Attorney for Jeffrey Epstein had prior relationship with prosecutor on his Florida case

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Jeffrey Epstein. - NY State Sex Offender Registry/NY State Sex Offender Registry/TNS

A member of Jeffrey Epstein’s defense team had previously dated a high-ranking prosecutor who helped negotiate his sweetheart deal in 2008, a source familiar with the Justice Department’s review of the case told the New York Daily News.

Lilly Anne Sanchez briefly had a relationship with Matthew Menchel in 2003 when they both worked at the Southern District of Florida’s U.S. attorney’s office, the report found.

Sanchez left the office for private practice and was hired by Epstein around 2007. Menchel was chief of the criminal division when the office began investigating Epstein and negotiating an end to the case. Menchel left the office before the case was ultimately resolved.

“That stinks to high heaven,” the source familiar with the review said.

The revelation was buried in the nearly 300-page report by the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility. A summary of the report released by the Justice Department on Thursday found that former U.S. Alex Acosta merely exercised “poor judgment” when he allowed Epstein to plead guilty to state prostitution charges in 2008 rather than face a federal sex trafficking case.

Sanchez and Menchel dated for only a few weeks and then decided it wasn’t a good idea, according to the report. Nevertheless, the review found that Menchel should have disclosed it to Acosta and other ethics officials at the office. If he had, Menchel likely would have been instructed to take a step back from the Epstein case given its sensitivity, the review found.

Menchel told Justice Department investigators his brief fling with Sanchez did not influence his handling of the case, according to the report.

Epstein victims and their attorneys have said the multimillionaire used all manner of dirty tricks to gain leverage over his adversaries. He made threats and hired private investigators to dig up dirt on his enemies. Epstein’s psychological warfare was so intense, victims’ attorney Brad Edwards wrote in a memoir, that he at times suspected Epstein had tapped his phone.

Menchel and Sanchez did not respond to emails.

Epstein served only 13 months in Palm Beach County jail thanks to his nonprosecution agreement with the Florida feds. He hanged himself last year in a Manhattan federal jail while awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges.

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