Epstein’s death prompts outrage, questions
Jeffrey Epstein, the politically connected financier charged recently with sexually abusing dozens of young girls in the early 2000s, died Saturday after apparently hanging himself in jail, officials said.
The death sparked outrage among victims who hoped to one day confront him in court and triggered multiple investigations into what happened.
The FBI, the Justice Department’s inspector general and the New York medical examiner all launched inquiries into how the highprofile inmate could have died in federal custody.
Epstein, 66, previously had been placed on suicide watch — though he was removed before Saturday — and was in a purportedly more secure unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
He was found unresponsive in his cell about 6:30 a.m., officials said.
His death short-circuits a trial that many women hoped would bring justice they felt Epstein long had evaded, and raises significant questions about U.S. prison officials’ ability to protect the lives of the suspects in their custody.
“Epstein is gone, but justice must still be served,” said Jennifer Araoz, who accused Epstein of raping her when she was 15 years old. “I hope the authorities will pursue and prosecute his accomplices and enablers, and ensure redress for his victims.”
Geoff Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said authorities plan to keep open the investigation into those who might have conspired with Epstein to facilitate his abuse.
“Today’s events are disturbing, and we are deeply aware of their potential to present yet another hurdle to giving Epstein’s many victims their day in court,” Berman said in a statement. “To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing.”
Epstein’s lawyers didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Jail staff discovered Epstein hanging in his cell, people familiar with the matter said, though it wasn’t immediately clear by what means.
The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement Saturday that lifesaving measures “were initiated immediately by responding staff,” who then requested aid from emergency medical services.
Epstein was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the bureau said.
The Bureau of Prisons and Attorney General William Barr called the death an “apparent suicide,” though one official cautioned that the investigation was in its early stages and no final determination had been made.
That official, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Barr said in a statement that he was “appalled” to learn of Epstein’s death in federal custody, which he said “raises serious questions that must be answered.”
Epstein, a multimillionaire and registered sex offender with ties to celebrities and politicians including President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton, was arrested last month on federal sex trafficking charges that could have put in him prison for 45 years.
Prosecutors alleged he abused dozens of young girls at his Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla., homes and enlisted his victims to bring him others.
Epstein had pleaded not guilty, and a federal judge recently denied his request to be released to home confinement. Epstein was appealing that decision.
Last month, Epstein was found in his cell with marks around his neck, and authorities were trying to determine whether he was attacked or attempted suicide.
A person familiar with the matter said Epstein was placed on suicide watch — which meant he was subject to near-constant monitoring and daily psychiatric evaluations — after that.
However, he was taken off suicide watch after about a week, this person said. He showed no obvious signs of distress at a July 31 court hearing and, in recent weeks, had been meeting with his lawyers for up to 12 hours a day to discuss his case, the person said.
People close to Epstein, noting that he seemed recently to be in good spirits, were surprised by reports of suicide, according to one person familiar with their discussions Saturday, and expressed concern about the possibility of foul play.
His attorneys are seeking to learn from authorities how Epstein’s body was found and how such an incident could have occurred, this person said.
Epstein was being held in the detention center’s special housing unit, which would mean he was subject to a higher level of security, though it wasn’t immediately clear whether he was in a cell alone. The Bureau of Prisons did not address questions about Epstein’s condition of confinement.
At one point, Epstein did have a cellmate: Nicholas Tartaglione, a former police officer in custody on murder and narcotics charges, though the two weren’t cellmates at the time of Epstein’s death.
Bruce Barket, a lawyer for Tartaglione, called for “a thorough investigation into how this occurred despite the Bureau of Prisons being on notice that Mr. Epstein had already attempted suicide at least once. That investigation should be broad enough to examine the deplorable conditions inmates are forced to endure at the MCC.”
Two law enforcement officials said there were no early indicators of foul play, but they noted the FBI investigation was in its infancy.
“We don’t have an indication of that right now,” one law enforcement official said of the prospect that someone may have killed Epstein.
Epstein’s case had attracted widespread attention — in part because of his wealth and political connections, and in part because of a lenient plea deal he reached a decade ago to resolve similar allegations.
That 2008 agreement allowed Epstein to plead guilty to two state charges in Florida, avoiding federal exposure entirely, and spend 13 months in jail, with work-release privileges.
The deal was approved by Alex Acosta, who then was the U.S. attorney in Miami and would go on to become Trump’s labor secretary. He resigned from that post after Epstein was charged last month and the controversy over the previous case was reignited.
Epstein’s death came less than 24 hours after a court unsealed a massive cache of records, laying out disturbing details about Epstein’s alleged activities and the people in his orbit who might have observed them.
The material was gathered as part of a defamation suit brought by one of Epstein’s alleged victims against his associate Ghislaine Maxwell, a matter that was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2017.
Lawyers for Maxwell did not respond to requests for comment.
Sigrid McCawley, another lawyer for alleged victims, said the timing was “no coincidence,” and she was hopeful the government could continue to investigate “those who participated and facilitated Epstein’s horrifying sex trafficking scheme that damaged so many.”
Alleged victims plan to press on
Lawyers representing Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims said Saturday that his death won’t stop their clients from seeking justice from those they say enabled or conspired with Epstein to allegedly sexually abuse dozens of underage girls.
The attorneys condemned as cowardly and unfair Epstein’s apparent suicide overnight while in federal prison on charges of sex trafficking.
“I guess there is somewhat an element of relief because the fear of him getting out is obviously over, but there is also, they’ll never be able to look into his eye and say, ‘You hurt me,’ there’s that element of closure that he’s taken away from them,” said Kimberly Lerner, an attorney for one of Epstein’s accusers.
But, Lerner said, “There’s a whole network that enabled him and allowed this to happen, and it’s time that everyone who was a part of this be held accountable,” she said.
Lerner’s client, Jennifer Araoz, has accused Epstein of raping her in his New York home when she was 15. She said she had been recruited outside her high school to make regular visits to his house.
“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, the pain and trauma he caused so many people,” Araoz said.
New York medical examiner personnel head to the Manhattan Correctional Center, where financier Jeffrey Epstein died despite being held in a special housing unit.