NEW YORK — Earlier this week, two women who allege Jeffrey Epstein abused them as children encouraged U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman to keep him locked up. Now, the judge announced Thursay that the multimillionaire and registered sex offender will remain jailed while he awaits trial on new sex trafficking allegations.
Berman announced the decision at a hearing, siding with prosecutors after they and defense attorneys traded arguments for more than a week about whether Epstein could be released to some sort of home confinement.
“I find that the government has established danger to others and to the community by clear and convincing evidence,” Berman said.
The judge cited as reasons for his decision evidence that Epstein had missed required sex-offender check-ins, the “sexually explicit photos” investigators recovered at Epstein’s home after his arrest and the “compelling” testimony of the two women.
Berman also pointed to an expired foreign passport with Epstein’s picture but someone else’s name that investigators found in a safe in his home. He said defense attorneys’ offer to have Epstein remain on home confinement, with several other conditions, was “inadequate.”
“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” Berman said, adding that he will post a written decision on the matter Thursday afternoon.
Epstein, 66, was arrested on July 6 after landing at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport and charged with sex trafficking dozens of girls from 2002 to 2005. The case drew significant attention because in 2008, the jet-setting financier was able to resolve similar allegations by pleading guilty to just two state charges. He spent about 13 months in jail, with work release privileges, as part of the agreement.
The deal, which has been criticized as overly lenient, was approved by Alex Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in Miami whom President Trump picked as his labor secretary. Acosta resigned from the Labor Department post after the new charges were brought, drawing more attention to his handling of the previous case.
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the new charges, which his attorneys have asserted are effectively an improper do-over of the old case. If Epstein had been granted bail, defense attorneys said, he would have been willing to put up his $77 million Manhattan mansion as collateral and agree to home confinement with 24/7 security that he would have funded.
Prosecutors argued even that would not guarantee Epstein would keep showing up for court. By their telling, Epstein is an impenitent sexual abuser of children who has in the past sought to obstruct inquiries into his misdeeds and has virtually limitless means to escape justice.
Epstein, who financial records show is worth more than $500 million, is a frequent world traveler with access to two private jets, prosecutors said. In one safe seized from his Manhattan mansion, prosecutors seized more than $70,000 in cash, 48 loose diamond stones as big as 2.38 carats and a large diamond ring.
Prosecutors also pointed in recent filings and hearings to the expired passport. The document, they said, is evidence that Epstein “knows how to obtain false travel documents and/or assume other, foreign identities.” And there is evidence that someone used it: Prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday that the document “contains numerous ingress and egress stamps, including stamps that reflect use of the passport to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.”
Epstein’s attorneys wrote in a court filing Tuesday that the passport, from Austria, expired 32 years ago and asserted it was for Epstein’s own safety.
They asserted that “Epstein — an affluent member of the Jewish faith — acquired the passport in the 1980s, when hijackings were prevalent, in connection to Middle East travel.”
“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,” they wrote.
On Thursday morning, Epstein’s defense team wrote that he “never used the document to travel internationally and never presented it to any immigration or customs authority.” The stamps, they wrote, predated when Epstein received the document and “do not reflect Mr. Epstein’s entries or exits.”
They dismissed concerns about his foreign travel, asserting that, even as many were “clamoring for his re-prosecution” after news reports on his 2008 deal, he traveled extensively and “invariably returned to the United States.”