Tue, 20 Aug 2019

Epstein: How He Died and What It Means for His Accusers

Voice of America
12 Aug 2019, 18:35 GMT+10

NEW YORK - Financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in New York, officials said Saturday. His death angered some accusers who had hoped to confront him in court and see him serve a long prison sentence.

It also raises questions about how he was able to harm himself while in federal custody.

Epstein was accused of paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then sexually abusing them at various locations, including homes in Palm Beach, Florida, and New York from 2002 through 2005. He had pleaded not guilty.

Here's a look at Epstein's case and what comes next:

Who was Jeffrey Epstein?

Epstein, 66, was a hedge fund manager who hobnobbed with the rich, famous and influential, including presidents and a prince.

Epstein owned a private island in the Caribbean, homes in Paris and New York City, a New Mexico ranch, and a fleet of high-price cars.

His friends had once included Britain's Prince Andrew, former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump. Clinton and Trump both said they hadn't seen Epstein in years and knew nothing of his alleged misconduct when new charges were brought against him last month.

Under a 2008 non-prosecution agreement, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida of solicitation of prostitution involving a minor and another similar prostitution charge. That allowed him to avoid federal prosecution and a possible life sentence, instead serving 13 months in a work-release program. He was required to make payments to victims and register as a sex offender.

How did he die?

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center early Saturday.

Staff tried to revive him, and he was transported to a local hospital for treatment. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Epstein had been held in the jail's Special Housing Unit, a heavily secured part of the facility that separates high-profile inmates from the general population, but his death is likely to raise questions about how the Bureau of Prisons ensures the welfare of high-profile inmates.

Attorney General William Barr said he was "appalled" by the news.

Before he took his own life, Epstein has been taken off suicide watch, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press. The person wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Epstein had previously been injured with bruises to the neck while in custody, though it was not clear if those were self-inflicted or the result of an assault.

The FBI and the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Justice will investigate his death.

What was the new case against him?

Federal prosecutors in New York charged Epstein with sex trafficking and conspiracy after investigative reporting by The Miami Herald stirred outrage over the 2008 plea bargain. They accused him of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls,

A conviction could have put him in prison for 45 years.

At the time of Epstein's arrest, prosecutors said they found a trove of pictures of nude and seminude young women and girls at his $77 million Manhattan mansion. They also say additional victims have come forward since the arrest.

But his attorneys insisted that Epstein hadn't had any illicit contact with underage girls since serving his sentence in Florida. They argued that the new charges were improper because they covered largely the same ground as the non-prosecution agreement.

What happens now for his accusers?

Several of Epstein's accusers said Saturday that they're disappointed that the financier won't have to face them in court or serve a long prison sentence if convicted. They called on federal authorities to investigate associates of Epstein for any role in his activities.

Sigrid McCawley, an attorney representing one accuser, said in a statement that "the reckoning of accountability begun by the voices of brave and truthful victims should not end" with Epstein's death.

Another accuser, Jennifer Araoz, who came forward after the new charges were filed, said she was angered by Epstein's suicide. Araoz alleged that Epstein raped her in his New York mansion in the early 2000s when she was 15.

"We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed the pain and trauma he caused so many people," she said.

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