It's been less than a year since Jeffrey Epstein’s death in prison while awaiting trial for sex trafficking and sexual abuse of women and underage girls, and Netflix has already released a four-part docuseries, Filthy Rich. The series, based on James Patterson’s 2016 book by the same name, details the breadth of Epstein’s crimes and the web of enablers the billionaire financier used along with his wealth to evade justice for decades. Patterson acted both as an executive producer and talking head alongside several survivors who reveal what went on as Epstein allegedly ran an international sex trafficking ring. In some ways, the series can be seen as an extension of the years of research Patterson put into his book.
While Patterson’s book acts as source material, the Netflix documentary has more information to work with. It continues to follow the case — or rather web of cases — leading up to Epstein’s arrest in 2019. When the book was published, Epstein was still a free man rubbing elbows with some of the world’s richest men. Just like the book, Netflix's Filthy Rich documents how accusations of sexual abuse followed Epstein for years before he was ever publicly accused let alone convicted. And even after he negotiated a plea deal, how Epstein was able to turn that into barely more than a slap on the wrist.
According to a criminal indictment unsealed in a Manhattan federal court last year, his final arrest was based on allegations that he paid women and underage girls for sex and used them to recruit others dating back to 2002, but a number of women who speak to their experiences in Filthy Rich claim that it began much earlier. Two sisters, Maria and Annie Farmer, report Epstein’s sexual misconduct as early as 1996.
Another thing the book and the series have in common is that ample space is given to telling the stories of survivors rather than glamorising how Epstein managed to escape justice for so long. Each account from a survivor serves, in part, to underscore that the creators of the book and the series believe that Epstein did not get the punishment he deserved.
Did James Patterson Actually Know Jeffrey Epstein?
It doesn’t appear that James Patterson has any personal connection to Jeffrey Epstein. But while they didn’t know each other, Patterson did live in the same Palm Beach, FL neighbourhood as Epstein before and during writing the book, Filthy Rich.
“What got me into this was a lot of people had been so hurt by the original situation in 2006, when he kinda got off for 13 months,” Patterson told CBS News shortly after Epstein was arrested in July 2019.
What Happened When Patterson's Epstein Book Came Out?
Patterson’s book made a splash upon its release in 2016. Previously, he had been known for his work as a horror fiction writer with this being his largest foray into nonfiction. Despite a collection of damning evidence, Epstein wasn’t suddenly arrested after the book came out (even if that does feel like what should have happened). Between Epstein’s arrest in 2005 and when the book came out, survivors came forward and former employees tried to give the FBI incriminating information, but Epstein remained seemingly untouchable even as cases mounted against him.
Many of the women who came forward in the docuseries claim that they tried to get the story out sooner by speaking to law enforcement and media to little to no avail. The Farmer sisters went to the police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and spoke on the record to Vanity Fair in 2003, but nothing came of it at the time. In fact, the story’s author, Vicky Ward, tweeted years later that she believed her editor, Graydon Carter, succumbed to pressure from Epstein to leave the accounts of the Farmer sisters and their mother out of the story.
In 2002, I was assigned to write a profile of Jeffrey Epstein for Vanity Fair. This was that piece. But what was published was far from the whole story. https://t.co/XzWG9ewPip— Vicky Ward (@VickyPJWard) July 8, 2019
In Patterson’s book, he doesn’t point the finger at any one culprit for letting Epstein off the hook. Rather, Patterson blames the plea bargain agreement in 2008 that was kept under wraps by the federal government. What his book and countless stories of women and the media trying to oust Epstein shows is just how much evidence had to be put forward before any real justice was pursued.
What Information Was Revealed In The Book Filthy Rich?
Patterson’s book Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal That Undid Him, and All the Justice That Money Can Buy centres on Epstein’s 2005 sex crime case. In this case, Florida prosecutors allowed Epstein — who was charged with multiple counts of unlawful sex acts with a minor — to plead guilty to just one count of soliciting prostitution from a minor. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail. The book was co-authored by John Connolly and Tim Malloy and features police interviews with girls who accused Epstein of sexual abuse as it delves into the 2005 case. When it was published in 2016, Epstein had yet to be arrested for sex trafficking.
Through interviews and meticulous research, Patterson’s book revealed just how far-reaching Epstein’s influence extended, the elaborately extensive effort he went to carry out and cover up his crimes, and some of the lives he damaged over the years. The docuseries, using the book for reference, does the same but instead shifts the focus to the survivors. It is their firsthand accounts of what it is like to be forced into sex trafficking that anchor the Netflix series. While the book reviews police interviews, Filthy Rich puts faces and voices to these women and gives them a place to tell the story themselves in a way they haven’t been able to before.
Filthy Rich is now streaming on Netflix.