Government lawyers ask to withdraw from representing former governor, AG

Government lawyers ask to withdraw from representing former governor, AG

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Virgin Islands government lawyers have filed a motion to withdraw from representing former Gov. Kenneth Mapp and former Attorney General Vincent Frazer in a lawsuit filed by victims of Jeffrey Epstein.

Assistant Virgin Islands Attorney General and Chief of the Civil Division, Venetia Velazquez, filed an appearance on behalf of the government earlier this year, along with David Ackerman of the firm of Motley Rice, which has been representing the government in matters related to Epstein.

On Tuesday, Ackerman and Velazquez filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for Mapp and Frazer, “due to a potential conflict of interest.”

The plaintiffs include six victims who are accusing Virgin Islands government officials of protecting Epstein in exchange for money and favors, even after he was required to register as a sex offender.

Epstein was never investigated or prosecuted in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and he died by suicide in August 2019, while awaiting trial on new charges in a New York jail.

Defendants in the case are the V.I. government and seven officials, Epstein’s long-time employee, former Virgin Islands first lady Cecile de Jongh; former governors John deJongh Jr. and Mapp; former senators Celestino White Sr. and Carlton Dowe; Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett; and Frazer.

Mapp served as governor between 2015 and 2019, and Frazer was Attorney General from 2007 to 2015, and a previous amended complaint asserted claims against the men in their official capacities.

“Consistent with that understanding, undersigned counsel undertook their representation in this matter,” according to the motion.

“Plaintiffs have now filed a Second Amended Complaint, asserting claims against Mr. Mapp and Mr. Frazer ‘in their individual and official capacities because they committed the conduct alleged before, during, and/or after they left office,’” according to the motion.

Because of the expanded allegations in the new complaint, “a potential for conflict of interest has arisen” that could affect the attorneys’ representation, and they asked the court to allow them to withdraw.

“By submitting this motion, the undersigned do not suggest — or intend to suggest — that Messrs. Mapp and Frazer have committed any wrongdoing, or that Plaintiffs’ allegations against them have merit. Undersigned counsel submit this motion solely to comply with their ethical obligations in this matter,” according to the motion

In addition, attorneys for several defendants have filed motions to dismiss the new complaint, including Ackerman, who filed a 45-page motion Wednesday, arguing that the allegations against the Virgin Islands government “have no merit.”

“The conduct of the individual Defendants is not attributable to the Government because they were not Government officials (Cecile de Jongh, Plaskett, and John Doe customs, baggage check, air traffic, and coast guard agents) or were not in office or acting in the scope of employment at the time of the allegations,” according to the motion.

“Even if Plaintiffs’ claims regarding bribes, sex-trafficking, and other illegal conduct were true, such conduct, as a matter of law, cannot be attributed to the Government, as opposed as to individuals acting in their own interests,” Ackerman wrote.

Attorneys for Plaskett, and John and Cecile deJongh have also filed motions to dismiss the complaint.

Attorney Amelia Schmidt, who is representing Cecile de Jongh, argued that the latest complaint is another “mess of vague and scattershot allegations.”

She also noted that the plaintiffs “executed broad releases with Mr. Epstein’s estate, which included releases of all claims against Mr. Epstein’s employees and anyone who had otherwise worked for Mr. Epstein ’in any capacity.’ Plaintiffs now seek to dodge this release by holding USVI government officials liable for Mr. Epstein’s conduct—and include Ms. de Jongh because she was the First Lady during some of this time,” according to the motion to dismiss.

In addition, Schmidt argued that the allegations against de Jongh are “particularly thin,” and she is “immune from suits against her as First Lady.”