New ac­cusers emerge as Ep­stein asks to be re­leased to man­sion

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIE K. BROWN AND DAVID SMI­LEY

least a dozen new ac­cusers have come for­ward to claim they were sex­u­ally abused by Jef­frey Ep­stein as the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire money man­ager tries to con­vince a fed­eral judge to al­low him to await a sex-traf­fick­ing trial from the com­fort of the same $77 mil­lion Man­hat­tan man­sion where he’s ac­cused of lur­ing teenage girls into un­wanted sex acts.

Fol­low­ing Ep­stein’s ar­rest Satur­day in New Jer­sey, four women have reached out to New York lawyer David Boies, and at least 10 other women have ap­proached other lawyers who have rep­re­sented dozens of Ep­stein’s ac­cusers.

Jack Scarola, a Palm Beach at­tor­ney, said at least five women, all of whom were mi­nors at the time of their al­leged en­coun­ters with Ep­stein, have reached out to ei­ther him or Fort Lauderdale lawyer Brad Ed­wards.

“The peo­ple we are speakAt

More than 12 new Jef­frey Ep­stein ac­cusers have come for­ward. At­tor­neys for the ac­cused child sex traf­ficker want a New York judge to free him from jail and al­low him to await trial from his Man­hat­tan man­sion.

ing to are un­der­age vic­tims in Florida and in New York. They are not in­di­vid­u­als whose claims have pre­vi­ously been part of any lawen­force­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion,’’ Scarola said.

The new ac­cusers are sur­fac­ing as Ep­stein’s at­tor­neys ar­gue their client is be­ing tried on sex-traf­fick­ing and con­spir­acy charges that for the most part were re­solved years ago in Palm Beach. His le­gal team filed a motion Thurs­day for pre-trial re­lease ar­gu­ing that Ep­stein has main­tained a “spot­less” record since prose­cu­tors in South Florida set aside a fed­eral sex­traf­fick­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion a decade ago and al­lowed him to plead guilty to lesser state charges.

Ep­stein’s at­tor­neys want Se­nior U.S. Dis­trict Judge Richard M. Ber­man to free Ep­stein from the Metropolit­an Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Lower Man­hat­tan and al­low him to await trial from the $77 mil­lion Up­per East Side man­sion where prose­cu­tors say he abused dozens of girls from 2002 through 2005.

Ep­stein, ahead of a Mon­day bond hear­ing, has of­fered to waive ex­tra­di­tion rights and put up his Man­hat­tan home and pri­vate jet as col­lat­eral. He also said he would con­sent to GPS mon­i­tor­ing, ground his jet, “de­mo­bi­lize” all his cars in New York, and have trustees live in his home. And his brother, Mark Ep­stein, of­fered to put up his West Palm Beach home.

But New York prose­cu­tors — who say they found “an ex­traor­di­nary volume of pho­to­graphs of nude and par­tially nude young women and girls” while ex­e­cut­ing a search war­rant at his Man­hat­tan res­i­dence last week­end — have al­ready ar­gued that he’s likely to ei­ther flee the coun­try or add to what they say are dozens of vic­tims as young as 14.

“I don’t care if he gives up his li­cense and his jet, he still has the where­withal to take off any time,” said Spencer Ku­vin, a Palm Beach at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents three Ep­stein ac­cusers. “Think about it — if he was a plumber in Queens, do you think the judge would say ‘Yeah, let’s give him an an­kle bracelet and send him home?’ ”

The hear­ing over whether to re­lease Ep­stein, 66, will be the first in what should be a lengthy and highly watched trial.

Prose­cu­tors say they have in­for­ma­tion that Ep­stein re­cruited and paid dozens of un­der­age girls in the early 2000s to give him mas­sages that be­came sex­ual as­saults in his Man­hat­tan and Palm Beach homes. Last November, the Mi­ami Her­ald’s investigat­ive se­ries, Per­ver­sion of Jus­tice, de­tailed how Ep­stein al­legedly paid girls more if they re­cruited other girls to come to his homes, cre­at­ing a sex­ual pyra­mid scheme.

But Ep­stein’s at­tor­neys ar­gued in their motion Thurs­day that Ge­of­frey S. Ber­man, the U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York, was at­tempt­ing to il­le­gally and un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally pros­e­cute their client over 14-yearold al­le­ga­tions that have al­ready been re­solved in South Florida.

Ep­stein signed a non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment a dozen years ago with the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice for the South­ern Dis­trict of Florida after fed­eral agents iden­ti­fied three dozen girls who were al­legedly vic­tim­ized by Ep­stein at his man­sion in Palm Beach. He was al­lowed to plead guilty to two lesser pros­ti­tu­tion-re­lated charges and serve 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail, dur­ing which his valet picked him up six days a week and drove him to his West Palm Beach of­fice for work re­lease. He reg­is­tered as a sex of­fender and paid resti­tu­tion to the iden­ti­fied vic­tims but avoided a pre­pared, 53-page fed­eral in­dict­ment.

“The [non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment] im­mu­nized Mr. Ep­stein from five dis­tinct po­ten­tial fed­eral charges that may have been com­mit­ted by Ep­stein ... from in or around 2001 through in or around 2007,” Ep­stein’s at­tor­neys wrote Thurs­day.

They said lan­guage in the agree­ment — signed into place un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cur­rent la­bor sec­re­tary, Alexan­der Acosta, when he was U.S. at­tor­ney for South­ern Florida — clar­i­fies that the terms of the deal ap­ply “glob­ally” to a year­long fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion in South Florida, and there­fore pre­vents fed­eral prose­cu­tors in New York from pur­su­ing the same al­le­ga­tions.

Prose­cu­tors have yet to re­spond in writ­ing to the motion. But U.S. At­tor­ney Ber­man, who is no re­la­tion to the judge, al­ready ar­gued in a let­ter to the mag­is­trate who over­saw Ep­stein’s ar­raign­ment this week that New York case law has al­ready deemed that his of­fice is not bound by the terms of the South Florida agree­ment.

“It is well set­tled in the Sec­ond Cir­cuit that ‘a plea agree­ment in one U.S. At­tor­ney’s of­fice does not, un­less oth­er­wise stated bind another,’ ” Ber­man wrote Mon­day, adding that the agree­ment ex­pressly states that it per­tains ex­clu­sively to prose­cu­tors in South Florida.

Prose­cu­tors and the ac­cusers’ lawyers also be­lieve that, given Ep­stein’s pre­vi­ous ef­fort to in­tim­i­date vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, it’s crit­i­cal that the judge keep him be­hind bars and not grant him bail. He is fac­ing up to 45 years in prison.

Dur­ing the 2006-2007 probe in South Florida, fed­eral agents con­sid­ered charg­ing Ep­stein with wit­ness tam­per­ing be­cause he used some of his em­ploy­ees to try to in­tim­i­date vic­tims so that they wouldn’t co­op­er­ate with po­lice, court records re­viewed by the Her­ald show.

In one in­stance, a vic­tim’s fa­ther told Palm Beach po­lice that he had been fol­lowed by some­one and forced off the road. He wrote down the car’s li­cense-plate num­ber and po­lice traced it to a pri­vate-in­ves­ti­ga­tion com­pany that had been hired by Ep­stein’s le­gal team, the po­lice re­port about the in­ci­dent said.

Ep­stein’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors also fol­lowed the then-Palm Beach po­lice chief, Michael Reiter, and the lead de­tec­tive in the case, Joe Re­carey. Re­carey said he was so con­cerned about the ag­gres­sive tac­tics that Ep­stein was us­ing that he would often switch ve­hi­cles in an at­tempt to throw them off.

“At some point, it be­came like a cat-and-mouse game. I would stop at a red light and go. I knew they were there, and they knew I knew they were there. I was con­cerned about my kids be­cause I didn’t know if it was some­one that they hired just out of prison that would hurt me or my fam­ily,’’ Re­carey told the Her­ald as part of its se­ries on the case.

Re­carey, who died shortly after he was in­ter­viewed by the Her­ald, said the vic­tims, who were as young as 13, were scared to death of Ep­stein, and even more so be­cause of the pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors and de­fense lawyers who dug into ev­ery dark corner of their lives, and the lives of their brothers, sis­ters, par­ents, and boyfriends.

“Jef­frey Ep­stein presents a very sig­nif­i­cant flight risk and I think that his proven pat­tern of in­tim­i­da­tion of wit­nesses in the past is a strong in­di­ca­tion there is rea­son to fear he would en­gage in the same kind of con­duct again, par­tic­u­larly since he is fac­ing now what amounts to life in prison,’’ Scarola said.

Scarola, though, thinks vic­tims might have been com­forted by the pub­lic ap­peal is­sued Mon­day by the FBI and the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York, ask­ing for more vic­tims and wit­nesses to come for­ward (1-800-CALL-FBI). It’s not clear how many, if any, have re­sponded to his plea, but Scarola said the mes­sage was clear that vic­tims would be treated bet­ter in New York than they were in South Florida, where Ep­stein’s plea deal with fed­eral prose­cu­tors was kept se­cret from his vic­tims.

A Mi­ami fed­eral judge re­cently ruled that prose­cu­tors broke a law to pro­tect vic­tims’ rights in not alerting them to Ep­stein’s plea deal.

“I be­lieve that there was a fairly ef­fec­tive mes­sage that was de­liv­ered by New York author­i­ties that vic­tims need not fear that they will be treated in the same way that vic­tims had been treated in South Florida,’’ Scarola said.

Still, Ku­vin, the Palm Beach at­tor­ney, said his clients are not con­vinced that New York fed­eral prose­cu­tors will be able to make their case against Ep­stein stick. One of them is co­op­er­at­ing with SDNY, he said, but the oth­ers are skep­ti­cal.

“They are ec­static that [Ep­stein] has been ar­rested but skep­ti­cal that any­thing is going to happen be­cause of what they’ve been through be­fore. They are think­ing ‘prove it, I won’t be­lieve it un­til I see it.’ ’’ Ku­vin said.

PHO­TOS BY MATTHEW HIN­TON AP

Jef­frey Ep­stein

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