Ac­cuser says Jef­frey Ep­stein raped her when she was 15

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jim Mus­tian

NEWYORK » A new ac­cuser of Jef­frey Ep­stein said Wed­nes­day that the wealthy fi­nancier raped her in his New York man­sion when she was 15.

Jen­nifer Araoz filed court pa­pers seek­ing in­for­ma­tion from Ep­stein in prepa­ra­tion for su­ing him, and she aired her al­le­ga­tions on NBC’s “To­day” show , though she said she hasn’t dis­cussed them with au­thor­i­ties.

The 32-year- old makeup artist told “To­day” she never went to po­lice be­cause she feared ret­ri­bu­tion from the well-con­nected Ep­stein.

“What hurts me even more so is that if I wasn’t afraid to come for­ward sooner, then maybe he wouldn’t have done it to other girls,” Araoz said. “I feel re­ally guilty to this day.”

Mes­sages were left with Ep­stein’s at­tor­neys seek­ing com­ment.

The U. S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice in Man­hat­tan de­clined to com­ment on Araoz’s claims. Mes­sages were left with New York po­lice seek­ing com­ment on Araoz’s al­le­ga­tions.

The new al­le­ga­tion comes two days after fed­eral prose­cu­tors in New York charged Ep­stein with abus­ing dozens of un­der­age girls at his man­sions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 2000s.

Ep­stein, a 66-year- old Wall Street master of high fi­nance with friends in very high places , pleaded not guilty Mon­day to sex-traf­fick­ing and con­spir­acy charges— an in­dict­ment that

could land him be­hind bars for up to 45 years.

His lawyers said in court that the al­le­ga­tions in the in­dict­ment couldn’t amount to statu­tory rape be­cause there was no pen­e­tra­tion.

Ep­stein has not been charged with as­sault­ing Araoz. But the woman’s ac­count con­tra­dicts his de­fense at­tor­neys’ con­tention that Ep­stein never used vi­o­lence or co­erced any­one who gave him mas­sages.

“She was a child — a child on wel­fare, with no fa­ther, whowas groomed, re­cruited and preyed upon,” said one of Araoz’s lawyers, Kim­berly Lerner. Araoz’s fa­ther died when she was 12.

U. S. At­tor­ney Ge­of­frey Ber­man said Mon­day that many of Ep­stein’s al­leged vic­tims “were par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ploita­tion.” Ber­man wouldn’t elab­o­rate on why they were vul­ner­a­ble, say­ing he couldn’t go into specifics on par­tic­u­lar vic­tims.

At a news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing Ep­stein’s ar­rest, Ber­man and other law en­force­ment of­fi­cials re­peat­edly urged other po­ten­tial vic­tims and peo­ple with in­for­ma­tion about Ep­stein to come for­ward, point­ing to a poster fea­tur­ing his mugshot and the 1-800-CALL-FBI hot­line.

Araoz, in her court fil­ing and TV in­ter­view, said her first con­tact with Ep­stein came in 2001, when she was a 14-year- old high school fresh­man at a per­formin­garts high school, as­pir­ing to be­come an ac­tress. She said she was ap­proached out­side her school by a woman who told her that Ep­stein was a car­ing per­son who would help her with her ca­reer.

Araoz found Ep­stein wel­com­ing, show­ing her his man­sion filled with ex­otic taxi­dermy and elab­o­rately painted ceil­ings, while his staff of­fered her wine and cheese, she said. After a few weeks of vis­its, each end­ing with a $300 pay­ment, she said she was es­corted to a “mas­sage room,” with a ceil­ing painted to re­sem­ble an­gels in a blue sky. There, she said, she would give him

mas­sages that would of­ten lead to sex acts.

“I take care of you, you take care of me,” Ep­stein told her, ac­cord­ing to her court pa­pers.

She said Ep­stein had a paint­ing of a naked woman that he said re­sem­bled her; she also re­called pros­thetic breasts he would play with while bathing.

“It was very odd,” she said. The vis­its con­tin­ued once or twice a week un­til she turned 15, when she said Ep­stein told her to re­move her un­der­wear and climb on top of him.

She said she told him she didn’t want to but that he forcibly had sex with her any­way.

“I don’t want to say I was scream­ing, or any­thing of that na­ture. But I was ter­ri­fied. And I was telling him to stop,” she said in the “To­day” in­ter­view.

“He had no in­ten­tions of stop­ping,” she said. “He knew ex­actly what he was do­ing.”

Araoz said she was “ter­ri­fied” after the as­sault and never re­turned to Ep­stein’s home. She even left her high

school be­cause it was so close to his man­sion.

Ep­stein’s staff con­tin­ued reach­ing out to her for about a year, Araoz said, but she didn’t re­spond.

Prose­cu­tors said a search of Ep­stein’s Up­per East Side man­sion yielded a vast trove of hun­dreds or even thou­sands of lewd pho­tos of young women or girls.

The de­fense team says the fed­eral charges should be dis­missed in light of a once-se­cret agree­ment that al­lowed Ep­stein to avoid a po­ten­tially lengthy prison sen­tence — a case in­volv­ing nearly iden­ti­cal al­le­ga­tions of Ep­stein sex­u­ally abus­ing un­der­age girls.

Ep­stein pleaded guilty to lesser state charges over a decade ago and spent 13 months in jail. That plea deal was sup­posed to pro­tect Ep­stein from fed­eral pros­e­cu­tion, his lawyers said.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors say the Florida deal does not ap­ply to the South­ern Dis­trict of New York. They said the charges un­sealed this week over­lap with the ear­lier case but in­clude new al­le­ga­tions and vic­tims from New York.

UMA SANGHVI

FILE - In this July 30, 2008file photo, Jef­frey Ep­stein, cen­ter, ap­pears in court in West Palm Beach, Fla. The wealthy fi­nancier pleaded not guilty in fed­eral court in New York on Mon­day, July 8, 2019, to sex traf­fick­ing charges fol­low­ing his ar­rest over the week­end. Ep­stein will have to re­main be­hind bars un­til his bail hear­ing on July 15.

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