Judge rejects bail for financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

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One of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers is urging victims to speak out against the wealthy financier as authorities prosecute him on sex charges. Courtney Wild said Tuesday that Epstein “will never stop sexually abusing children until he is in jail.” (July 16) AP, AP

NEW YORK – A federal judge on Thursday denied bail for wealthy financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who now must await trial on sex-trafficking charges in a jail cell rather than his stately Manhattan manse.

Federal Judge Richard Berman called the bail proposal “irretrievably inadequate” and said the safety of the community was his primary concern.

“I don’t think any bail package overcomes the danger to others,” Berman said. He added that diamonds, cash and a passport seized from Epstein’s home also played a role by making Epstein a flight risk.

Defense lawyer Martin Weinberg hinted the ruling might be appealed. Epstein, in dark prison garb, showed no emotion at the ruling.

Lawyer Lisa Bloom, who said she represents three accusers, released a statement saying the women were “pleased” with Berman’s ruling.

“It gives us hope that justice may truly be possible against this sex offender who has hurt so many for so long,” Bloom said.

At a sentencing hearing Monday, two accusers testified they believe Epstein remains a threat to other young women.  And prosecutors expressed concern that Epstein might flee the country if released on bail.

The defense team, however, pointed to Epstein’s “spotless 14-year record of walking the straight and narrow” since the last crime in the indictment was allegedly committed.

 Both sides attempted to shore up their arguments in court filings.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe filed a letter to the court detailing riches seized from a safe in Epstein’s Manhattan mansion. She described $70,000 in cash, 48 loose diamond stones including some more than 2 carats and a large diamond ring.

“The government is currently unaware of whether the defendant maintains similar stashes of cash and/or jewels at his multiple properties,” Moe wrote. “Such ready cash and loose diamonds are consistent with the capability to leave the jurisdiction at a moment’s notice.”

The letter said federal investigators are trying to determine how an expired foreign passport seized from the safe was obtained and whether it is real or fake. Either way, it shows Epstein knows how to obtain false travel documents and adds to the risk he will flee, Moe said.

Epstein lawyer Marc Fernich was dismissive of the passport, submitting a letter explaining that the passport was Austrian and expired more than three decades ago. He said Epstein, as a wealthy member of the Jewish faith, acquired the passport “when hijackings were prevalent” in the Middle East.

“The passport was for personal protection in the event of travel to dangerous areas, only to be presented to potential kidnappers, hijackers or terrorists should violent episodes occur,” Fernich wrote.

Epstein’s lawyers said their client is willing to put up his mansion, which they valued at $77 million, as bail in exchanged for house arrest. They added that his brother, Mark, was willing to sign a bond for his entire net worth of more than $100 million. Epstein’s own assets are valued at more than $500 million by his lawyers.

Barring successful appeal of the bail ruling, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan will remain home for Epstein, 66, as he and his lawyers prepare for trial. An indictment unsealed last week charges him with sex trafficking and conspiracy. He is accused of sexually abusing “dozens of minor girls” in his lavish Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, homes from 2002 to 2005.

The government claims there may be more victims and has urged women to come forward. 

The indictment comes 11 years after Epstein avoided what could have been a lengthy prison sentence when he pleaded guilty in Florida to state charges of soliciting and procuring a person under 18 for prostitution.

The lesser state penalty was imposed after federal prosecutors in Florida prepared but did not submit a criminal indictment that could have brought tougher punishment upon a conviction. Instead, they reached a nonprosecution agreement with Epstein that was contingent on his guilty plea to the state charges.

Epstein was required to register as a sex offender under terms of the deal.

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