The death probably ends the criminal case brought by federal prosecutors in New York, which could mean that molestation victims who had been promised their day in court won’t get one after all.
Jeffrey Epstein’s death five weeks after his arrest raises numerous questions about the closely watched case that charged the financier with molesting underage girls and sex trafficking. Here’s a look at what’s known and what could come next.
Epstein was found unresponsive in his Manhattan jail cell about 6:30 a.m. Saturday after an apparent suicide attempt. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said life-saving measures were started, and emergency services were summoned as staff continued to try to revive him. The 66-year-old was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. While various media reports said he hanged himself, justice officials have declined to comment.
Epstein had been monitored after being found unconscious in his cell with marks on his neck on July 23, a week after his bail request was rejected. But he wasn’t on a suicide watch on Saturday, according to a person familiar with the case.
The death probably ends the criminal case brought by federal prosecutors in New York, which could mean that molestation victims who had been promised their day in court won’t get one after all. Prosecutors acknowledged that Epstein’s death posed “yet another hurdle” for victims but signaled that others may be charged with aiding him.
“Our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
Attorney Josh Schiller said his firm, which represents nine women who claim they were abused when they were as young as 14, will continue their cases.
“It’s possible that other people who conspired to protect Epstein, destroy evidence, pay off witnesses, or otherwise facilitate his sexual trafficking and predatory pedophilia may be charged, they may also be sued individually as they are identified,” said Schiller, of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP in Manhattan.
While the government can no longer seize Epstein’s assets through criminal forfeiture, prosecutors will probably focus “on the next concentric circles around him — who assisted him, who made the payments, who was aware of the allegations if they are true,” said Michael S. Weinstein, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.
Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents three women, targeted Epstein’s estate. “I am calling today for the administrators of Jeffrey Epstein’s estate to freeze all his assets and hold them for his victims who are filing civil cases,” Bloom said in a tweet. “Their lives have been shattered by his sexual assaults, their careers derailed. They deserve full and fair compensation NOW.”
Victim Seeks Justice
Jennifer Araoz, who last month said Epstein raped her when she was a 15-year-old New York City high school student, said she was angry that he won’t have to face the survivors of his abuse in court.
“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed,” or the “pain and trauma he caused so many people,” Araoz said in a statement. “Epstein is gone, but justice must still be served.”
Araoz’s lawyer said she planned to sue under a New York law that takes effect on Aug. 14, giving victims of child sexual abuse one year to sue over older claims.
The U.S. jail where Epstein was being held — the Metropolitan Correctional Center — is now the target of two separate investigations into his death. U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement he was “appalled” and that the death “raises serious questions.” The Justice Department’s Inspector General is opening a probe into the circumstances.
The Bureau of Prisons, a part of the department, said the FBI also is investigating.
The jail, which is a short walk from New York’s City Hall, holds almost 800 male inmates awaiting trial or serving short-term sentences. It’s been plagued by charges that guards accepted bribes to smuggle in drugs, alcohol and mobile phones, as well as rodent infestations, drug abuse and rape among inmates.
U.S. prosecutors said Epstein used his wealth and power to sexually abuse dozens of young girls for years, paying them hundreds of dollars in cash for each encounter and hundreds more if they brought in more victims.
The alleged crimes occurred at Epstein’s residences in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, from 2002 to 2005, involving minors as young as 14. The U.S. accused Epstein of “creating a vast network of victims.”
Epstein entered a controversial non-prosecution deal more than a decade ago with U.S. prosecutors, which barred federal charges in Florida against him and four named conspirators. Instead, he admitted to two state prostitution charges and spent 13 months in jail.
Federal prosecutors in New York, who filed sex trafficking charges against Epstein last month, said they weren’t bound by the Florida agreement.