The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform is setting its sights on reviewing “the role of state or local officials” in the secret non-prosecution deal and jail treatment given to Jeffrey Epstein in Palm Beach County more than a decade ago.Letters sent to the U.S. Justice Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Friday show that the Committee is requesting a long list of documents and emails related to the case.According to House Representative and committee member Lois Frankel, “We are going to try to get anything we can. I know they are serious about looking at the Epstein case.”Specifically, the committee is looking for information about how the non-prosecution agreement was kept from Epstein’s teenage victims, as well as how the Palm Beach multimillionaire was allowed to spend six days a week, 12 hours a day on work release while he served 13 months of an 18-month jail sentence.Although no local officials are named in the letters, Frankel says she wants to hear testimony from Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and former State Attorney Barry Krischer, as well as former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta.Current State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Clerk & Comptroller Sharon Bock are fighting the public release of those documents.Acosta’s office worked out the non-prosecution agreement with Epstein’s attorneys in 2008. In return, federal prosecutors scrapped a 53-page indictment that could have sent Epstein to prison for decades.Krischer has denied having any role with the non-prosecution agreement, although The Palm Beach Post found emails revealing that he helped broker the deal between Acosta’s office and Epstein’s defense attorneys.Under the deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to two felony prostitution-related charges. He was then allowed to leave the jail under work release in order to work at his newly formed Florida Science Foundation. However, one woman says she was flown in as a teenager in order to have sex with him there.Epstein was charged with sex trafficking in New York last July, when additional victims went public with their allegations. He hanged himself in a Manhattan jail cell the following month.The Oversight Committee has given a January 3 deadline for the documents to be turned over.They have given the same deadline to Attorney General William Barr.U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra of West Palm Beach found last February that federal prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act when they concealed the existence of the non-prosecution agreement. However, he ruled last September that Epstein’s death meant the judge could not discard the agreement, which also protected Epstein’s accused co-conspirators.
Penelope and Iliana grew up playing on teams together, but the oppositional nature of their positions — and the fact that they were often put on separate teams in practice to make things fair — created clashes all the same. Hocking’s ability and mindset was forged by growing up in an incredibly athletic family. Her father Denny played 13 years in the MLB and her mother Venetta played basketball at Cypress College. But the real competition came with Penelope’s twin sister, Iliana, a sophomore defender at Arizona. This — along with the addition of younger brother Jarrod, also an athlete — made for some intense games growing up. However, McAlpine emphasized that Hocking doesn’t let her competitive nature affect the team in a negative way. Hocking said her father talks to her a lot about how to be a good teammate, drawing on his experiences as a professional athlete. “She put her arm around me and just told me that, you know, like ‘We all trust you, we all believe in you,’” Hocking said. “‘You’re fine, you can’t get frustrated and get mad like that. You just need to like keep going.’ Hearing that enforcement, that positive reinforcement from her being an older player just helped me for the next game.” Hocking has learned to control her fire on the pitch, but that’s never been a problem off of it. She’s majoring in computer science, an area of study that presents a tough workload to take on in addition to the hours required by a Division I sport. Hocking’s teammates and coaches alike have picked up on her thoughtful nature. Assistant coach Sammy Towne said she recalls a conversation she had with Hocking about Serena Williams’ argument with a referee at the 2018 U.S. Open. That will and confidence has allowed the sophomore forward to become one of the country’s premier players in a very short time. Despite coming off the bench for most of last season, Hocking led her conference with 14 goals, earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and All-Pac-12 second team honors. She followed her impressive freshman year by stepping into the role of starting forward. When the two sisters play now, Hocking said that the softer side of the family clearly shows. Immediate and extended family members always show up for the “Hocking Bowl,” and Penelope said she’s just happy to see Iliana after going months without seeing her. “It doesn’t surprise me that she’s going to thrive there, too and be great on the academic side, because that’s who she is,” he said. “And she’s going to strive to be No. 1 in whatever she does.” Hocking said it has been important for her to maintain that positive energy as she ascended as a team leader. “Every single practice one of us would be in the car dead quiet, all the time,” she said. “And it’s like a 45-minute drive home in silence, so it was kind of funny.” The two played for the So Cal Blues Soccer Club based in San Juan Capistrano, a long commute from their home in Anaheim. Iliana said she remembers some awkward situations that arose from the drive. “Anything we played together, it was kind of just someone had to win,” Penelope said. “And if the other person lost, it was like, ‘Hey, don’t talk to them.’ Like they’re so mad.” “I just told her flat out … ‘I think you’re going to be an elite forward, I think you’re going to be special,’” McAlpine said. “‘We want you to be our number one, and that’s why we’re recruiting you.’ And I think it resonated with her because … she didn’t want to be just another number. She wanted to come in and carve out [a] space for herself.” “I don’t think I’m at my peak yet,” she said. “You know, I think that just motivates me because like, I won an award last year, [and] I wasn’t the best I could be. But now, I can work harder to achieve the next thing and the next thing.” “There was no stopping her from playing in the next game or anything,” McKeown said. “You could tell that there’s so much pain in her, but she didn’t want to let the team down, and she did everything to make the team better and try and get us to go further in the tournament. And that showed in the Florida State game when she scored the only goal we had, and you could tell how much pain she was in, but it wouldn’t show when she was on the field.” “It’s nice during season to get the whole family together, because we really never get together with family because we’re all in different places,” she said. “It was nice to have my mom, my dad, my cousins, everyone at the game and having them watch both of us play again.” Hocking has already won multiple accolades during her first season and will definitely receive more for her efforts this year. She’s already one of the best players in college soccer but, unsurprisingly, Hocking isn’t satisfied just yet. A big reason for Hocking’s success is her fierce approach. Junior forward Tara McKeown, who has partnered with Hocking to form a formidable offensive duo, recalled that Hocking suffered a bad ankle injury against Long Beach State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but that her competitiveness helped her fight through the pain. While Penelope has always been a devoted student, Iliana said she didn’t find out about her sister’s interest in computer science until they were in college. McAlpine said Hocking’s prowess on the pitch and in the classroom are connected. “I think it’s harder this year [compared] to year one, [when] you sneak up on people, and they’re not quite ready for you,” McAlpine said. “This year, everybody came into the year saying, ‘We’ve got to stop that kid.’ And so for us, the emergence of her as being able to wear that weight and still produce has been phenomenal.” McAlpine knew how competitive the sisters get, and he took advantage of their sibling rivalry to motivate Hocking before the Trojans faced the Wildcats earlier this season. He said he told her the defense would be coming after her — trying to get under her skin while also emphasizing that the game was about USC vs. Arizona, not sister vs. sister. Hocking has shouldered the responsibility well, scoring 12 goals and adding five assists this season despite defenses keying in on stopping her. However, she was immediately met with a positive, energetic culture. For example, she said senior midfielder Jalen Woodward helped her after a tough game against Utah last year. Hocking had missed on multiple opportunities and was frustrated, feeling she hadn’t helped the team. Hocking also learned how to be a supportive teammate from USC’s veteran players. Hocking came to USC late her freshman year because she was playing for the United States U-20 National Team in that summer’s World Cup, and she entered the program nervous about how she would fit in. Sophomore forward Penelope Hocking led the Pac-12 in scoring last season despite coming off the bench. This year, she has embraced her starting role and remained productive with 12 goals. (Yannick Peterhans / Daily Trojan) Keidane McAlpine could sense Penelope Hocking’s competitiveness from the moment he met her. Although it was still relatively early in his tenure as USC’s women’s soccer head coach, McAlpine was straightforward in the expectations he set for the then-high schooler. USC begins what it hopes will be a long run in the NCAA Tournament with a first round home game against Cal State Fullerton Saturday. To do so, the Trojans will need Hocking to be better than ever. “It was a really cool moment because she just came in the office, and we sat [and] kind of talked about how Serena handled this situation, and how it was such an incredible moment, I think, for women and women’s sports to really stand up for yourself,” Towne said. “And she is one that she’s going to fight, she’s going to compete, she’s going to stand up for herself.” “She understands what it is to be part of a team culture,” McAlpine said. “And as much as she’s hard on herself, she is forgiving of her teammates, even when she’s frustrated with them. You know, in one breath [she’ll] be like, ‘Hey, come on.’ Next breath, ‘You know what, I got you, you know, it’s OK. Let’s keep it going.’”