Sunday 25 August 2019

Epstein abuse allegations rise

Prosecutors prepare to stop 'flight risk' financier from getting bail

Accuser: Courtney Wild (centre), an alleged victim of Jeffrey Epstein, outside the New York courthouse. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Accuser: Courtney Wild (centre), an alleged victim of Jeffrey Epstein, outside the New York courthouse. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Larry Neumeister

The evidence against multi-millionaire financier and socialite Jeffrey Epstein is growing "stronger by the day", say US federal prosecutors who are preparing for a bail fight.

The lawyers also revealed several more women contacted them in recent days to say he abused them when they were underaged.

They say Epstein (66) is a flight risk and danger to the community and should remain behind bars until he is tried on charges that he recruited and abused dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.

His lawyers counter that their client has not committed crimes since pleading guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution charges in Florida in 2008 and that the federal government is reneging on a 12-year-old deal not to prosecute him.

They say he should be allowed to await trial under house arrest in his $77m (€68.4m) Manhattan mansion, with electronic monitoring.

In a written submission to District Judge Richard M Berman, prosecutors revealed new information about their investigation and why they perceive Epstein as dangerous.

They said several more women in multiple jurisdictions had identified themselves to the government, claiming he abused them when they were minors. Also, dozens of individuals have called the government to report information about Epstein and the charges he faces.

Prosecutors said they believe Epstein might have tried to influence witnesses after discovering he had paid a total of $350,000 to two individuals, including a former employee, in the last year.

The 'Miami Herald' reported the circumstances of his state court conviction in 2008, which led to a 13-month jail term and his deal to avoid federal prosecution .

"This course of action, and in particular its timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations," prosecutors said.

The decade-old secret plea deal led to labour secretary Alexander Acosta's resignation last week. Mr Acosta came under renewed criticism following Epstein's arrest over the 2008 non-prosecution agreement he oversaw as the US attorney in Miami.

Prosecutors are also reviewing dozens of electronic files seized during a raid on Epstein's residence after his July 6 arrest, finding even more photos than the hundreds or thousands of pictures of nude and semi-nude young women and girls they had reported prior to a court hearing a week ago.

In their submission to the judge, Epstein's lawyers say their client has had a clean record since he began registering as a sex offender after his Florida conviction.

They said the accusations against him are "outside the margins of federal criminal law" and don't constitute sex trafficking since there were no allegations he "trafficked anybody for commercial profit; that he forced, coerced, defrauded, or enslaved anybody".

Prosecutors said efforts by defence lawyers to characterise Epstein's crimes as "simple prostitution" were "not only offensive but also utterly irrelevant given that federal law does not recognise the concept of a child prostitute - there are only trafficking victims - because a child cannot legally consent to being exploited."

While much of the early legal sparring has focused on questions of Epstein's freedom, a secondary struggle may determine how much money Epstein has - and what he will owe and to whom when it's all over.

Whether Epstein is a billionaire, as he has been routinely described, is difficult to know. None of the known paper trail establishes a fortune of that magnitude. But by most accounts he has substantial wealth, and the legal assault upon it has begun.

Irish Independent

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