A judge on Thursday denied bail to money manager Jeffrey Epstein, who has been charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy.
The ruling by Judge Richard Berman of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York was significant because Epstein was considered an extreme flight risk due to his wealth and international connections. In their bail memo, prosecutors noted that Epstein “has access to two private jets, giving him the ability to leave the country secretly and at a moment’s notice.” They also raised concerns that if released, Epstein would try to intimidate potential witnesses.
Meanwhile, Epstein’s attorneys had proposed that he be allowed to remain under house arrest at his Manhattan mansion while he awaits his trial, according to the New York Times.
Berman denied their application on Thursday, saying prosecutors had shown Epstein was a danger to others. “I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” he said, according to Courthouse News reporter Adam Klasfeld.
The sex trafficking charges in New York are the latest development in a years-long legal saga for Epstein. He was first indicted in 2007 in connection with allegations that he sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. But he ultimately struck a deal with prosecutors — led by Alexander Acosta, then the US attorney for Miami — that allowed him to spend just 13 months in a county jail. Acosta became the US secretary of labor under President Trump but announced his resignation last week amid increased criticism of the Epstein deal.
An explosive series of articles by Julie K. Brown in the Miami Herald last year revealed details of the deal and renewed interest in the case, and earlier this month, Epstein was arrested at a New Jersey airport. He now faces new charges of sex trafficking, in connection with allegations that he abused girls as young as 14 at his home in Manhattan, as well as in Palm Beach. A raid of his Manhattan townhouse revealed nude photographs of apparently underage girls, prosecutors said earlier this month.
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the new charges, and has said in the past that any encounters he had with his accusers were consensual and that he believed they were 18 at the time. However, a woman named Jennifer Araoz said last week in an interview with Today that Epstein had forcibly raped her in 2002, when she was about 15 years old.
In the past, Epstein has been able to use his wealth and connections to evade real consequences for the many allegations against him. But for now, he’ll have to remain in New York, where he may finally have to face his accusers in court.
Epstein has escaped justice in the past. Prosecutors were worried he’d do so again.
Prosecutors in Epstein’s case wrote in their bail memo that the money manager “is extraordinarily wealthy and has access to vast financial resources to fund any attempt to flee.” Moreover, they wrote, “he has friends and associates worldwide, as demonstrated by his extensive international travel.”
Even if the exact sum of the 66-year-old’s wealth is unclear, “he would have every resource needed (and every incentive) to flee” if granted bail, the prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors were also concerned that if freed on bail, Epstein would try to intimidate potential witnesses in the case. He’s been accused of doing so in the past — notably, according to the bail memo, he allegedly hired private investigators who followed the father of one of his accusers in the Florida case and forced the man’s car off the road in an effort to frighten him.
Epstein’s lawyers offered to surrender his passport and ground his private jet so he would remain in New York, according to the New York Times. They also said he would hire private security guards who would “virtually guarantee” that he would not flee.
Last year, Brown’s reporting at the Miami Herald painted a disturbing picture of a wealthy man who, when accused of sex crimes against young girls, hired a superstar team of lawyers and investigators to dig into their backgrounds and smear them — and then was able to pressure prosecutors to grant him an unprecedented deal, in part by threatening to smear the prosecutors themselves. The story was a devastating example of the way powerful men can escape justice in America.
But by denying bail, Judge Berman ensured that Epstein won’t be able to use his resources to escape justice, at least for now. Berman has scheduled a conference in the case for July 31.