of this case was finding a victim because, now they were in their late 20s. summit gotten married, others had gone to jail. first of all, all of their names were read out it in the documents as if they were minors. >> how do you find out who these women even are. you know, what i learned with all of the experience i had at this point was inevitably when you get these files that are redacted, they forget to redact things. you may get a first name accidentally. and i just put together a big spreadsheet with everything i knew. when it was all said and done, i had a list of 60 women. and, then you have to try to contact them. that was probably the biggest challenge that i had. that took a long time finding them. in the process of doing that, in
order to find them, i had to find a little bit out about them. i had recognized the pattern with these young women, that their lives had been dramatically altered by what had happened to them. the abuse that they suffered. you know, a lot of them had fallen into drug addiction or had ended up in jail. some of them were victims of, you know, domestic abuse. i could see right away that these the domes really suffered an awful lot of pain. this story just kind of morphed into a, you know, it was originally just going to be a reaction to the cost of being nominated. victims saying what they thought about it to me realizing it was a total utter failure on the part of the criminal justice
system in a horrible way. you know, you have to kind of talk your editor into letting you do more. >> that was a breeze. your editor just said yes to everything, i am sure. >> these five stories first. it is, you know, i was covering a hurricane in the middle of this. it was quite -- parkland happened in the middle of this. of course we dropped everything. stop doing all the other work. highlight going back and forth, actually. it kind of echoes when you break away for a little while and then go back to it and then you realize i still have so much to deal. >> you work as a partner. >> i think that emily is here
somewhere. there she is. >> yes. i could not have done this without emily. going off the rails sometimes. yes. you know, her work on the visual part of this, we did a number of documentaries which were interviews with the victims. it was the most important part of the project. you know, i say now because the story is now and international story and every journalist is practically on this story. i say this all the time to emily no one will ever capture what emily captured. because nobody i cared about we
were talking about it for the first time in a decade and the emotion that poured out of them, nobody is ever going to capture that the way that emily did. i would encourage anybody to go online and see the documentary. the most important part of the project. when you said, what was the moment that you know. when we interviewed the first victim. i still get teary. it was just a moment that we knew we had such a good important story. we just knew. it was a great story. >> so, the story was published, sorry. take a moment. so, the story was published
november 28, 2018. it is november 21 today. three years. three years ago. and, at this .3 years ago, you were being lawyered. those lawyers again, doing everything, including the videos , documentary videos that emily worked on with you. what is happening? something happened on thanksgiving day. >> emily was making ties. are you going to be making pies with your family? the lawyers were working it over the holiday. they called her and told her she had to rework one of the videos. she dropped everything and she reworked the whole thing like a trooper. of course she called me screaming and yelling.
[laughter] it is just what we deal. it is just very challenging work but it is very important to work. if you keep your eye on what the goal is, we kind of push through it. all the challenges, arguments to the editors. the lack of resources. the fact that they do not want to, you know, pay for this or pay for that. it is hard sometimes. you just deal with it like a professional. >> so, i would love for you to tell us exactly what happened on the day that you published. i know that you were hoping it would be a splash for a day if you were lucky. >> the story was published
online. >> they put that whole series out online right away. i bet it was a thursday. i went in real early that morning because i knew that it would launch and we were going to do some social media on it. and, you know, i was absolutely exhausted. we had been editing it for weeks and working on the video. you are just at the point where you just wanted to be all over. you want to go home and go to bed. the launch times for the online version of the story kept changing. we finally landed on november 28 at 7:00 a.m. i went home that night unable to sleep. i finally got up about 4:00 a.m. i headed to the gym at five in climbed on the elliptical
trainer. i was hoping it would last online at least one day. i drove to the newsroom just after dawn. i stopped and bought bagels and crew that morning. hoping i had enough money in my bank account to cover that expense. i looked at the large digital screen. at the top of the list was a story about a woman that i'd started in a dollar store. the headline was woman passes gas in store him and pulls a knife. it was getting thousands of hits. i almost never paid attention to the stories at the top of the board. they were often click bait that we do lure readers to the more serious journalism on our website. at about 8:00 a.m. the three parts of the series along with
the massive graphics, all the videos, a timeline and a piece called how we got this story were launched under the headline future trump cabinet member living to be a lifetime. i tweeted out the stories. i hardly had any followers on twitter so it was a short task. our two social media talents were busy blitzing the stories across the internet universe. watching the stories at the very bottom of the list. the intentions of going home. i was relieved i worked with don the newsroom was starting to get busy. suddenly, rene renée rodriguez shouted over. >> the first one had thousands of hits. well, never going to top that
fort story i said walking back to my desk. before turning off my computer i looked at my twitter account. i suddenly had thousands of followers. then the unbelievable happened. it believed the story. the room erupted. my phone started ringing in my computer mailbox was filling up with congratulations. the first collection was from writer. more than elated. finally, he said, someone put together the story in a way that would make people understand the scope of his crime and how prosecutors helped epstein to get from them. his words meant the world to me. [applause] >> have you seen alex acosta at all recently? [laughter]
>> no. not at all. [laughter] i do not think that anybody has seen him, actually. no sightings, let's put it that way. >> so, look. this story has connections to two former presidents. connections to a prince. it has prestigious attorneys all over it. and, coming up next week, next week after thanksgiving, but there will be another trial. there is a chapter in here, there is a chapter in the book about how this ended for jeffrey epstein. i know that that is something that people always want to know from you. what do you think happens? >> well, i do not think that he committed suicide. i know a lot of people disagree with that. i have covered prisons for a long time. i know the way that corruption
happens. this was a textbook case of, you know, a suspicious death. there were just too many holes in the whole story. you know, he had just come off of suicide watch. you know, they took the guy who was his cellmate hours out before this allegedly happened. he had two guards fall asleep. the cameras were not working. you know, say take the body, remove the body without even taking photographs. the whole thing is coupled with the fact that epstein is epstein was the type of person who believed he was above the law. he had gotten away with it the first time. this was an old case. he could see the claim that these charges were based on the plea bargain that he agreed to with several prosecutors in florida. therefore, the charges were
already disposed of. he was only in prison for like a month when he allegedly committed suicide. he was hiring lawyers up until that week. the whole thing just does not make sense that he would have done it to begin with, but not only that, but done it at his own hand. this was a man who did not do anything on his own. .... ....
for the best. and please if anyone does want to ask questions -- >> hello. >> if you can line up in the middle. a. >> thank you so much. i'm very inspired by all of your hard work. my question is were you afraid of any threats of retaliation, and is there anything that ever happened? >> i'm never afraid of. emily is kind of the one that makes me worry because she is the voice of reason. because i just -- i just don't think about it until it's pointed out to me. i tell people know i wasn't worried about now that you bring it up, i am. [laughter] when i was covering the prisons i was far more worried about my
safety. i was able to do the story under the radar. jeffrey epstein had no idea what he was confronting. he really didn't know. he contacted him but i think he thought this was just some reporter from the miami herald and what is she going to get that nobody else hasn't already? so i think that worked to my favor that i worked for not really a small, but a regional newspaper not "the new york times." >> if it was "thenee. new york times" he would have paid more attention but i didn't worry until after the series ran and we had a couple of suspicious things happen, which you will have to get my book and read it in the book. [applause] [laughter] >> hi, julie. since you believe, and so did the guy that destroyed the
painting that he didn't commit suicide. are you going to track and see what happens and see if you can find out? >> i don't know how much of my life should i dedicate to the story. there's so many other stories. in my mind this is one that had been forgotten and there was still some justice done and i tend to think that my job with the story is almost over and i need to find another like this one that people are not paying attention to. it's been three or four years, three and a half since i took it up so maybe it is time for other people to let us think about it. we will be talking about this like the jfk assassination with
documentaries going on about who killed jeffrey epstein, is my thought. >> okay. thank you. my basic question is do you think that jeffrey epstein was blackmailing leslie, the head of limited and how did he push out harold levin, the former money manager? >> you know, when i did the series, there were so many angles to the case. all the powerful people that he knew and you know, how did he get his money. there was all these rabbit holes i could have jumped down and i had to add some point to sort of define the story and do a certain piece of it because there was no way i could do it all, so i didn't really look into that part of it to be honest. now we know a lot more about
that, all his connections and people that he probably had the goods on so to speak and certainly he's in that category. he's already been on the record as saying that epstein sold millions of dollars from him. he never reported it. you don't report it because epstein had something on you and it's you know, but he has is far more damaging than whatever it is, the 50 million that he stole. epstein was also good at making people feel he had a something on them or he had connections. i don't know how deep his connections were to some of these people but he talked about it or how to photographs of him with of these people and people allowed themselves to be with him and it gave him some
credibility that he otherwise wouldn't have had if he were a regular multimillionaire, but he used these people to some degree to get leverage over even more important people so he was a good con man. it's hard to know how much he really had versus how much he led people to believe he had. >> i want to first thank you for being such an inspiration to young journalists. i'm shorter than the guy before me. [laughter] you are truly an inspiration. the part of the book i loved so much, the challenges of being an investigative reporter here you have this story and still you are pulling teeth to get the article written. in why we are where we are today with newspapers do you have structural or foundational
changes in the news business that could help save newspapers large and small throughout the country? >> if i knew the solution to that, i would probably win a pulitzer prize for that. >> it is such a tough battle because our attention is focused so many other places now with the internet and social media and everything. it's crazy. i don't know what the answer is. the only thing i can say is i think people still want to read good stories and go to journalism. i don't think that will go away. you might get the headline but turning on the tv, but you're not going to get a good story out of it and of course all of you are here because you are readers so i'm preaching to the choir here you probably understand all that, there's a whole other part of the world of
people that just don't read. they really don't. they turn on tv and hear something from sean hannity and think that's all based on fact and that's all the story. or anderson cooper, whoever your persuasion is, but it goes both ways. this is a world where i think our education system really has to do a better job. i think that's where it starts, with our education system. >> thanks. >> hello. i dealt with of the herald a few years back so it's nice to see another reporter. have you ever seen any of the versions of u.s. stories that have adapted shows like say law & order and what's your opinion of it?
>> no, i've never seen it. i don't watch a lot of tv. i have to force myself sometimes to watch certain things that are news related because i know i should watch them but i'm not a good tv watcher. i think i have a short attention span. [laughter] >> hi, julie. i wanted to ask about how you navigated the controversy of a story in particular the fact that there are a lot of conspiratorial theories going around about it because it seems like discussing whether or not epstein killed himself is discussing whether he was a government agent or the clinton stated or anything like that so how do you navigate that kind of
controversy and how are you able to pursue the right sources when there are so many other competing theories out there? >> i think it's important whenever you do a story as a journalist you have to make sure you have the facts to back it up so when some of these stories come up, these conspiracy theories, you just go to people like an expert that knows about the bones in the neck like a friend of mine that's a well-known pathologist that was present at epstein's autopsy. i worked with him for years on the deaths i covered in the prison system and he explains very clearly in detail about why he didn't feel epstein committed suicide and like i said, i have a lot of experience covering crimes and common sense things didn't happen in this case that
would happen. you have to treat this as a potential crime scene from the beginning because you can't go back and collect the evidence after it's gone and they didn't do that. i know that these officers in the system are trained to do that so you know, the short answer i guess to this is you have to use real experts and facts. i don't think you should ignore conspiracy theories but once you find like two problems with it, you can pretty much figure it's not true. >> i just really want to add julie does spend a lot of time in the book talking about all the work that goes into this and all the records we talked about just during this conversation. there are theories and reporting backed up and then lawyers
review everything before it's published. we talked a lot and it's very much in the book how many people don't understand the process what these stories go through to even get published. >> one of the reasons i didn't set out to write a book about journalism or about me, especially not me but my editor kept saying like i would write something and she would say but how did you do that and i said i don't know i just did. you need to explain how you did that. you don't think as a journalist how you do something, you just do it. all of you have had careers or jobs where if somebody right now told you explain to me every detail, you probably couldn't do it right away. you would have to think about it and as i started thinking about it and adding to that it occurred to me a lot of people don't understand the work that
goes into investigative journalism and the sacrifices that you make with time and money. i thought it would be good to get that into the public eye so that they understood adjust the struggle. >> thank you so much for your work with this book and your courage and persistence. i'm sure it took a lot of that. the conspiracy and this creature that was jeffrey epstein and whether he took his own life, i feel like a bigger story is even the perversion of justice. i'm curious to know if there's any way of taking it forward so it's not just a slap on the hand, but policy change or what might happen from here. >> that is a good question and that was the whole reason really why i did the story because i didn't think that it, the coverage of this case did enough
to explain the broken system of justice we have in this country and i think i was in an interview right before this where i was asked a similar question and my answer was i am hopeful the younger generation of people in the system, police officers, lawyers, prosecutors, fbi agents understand how the system has been broken for so long and work on fixing it. i am hopeful a younger generation will do more. now that we know, we have so much more information. cameras are out there everywhere, we know about the level of police brutality particularly involving people of color, people that are poor, we now know that there was a long
time ago when i started the journalism whenever the police officer would say and now we don't do that as much anymore. we know that it's not always the way that it happened. so we go out and we will now interview other witnesses and we will give different stories so i think that that comes because the society is changing and we are starting to finally understand that we need to do a lot to make it just because these girls were poor girls. jeffrey epstein picked somebody that he thought nobody would listen to and he was right. he picked these girls because he felt nobody would believe them and that is part of what is going on in the country. we have to, i hope that it changes in the younger
generation and that they will look at things differently. >> can you talk about the surveillance system and how strong it was and what he had on it and what you think happened to him? >> he had a whole room of cameras and as i understand from people who were there he had cameras almost in every room. there's been an awful lot of speculation about what would have happened to the film. remember when this first happened in 2005, 2006, technology wasn't what it is today so whatever kind of footage he had from back then, god knows what kind of shape it was in. claiming they had video footage and there's no way you could tell who was in the footage so
we really don't know if he had any or if it is even usable, so it's hard to know exactly what kind of condition that would be in and certainly if it existed the fbi has it and my feeling is if they did get anything like that they are going to bury it and it isn't going to come out. i found in my reporting sometimes how did you win their trust and approach them as subjects for this reporting?
i had even interviewed rape victims before but these were victims that had been abused when they were very young so i interviewed people that worked with those kind of trauma victims ultimately we let them talk. it wasn't what happened next. once they started talking, it just spelled right out. they had been waiting for too long to tell the story and i described the first victim who i got teary about the before and that interview was incredibly emotional and powerful and i just followed the pain.
it wasn't until i got in the car and she called me and thanked me that i broke down because i knew that we had such a responsibility to tell the story end in a responsible way that i felt a lot of pressure at that moment and i hoped that i would do them justice. >> it would be great if you would close from the preface page 14. >> it epitomizes the nations system of justice and how victims of sexual assault especially those that are young
and poor are discarded, shamed and mistreated by the people that are supposed to protect them. epstein got away with his crimes because nearly every element of society allowed him to get away with it. professional, legal and moral ethics were set aside a very a broken system of values that places corporate profit, personal wealth, political connections and a celebrity above some of the most sacred tenets of the faith, teachings and democracy. when i became a journalist, i learned of the most rewarding part of my work was writing and justice for those who couldn't fight for themselves. few people seem to recognize epstein not only beat the system but was probably still hunting, to the raising and abusing young women and girls. i would face many obstacles on my path to the truth. i would be attacked by the legal sources who failed their solemn
oath by the defense attorneys who profited off of epstein's crimes and by some of those in my own industry who thought that what i was doing was nothing more than a rehash of an old story. in my lifetime there's never been a more urgent need for journalism or a more important time to play the role in giving voice to those that have none. i believe at this moment in history when world events cast resilience and propaganda, conspiracies and lies threatened to undermine all that the nation holds dear, it will be journalists that hold of the toe corrupt and powerful to account. as journalists we cannot put aside this mission even if we think the story has already been told because this was one story that wasn't finished. [applause]