- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Settlement talks began Monday but no deal was immediately reached in a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government by two women who claim they were denied rights as victims in a case involving a wealthy financier convicted of sex crimes against teenage girls.

Federal prosecutors and attorneys representing one of the women - known only as Jane Doe No. 1 - spent several hours behind closed doors at the West Palm Beach federal courthouse. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Lee Brannon, who is overseeing the talks, said the group would reconvene June 28.

“The parties have engaged in vigorous and fruitful negotiations today,” Brannon said. “The negotiations are going to continue.”

Jane Does No. 1 and 2 contend in their victims’ rights lawsuit they were improperly left in the dark about a nonprosecution agreement reached between the Justice Department and financier Jeffrey Epstein. They have sought to reopen the case to expose the details and possibly nullify the agreement not to prosecute.

Epstein, 63, was permitted under the deal to plead guilty in 2008 to lesser state charges and served just over a year in jail. Authorities say he sexually abused at least 30 girls between 1999 and 2007 - including the two Jane Does - and could have faced much lengthier federal prison time if that prosecution had gone forward.

Jane Doe No. 1 attended Monday’s session but Jane Doe No. 2 did not. The second Jane Doe said in recent court papers that she would accept whatever settlement is reached. Epstein has separately reached financial settlements with dozens of women, according to court documents.

It’s not clear if the women have expanded or changed their proposed settlement terms. They have never sought any type of cash payment - not easy to get out of the federal government in any case - and may also be seeking a formal apology.

Brannon urged both sides to be creative to avoid a combative, lengthy and expensive trial over the lawsuit, which would likely be followed by years of potential appeals.

“A trial is an ordeal. It is not fun,” he said. “A settlement ends it. It’s over, complete.”

The case made international headlines last year after another victim, Jane Doe No. 3, claimed in a sworn statement that Epstein had her perform sexual favors as a teenager for a number of wealthy and powerful men including Britain’s Prince Andrew. The royal family repeatedly denied any wrongdoing by the prince. Jane Doe No. 3 is not involved in the lawsuit.

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Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/miamicurt

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