Jeffrey Epstein is dead — here’s where investigations will turn now
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details. Reader discretion is advised.
Jeffrey Epstein is dead of an apparent suicide, but that doesn’t mean investigations into alleged sexual abuse — or the circumstances of his death — won’t carry on.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
He had pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking and sex-trafficking conspiracy after federal prosecutors alleged he had lured girls as young as 14 to his homes in Florida and New York between 2002 and 2005.
Epstein was to face as many as 45 years in prison if convicted.
Numerous probes will move forward now — into alleged co-conspirators and the facility where he was found dead — in addition to civil suits filed by women who say he abused them.
Here’s what is expected to happen with the investigations surrounding Epstein:
With Epstein’s death, the chance for others to testify in exchange for avoiding charges in connection with his case is gone.
That’s according to ex-federal prosecutor Jacob Frenkel, who said these people “no longer have anyone against whom to co-operate.”
He spoke as news emerged Monday that investigators will likely now target people who worked for Epstein as well as anyone who allegedly recruited victims, who are believed to have performed massages that turned into sex acts.
“Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit,” Attorney General William Barr said Monday.
“Any co-conspirators should not rest easy.”
Epstein’s indictment alleged that from 2002 to 2005, the financier “enticed and recruited” girls to visit his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla., carry out “massages,” either naked or partially naked, and then perform sex acts.
Epstein would then allegedly give the girls “hundreds of dollars in cash.”
The indictment also said he paid some victims to recruit “additional girls to be similarly abused.”
“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach,” it added.
Epstein “worked and conspired with others” to maintain this network — “employees and associates… facilitated his conduct by, among other things, contacting victims and scheduling their sexual encounters” at both of the homes, prosecutors alleged.
The indictment mentioned an individual known as “Employee-1,” who Epstein allegedly directed to make phone contact with victims in order to schedule such encounters at his home on New York’s Upper East Side.
Employee-1 would sometimes “ask the recruiters to bring a specific minor girl for Epstein,” the indictment added.
The indictment also mentioned two assistants — Employee-2 and Employee-3 — who worked to schedule encounters for Epstein at his Palm Beach home.
These people would allegedly lead victims to a room where they would carry out naked or semi-naked massages for the financier, “who would himself typically be naked,” according to the indictment.
“During these encounters, Epstein would escalate the nature and scope of the physical contact to include sex acts such as groping and direct and indirect contact with the victim’s genitals,” the indictment said.
Epstein would also allegedly masturbate during the encounters, ask the victims to touch him while he did so and touch the girls’ genitals with his hands or sex toys, it added.
Barr also said on Monday that the MCC itself is being examined by both the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General.
“I was appalled, and indeed, the whole department was and, frankly, angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner,” Barr said Monday.
“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation. The FBI and the Office of Inspector General are doing just that.”
Epstein was on suicide watch after he was found with bruises on his neck in his cell in July, but he was later taken off suicide watch at the end of the month, according to one source who spoke anonymously.
The financier was supposed to have been checked upon every half-hour, but that didn’t happen the night before he was found dead, said the source.
Guards there had been working overtime due to staffing shortages, and one had worked a fifth straight day of overtime, the source said.
House Judiciary investigation
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and Rep. Doug Collins, the committee’s ranking member, on Monday penned a letter to Hugh Hurwitz, acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, asking 23 questions about Epstein’s death.
“The apparent suicide of this high-profile and — if allegations are proven to be accurate — particularly reprehensible individual while in the federal government’s custody demonstrates severe miscarriages of or deficiencies in inmate protocol and has allowed the deceased to ultimately evade facing justice,” the letter said.
The two congressmen want the bureau to answer questions about matters such as the circumstances of Epstein’s confinement, the length of time that correctional officers had been on shift and who discussed the termination of the financier’s suicide watch before that decision was taken.
The congressmen also want to know whether there was any plan to keep an eye on Epstein after the watch was terminated.
The letter asked the bureau to provide responses by Aug. 21.
Women who say they were sexually abused by Epstein plan to pursue lawsuits against his estate.
Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer for at least one of the women making allegations against the financier, plans to do so under the Child Victims Act, legislation that comes into force in New York state on Aug. 14.
That law allows people to sue over sexual abuse allegations within one year, regardless of when the abuse is alleged to have taken place.
The law is expected to usher in a “tidal wave” of lawsuits, lawyers say.
Kaplan’s client has alleged that she was recruited into performing sex acts with Epstein when she was 14 years old.
Meanwhile, L.A. lawyer Lisa Bloom plans to pursue civil claims against Epstein’s estate on behalf of two women.
Her hope is that money from Epstein’s estate won’t be distributed until the claims against it have been litigated.
To win a civil case, victims don’t need to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt — they just have to demonstrate liability based on a preponderance of evidence, Kaplan noted.
— With files from Hannah Jackson, Jessica Vomiero, Reuters and the Associated Press
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