Ep­stein death shifts fo­cus to pos­si­ble con­spir­a­tors

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Jim Mustian and Michael R. Sisak

NEW YORK — In the wake of Jef­frey Ep­stein’s sui­cide, fed­eral prose­cu­tors in New York have shifted their fo­cus to pos­si­ble charges against any­one who as­sisted or en­abled him in what au­thor­i­ties say was his ram­pant sex­ual abuse of un­der­age girls.

Two days af­ter wealthy fi­nancier’s death in the NewYork jail where he was await­ing trial on sex-traf­fick­ing charges, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr warned on Mon­day that “any co- con­spir­a­tors should not rest easy.”

“Let me as­sure you that this case will con­tinue on against any­one who was com­plicit,” Barr said at a law en­force­ment con­fer­ence in New Or­leans. “The vic­tims de­serve jus­tice, and they will get it.”

The man­ner in which Ep­stein killed him­self has not been an­nounced. An au­topsy was per­formed Sun­day, but New York City Chief Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner Dr. Bar­bara Sampson said in­ves­ti­ga­tors were await­ing fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

A pri­vate pathol­o­gist, Dr. Michael Baden, ob­served the au­topsy at the request of Ep­stein’s lawyers. Baden was the city’s chief med­i­cal ex­am­iner in the late 1970s and has been called as an expert wit­ness in high­pro­file cases, in­clud­ing O.J. Simp­son’s 1995 murder trial.

Au­thor­i­ties are most likely turn­ing their at­ten­tion to the team of re­cruiters and em­ploy­ees who, ac­cord­ing to po­lice re­ports, knew about Ep­stein’s pen­chant for un­der­age girls and lined up vic­tims for him.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­viewed hun­dreds of pages of po­lice re­ports, FBI records and court doc­u­ments that show Ep­stein re­lied on an en­tire staff of as­so­ci­ates to ar­range mas­sages that led to sex acts.

If any Ep­stein as­sis­tants hoped to avoid charges by tes­ti­fy­ing against him, that ex­pec­ta­tion has been up­ended by his sui­cide.

“Those who had lever­age as po­ten­tial co­op­er­a­tors in the case now find them­selves as the pri­mary tar­gets,” said Ja­cob Frenkel, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor. “They no longer have any­one against whom to co­op­er­ate.”

One pos­si­ble road­block to fur­ther charges is the con­tro­ver­sial plea agree­ment Ep­stein struck more than a decade ago in Florida. The non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment not only al­lowed Ep­stein to plead guilty in 2008 to lesser state charges and serve just 13 months be­hind bars, it also shielded from pros­e­cu­tion sev­eral Ep­stein as­so­ci­ates who al­legedly were paid to re­cruit girls for him.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors in New York, in charg­ing Ep­stein last month, ar­gued that the non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment is bind­ing only on their coun­ter­parts in Florida.

But Ger­ald Le­f­court, a lawyer who ne­go­ti­ated the agree­ment, said the deal should still pro­tect any al­leged co-con­spir­a­tors for what hap­pened be­tween 2001 and 2007.

“I would never have signed the agree­ment or rec­om­mended it un­less we be­lieved that it re­solved what it said: all fed­eral and state crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity,” Le­f­court said Mon­day.

Po­lice re­ports say Ep­stein’s as­sis­tants worked like an ad­vance team to fa­cil­i­tate his twice-daily mas­sages, of­ten from high school girls who were paid hun­dreds of dol­lars per “ap­point­ment.” Ep­stein’s personal as­sis­tant, Sarah Kellen, would call ahead to re­cruiters in Florida when Ep­stein was plan­ning a trip to his Palm Beach man­sion, the po­lice re­ports say.

Kellen, among four women named in the non­pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment, would al­legedly greet girls ar­riv­ing at the man­sion and es­cort them to a room with a mas­sage ta­ble where Ep­stein would be wait­ing, wear­ing only a towel.

A 2008 law­suit in Florida ac­cused Kellen of not only sched­ul­ing en­coun­ters be­tween Ep­stein and an un­der­age girl but of tak­ing nude pho­to­graphs of her.

Kellen now goes by the name Sarah Kens­ing­ton and runs an in­te­rior de­sign firm. Her at­tor­neys did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

DAVID GRUNFELD/AP

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr noted “se­ri­ous ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties” at the jail where Jef­frey Ep­stein took his own life.

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