Anna Sorokin · Jeffrey Epstein · Australia

Plus: The 1-5 Strangler's symmetric autopsy report

It’s not a great week to schedule an interview. As I type this, the hours until Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah are trickling away, an occasion so momentous that I had to relearn how to operate my DVR’s recording feature to make sure I had it on hand. That interview-pation made news of Anna Sorokin’s first-ever interview pale in comparison, which is really kind of too bad.

The so-called hipster grifter, who presumably remains the subject of a Shonda Rhimes Netflix adaptation starring Julia Garner as Sorokin, appeared on Good Morning America Friday to “tell her side of the story,” speaking with Lifetime Live host (and Al Roker’s wife) Deborah Roberts.

Some interesting bits from the interview:

  • When asked about her time at New York’s notorious Rikers Island, Sorokin said, “In a way, that was therapeutic. I, for example, used the time to read a lot and to write.”

  • She insists that she didn’t intend to steal the $22 million loan she attempted to borrow using fraudulent documents. “The idea would be for this business to work and I would just repay everything.” “Even the richest of people always take out loans. I was just trying to get a cheap loan.”

  • When asked about the profit she turned on the Netflix deal (the streaming service paid her $320,000 for life rights; $198,000 of that went to restitution and the rest went to Sorokin), she said "I'm just trying to deal with the consequences of my actions. I was young. I would not repeat my actions ... I'm just trying to make the best out of my situation.”

You can watch the full interview here. — EB

In January, a young woman called Grace Tame was named Australian Of The Year. A survivor of rape as a teenager, she had successfully campaigned to close a bizarre legal loophole where the man who had raped her could speak about her case, but she couldn't. 

The Prime Minister of Australia grinned in photos with Tame, shook her hand and congratulated her, but someone was watching for whom his insincerity was the last straw. 

For a month now, the national conversation in Australia has been dominated by talk of crimes against women — some of them within the walls of Parliament House in Canberra, the nation's capital — and the ways the powerful have tried to cover them up. Here are the “high”lights so far, with links to further reading:

  • The Prime Minister's hypocrisy in supporting a victim of sexual violence made another woman decide to finally step forward. Brittany Higgins had been raped too, she claimed, and the rape covered up — because she was raped inside Australia's Parliament House building, by a staffer from the ruling party. That party, the right-wing Liberals, had made her choose between her career and reporting to the police. The office in which the alleged offence took place had been thoroughly cleaned by special request

  • That story was still playing out when a second rape allegation was made, an “historic” offence because it happened in 1988 — but this allegation involved a current member of Cabinet, i.e. a shortlist of 15 of the country's most important men. 

  • The identity of the accused remained technically a secret for some days, but all evidence pointed to the current Attorney General, Christian Porter. His Wikipedia page experienced an edit war before being locked, as people added details about his movements in 1988 and posted archives of his high school paper. One website risked legal action by naming him, and, controversially, the victim.

  • The Attorney General had already been the subject of a 2020 TV documentary, "Inside the Canberra Bubble," which made a solid case that he was guilty of grossly sexist behaviour and having extramarital affairs — implicitly a national security issue as well as a moral one because it exposed him to blackmail.

  • This second case was complicated by the fact that the victim is dead. She died the day after she called police and told them she was withdrawing her complaint. She left detailed writing and had spoken to and contacted a number of prominent people about it, but according to the police they can take no further action. 

  • Her death is assumed to be suicide, but a number of people, including a former prime minister, have called it suspicious and called for a full inquest.

  • The case was also complicated by COVID. She lived in one state and the offence occurred in another — and restrictions meant the police couldn't travel or take her statement by other means, so the investigation had stalled.

  • The Attorney General eventually gave a highly emotional media conference admitting that he was the subject of the accusation, denying everything, tearfully making contradictory claims about what he'd known and when, asserting that nobody had ever put the allegations to him in detail (despite there being a 30-page dossier in circulation) and saying that if he had to resign, there would effectively be "no rule of law left to protect" in Australia.

  • The Prime Minister reacted in the worst possible way to the original rape allegation — he played the ‘as a father’ card. His wife had helped him to understand how terrible rape was, he explained, by having him imagine it happening to his own daughters, allowing the whole story to loop back on itself when Grace Tame herself got to rebuke him for his lack of basic human empathy on the national stage.

Australia's government, and particularly the current ruling Liberal party, is dominated by white men who went to expensive boys-only schools, and their attitudes to women can be grotesquely old-fashioned and sexist. Our only female Prime Minister to date is world-famous for speaking out about the misogyny in Australian politics

These stories are far from over, and the courage of the women involved may convince more to come forward. 

The word "floodgates" has been seen a lot on Australian Twitter… — L.B. Jeffries

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The 1-5 Strangler was strangled to death. As discussed last week, 81-year-old Roger Kibbe. who was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing seven women, was recently found dead in the locked cell he shared with 40-year-old convicted strangler Jason Budrow.

Officials said at the time that they believed the death was a homicide, and Budrow the obvious suspect. Now the Associated Press reports that “an autopsy showed Kibbe had been manually strangled,” a death that retired San Joaquin County sheriff's detective and district attorney's investigator Vito Bertocchini described as "some fitting justice."

Even after Kibbe’s conviction, Bertocchini and others stayed on the case, convinced that Kibbe had killed way more than seven women. It’s kind of wild, check this out:

Authorities said they never stopped trying to prove that [Kibbe] was responsible for even more deaths. Investigators secretly took him on multiple field trips from prison with the hope that he would reveal the whereabouts of more victims.

They would buy him an egg McMuffin and a Coke for breakfast, another Coke and a hamburger and fries for lunch … Bertocchini spent nearly two decades pursuing Kibbe and thinks he must have killed others during the 10-year gap between his first and last known slayings. Investigators have said they found other women who had been killed and dumped with Kibbe's trademark of cutting his victims' clothing in odd patterns.

Kibbe never admitted to other killings beyond those with which he was charged, but Bertocchini said he never stopped trying to elicit another confession.

Even after he retired in 2012, each year he sent Kibbe birthday and Christmas cards, asking him to speak up if he recalled anything about other victims. He and his old partner last visited Kibbe in prison in 2019, but still he wouldn't admit to any more victims.

That relationship feels ripe for adaptation, doesn’t it? But the ending is perhaps a bit too symmetrical and pat, even if it’s true. — EB

You guys know I can’t resist crime real estate. So, I clicked the EFF out of this Wall Street Journal “exclusive” headlined “Jeffrey Epstein’s New York Townhouse to Sell for Roughly $50 Million.”

According to the WSJ, Epstein’s home, which has been on the market for seven months, “sold at a significant discount to its original asking price; it came on the market for $88 million in July, and the price was later lowered to $65 million.” Nevertheless, it’s one of the biggest NY real estate sales of the year.

And it’s still going for a profit: the house, which is characterized as the “most valuable” of the convicted sexual assailant’s many homes, was purchased by Epstein in 1998 for $20 million.

Curbed has more on the sale, including acknowledgement that some significant crimes probably occurred in the home. “When authorities raided the house following Epstein’s arrest, they found ‘possibly thousands’ of photos of underage girls in a safe, in addition to evidence ‘consistent with the victim recollections of the inside of the mansion,’” writes Jeff Andrews.

As for the buyer, well, that’s a mystery. The New York Post writes that “a source familiar with the deal told The Post that the buyer works in finance and is not from the US.” I gave this one a good long think, and as much as I’d love a 28,000-square-foot, seven-floor home in New York, it’s a nope from me, dog. — EB

Tuesday on Best Evidence: More Alec Baldwin, because that guy just refuses to pipe down.

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