Wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein will have to wait out a sex trafficking trial from a jail cell after a federal judge in New York ruled Thursday against his request for release on bail.
Epstein, 66, had offered to put up any collateral the judge wished from his self-estimated $559 million fortune. He said he would live in isolation in his Manhattan mansion, and pay for private security to ensure he remains inside and that no one enters unless authorized by the courts.
But with prosecutors warning that Epstein could easily flee or attempt to interfere with their witnesses, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Berman has ordered that Epstein remain at the Manhattan Correctional Institute as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York seeks his conviction on child sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Berman, according to reporters covering the hearing in New York, cited concerns that Epstein is “a danger” to others.
Berman’s ruling is a major victory for Epstein’s accusers, who have grown by the dozens since he was first investigated on trafficking allegations in South Florida more than a dozen years ago. The wealthy financier was first arrested in Palm Beach County in the mid-2000s after police began to suspect that he was abusing underage girls.
A federal investigation turned up three dozen accusers and led prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida to draw up a 53-page indictment. But the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time, Alex Acosta, agreed to set aside the indictment and authorized a non-prosecution agreement that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to solicitation charges. As part of the deal, Epstein registered as a sex offender and paid damages to the identified victims, but served just 13 months in jail and enjoyed work release privileges.
The deal and allegations against Epstein were highlighted last year in the Miami Herald’s investigative series Perversion of Justice. In bringing charges against Epstein, Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, credited investigative journalism.
After Epstein’s arrest, Acosta, labor secretary for President Donald Trump, announced plans to resign effective this coming Friday.
Epstein, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted on the charges brought against him. Prosecutors say they have evidence that he lured dozens of teenage girls to his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach and paid them for massages and coerced them into sex acts. Prosecutors say they’re still building their case as new witnesses come forward with information on Epstein.
Ahead of Epstein’s bond hearing, the U.S. attorney’s office argued that Epstein’s money, cars and private plane made it easy for him to escape ahead of his trial. They said they found possible child pornography, plus $70,000, 48 diamonds and an expired passport with an alias and a Saudi Arabian address for Epstein during a raid of the Manhattan mansion where he wanted to be allowed to live while awaiting his trial.
They also warned that Epstein has been accused in the past of trying to intimidate witnesses, and said he “suspiciously” wired $350,000 to two possible co-conspirators in the days after the Herald published Perversion of Justice.
Epstein’s attorneys said their client purchased the passport in the mid-’80s at a time of heightened terrorist hijackings and kidnappings in the Middle East out of concern for his own well-being. They also said that presuming he would flee because of his wealth was unconstitutional.