Fed­eral in­quiry opened into Ep­stein’s sui­cide

The State (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JULIE K. BROWN [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr has opened a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sui­cide of sex traf­ficker Jef­frey Ep­stein, who was found un­re­spon­sive Sat­ur­day morn­ing in his cell at the Metropoli­tan Cor­rec­tional Center in Man­hat­tan, a fed­eral prison where he had been housed await­ing trial. Fed­eral sources say that paramedics tried un­suc­cess­fully to re­vive Ep­stein af­ter he was found hang­ing in his cell about 6:30 a.m.

The fa­cil­ity, in Lower Man­hat­tan, is con­sid­ered one of the most se­cure fed­eral pris­ons in the na­tion, which raises ques­tions about how it was pos­si­ble that Ep­stein – one of its high­est­pro­file in­mates – would have been able to kill him­self.

Ep­stein, 66, al­legedly tried to harm him­self sev­eral weeks ago, so at one point he was on sui­cide watch, though it ap­pears that he was taken off sui­cide watch since then. The Mi­ami Her­ald was un­suc­cess­ful in reach­ing a spokesman for the fed­eral Bureau of Pris­ons, which op­er­ates the fa­cil­ity.

But the De­part­ment of Jus­tice re­leased a state­ment say­ing in part “Life-sav­ing mea­sures were ini­ti­ated im­me­di­ately by re­spond­ing staff . ... Ep­stein was trans­ported by EMS to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal for treat­ment of life-threat­en­ing in­juries, and sub­se­quently pro­nounced dead by hos­pi­tal staff.”

Vic­tims and their fam­i­lies were stunned to learn of his death Sat­ur­day morn­ing.

Jena-lisa Jones, who was mo­lested by Ep­stein when she was 14, said that he took the cow­ard’s way out.

“I just can’t be­lieve it. We were fi­nally feel­ing that we might have some jus­tice af­ter all th­ese years,” she said, her voice crack­ing.

Eva Ford, the mother of vic­tim Court­ney Wild, was an­gry.

“How does some­one who is this high pro­file com­mit sui­cide? They had to have cam­eras on

him! Some­one must have been paid to look the other way,” Ford said.

“I just wanted him to be held ac­count­able for his ac­tions. I would never wish that some­body would die but he took the easy way out,” said vic­tim Michelle Li­cata.

Palm Beach lawyer Jack Scarola, who rep­re­sents sev­eral vic­tims, said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is called for into how Ep­stein was able to, once again, get au­thor­i­ties to look the other way.

“It is in­ex­pli­ca­ble how such a high-pro­file per­son on sui­cide watch could com­mit sui­cide with­out help,” Scarola said.

“Ep­stein once again cheated his vic­tims out of an op­por­tu­nity for jus­tice. While I’m sure none of them re­gret his death, all of them re­gret the in­for­ma­tion that died with him. The one ex­pec­ta­tion is that Ep­stein’s death not derail the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into oth­ers who par­tic­i­pated in his crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties. There are named and un­named co-con­spir­a­tors who still need to be brought to jus­tice,” Scarola said.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Barr said he di­rected the FBI and in­spec­tor gen­eral to open sep­a­rate probes into his death.

“I was ap­palled to learn that Jef­frey Ep­stein was found dead early this morn­ing from an ap­par­ent sui­cide while in fed­eral cus­tody. Mr. Ep­stein’s death raises se­ri­ous ques­tions that must be an­swered,” Barr said in a state­ment Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon.

His death came one day af­ter the Mi­ami Her­ald and other news or­ga­ni­za­tions pub­lished a trove of doc­u­ments de­scrib­ing in de­tail how he op­er­ated the equiv­a­lent of a sex­ual pyra­mid scheme, lur­ing girls, most of them 14 to 16, to his Palm Beach home, then co­erc­ing them into sex.

The court pa­pers pro­vided damn­ing ev­i­dence – in the form of sworn de­po­si­tions, pho­to­graphs, flight logs and wit­ness state­ments – that Ep­stein and his al­leged ac­com­plice, Ghis­laine Maxwell, were op­er­at­ing an in­ter­na­tional sex-traf­fick­ing op­er­a­tion in which girls and young women were lured into traf­fick­ing with the empty prom­ise that the cou­ple would help them with their ed­u­ca­tion or ca­reers.

His death could short­cir­cuit what would have been a spec­tac­u­lar trial that likely would have drawn in an ar­ray of prom­i­nent wit­nesses. Ep­stein had a con­stel­la­tion of im­por­tant friends in busi­ness, po­lit­i­cal and so­ci­ety cir­cles, in­clud­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Court pa­pers un­sealed Fri­day also con­tained the names of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and busi­ness­men who al­legedly availed them­selves of Ep­stein’s abil­ity to groom and train girls and women for sex.

How­ever, with his death, pros­e­cu­tors in the South­ern District of New York will likely re­fo­cus their probe on Maxwell, Sarah Kellen Vick­ers, Adri­ana Ross and Les­ley Groff – all of whom al­legedly helped run Ep­stein’s op­er­a­tion in the mid- to late-2000s. An­other woman, Na­dia Marcinkova, who is now a com­mer­cial pi­lot, was ac­cused of sex­u­ally abus­ing some of the un­der­age girls.

The new scru­tiny of the case came shortly af­ter the Mi­ami Her­ald pub­lished a se­ries of sto­ries on Ep­stein, Perver­sion of Jus­tice, that looked at how the U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern District of Florida had ne­go­ti­ated a non­pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment with Ep­stein in 2007-08 de­spite hav­ing iden­ti­fied nearly three dozen un­der­age girls who said they were sex­u­ally abused by him at his wa­ter­front es­tate in Palm Beach.

As part of the deal, Ep­stein was given im­mu­nity on fed­eral sex-traf­fick­ing charges and al­lowed to plead guilty to two mi­nor pros­ti­tu­tion counts in state court. He served 13 months in the Palm Beach County stock­ade. While in the stock­ade, he was al­lowed lib­eral work-re­lease priv­i­leges that in­cluded be­ing es­corted by his own chauf­feur to an of­fice in down­town West Palm Beach, where he was at­tended by deputies in plain clothes. He paid for those work de­tails, and in re­cent weeks, Palm Beach County Sher­iff Ric Bradshaw, who ap­proved his work re­lease, has come un­der scru­tiny. On Tues­day, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis or­dered a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into both the sher­iff’s of­fice and for­mer state at­tor­ney Barry Krischer’s han­dling of Ep­stein’s case.

In the Mi­ami Her­ald’s se­ries, Ep­stein’s team of lawyers, in­clud­ing Alan Der­showitz, Roy Black, Jay Le­fkowitz and Ken­neth Starr de­manded that

I JUST WANTED HIM HIM TO BE HELD AC­COUNT­ABLE FOR HIS AC­TIONS. I WOULD NEVER WISH THAT SOME­BODY WOULD DIE BUT HE TOOK THE EASY WAY OUT. Vic­tim Michelle Li­cata

the plea deal be kept se­cret from the girls who had ac­cused Ep­stein of op­er­at­ing a pyra­mid-like sex scheme in­volv­ing un­der­age high school girls who were lured to his home un­der the pre­text that they would be paid $200 to $300 to give a wealthy man a mas­sage.

In re­al­ity, the scheme was a ruse to prey on vul­ner­a­ble girls, many of whom were on the verge of home­less­ness or whose par­ents were ab­sent or in­volved in drugs.

UMA SANGHVI AP

Jef­frey Ep­stein, center, died by sui­cide early Sat­ur­day while await­ing trial on sex-traf­fick­ing charges. The death was stun­ning for his vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, some of whom said they re­gret that Ep­stein won’t face jus­tice in court.

BEBETO MATTHEWS AP

New York City med­i­cal ex­am­iner per­son­nel on Sat­ur­day leave their ve­hi­cle and walk to the Man­hat­tan Cor­rec­tional Center where fi­nancier Jef­frey Ep­stein died. It ap­pears that Ep­stein re­cently had been taken off sui­cide watch.

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