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Jeffrey Epstein Is Denied Bail In Sex Trafficking Case

In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein (left) and his attorney Martin Weinberg listen during a bail hearing Monday in federal court in New York. On Thursday, a judge said Epstein should remain in detention.
Elizabeth Williams
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein (left) and his attorney Martin Weinberg listen during a bail hearing Monday in federal court in New York. On Thursday, a judge said Epstein should remain in detention.

Updated at 5:59 p.m. ET

A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered that multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein remain confined while he awaits trial on federal sex trafficking charges.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman announced his decision that the 66-year-old financier be held without bail on Thursday, following a hearing Monday in which Epstein's lawyer asked that his client be placed on house arrest with round-the-clock private security guards paid for by Epstein.

In denying that request, the judge called the bail offer from Epstein's defense team "irredeemably inadequate," saying his first priority in making the decision is weighing the danger Epstein posed to the community and to other potential victims.

"Mr. Epstein's dangerousness is considerable and includes sex crimes with minor girls and tampering with potential witnesses," Berman wrote in his order on Friday.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to charges of one count of sex trafficking and one count of sex trafficking conspiracy. He was arrested July 6 after his private plane landed at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport and was taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

Prosecutors had called Epstein a flight risk, noting that he owns two private jets and has traveled abroad more than 20 times in the past 18 months. They also feared he might try to obstruct justice, accusing him of tampering in a previous case by paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money to silence potential witnesses.

Berman wrote since Epstein faces spending the rest of his life behind bars if convicted, he has the resources to try to escape if he would like to, helped along by his substantial wealth, connections and properties oversees.

Epstein could choose to flee to a jurisdiction with which the United States does not have an extradition treaty, the judge noted.

"The Court finds that the Government has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant is a serious risk of flight and that no conditions can be set that will reasonably assure his appearance at trial," Berman wrote.

In a filing opposing bail, prosecutors wrote that Epstein "has already demonstrated a willingness to use intimidation and aggressive tactics in connection with a criminal investigation."

Epstein's lawyers had asked that their client be issued an ankle bracelet and allowed to remain at his Manhattan mansion, which prosecutors estimated is worth $77 million. They said the registered sex offender has had a clean record since he was convicted as part of a plea agreement a decade ago.

From at least 2002 to 2005, Epstein "enticed and recruited" girls as young as 14 to his houses in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla., to engage in sex acts with him, according to the indictment. He allegedly paid some of the girls to recruit others in order to "maintain and increase his supply of victims."

Prosecutors said investigators have found evidence suggesting Epstein hasn't changed his ways.

"And any doubt that the defendant is unrepentant and unreformed was eliminated when law enforcement agents discovered hundreds or thousands of nude and seminude photographs of young females in his Manhattan mansion on the night of his arrest, more than a decade after he was first convicted of a sex crime involving a juvenile," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman wrote the judge.

In his written opinion, Berman reached the same conclusion.

"It seems fair to say that Mr. Epstein's future behavior will be consistent with past behavior."

Epstein's victims also wanted him detained until trial, according to prosecutors: "They believe it would be unfair to victims of a wealthy defendant, like Epstein, if he were to be given greater freedoms than others would be in similar circumstances."

The federal indictment in New York comes more than a decade after Epstein faced similar federal charges in Florida. He eventually pleaded guilty to two state felonies and served 13 months in county jail as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

The new charges heightened scrutiny of the decade-old deal Epstein brokered with prosecutors, which was negotiated by then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta. Last week, Acosta announced that he was resigning from his current post as Labor secretary.

Over the years, the well-connected financier has surrounded himself with famous people, including President Trump and former President Bill Clinton, who have recently distanced themselves from Epstein. He also has been represented by prominent lawyers such as Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr.

Before Thursday's hearing, Epstein's lawyers and the government exchanged dueling filings about a mysterious passport that investigators found in a locked safe in his Manhattan mansion. Investigators say it was discovered along with "piles of cash" and diamonds.

Government lawyers said the passport was issued by the government of Austria with Epstein's photo but another person's name. It showed travel to countries including France, Spain and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, according to the filing.

Epstein's lawyers explained to the court that a friend gave Epstein the passport bearing a "non-Jewish name," and that it was necessary "in case of hijacking" when traveling abroad.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: July 17, 2019 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman as an assistant U.S. attorney.
Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.
Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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