Two Jeffrey Epstein accusers urged a judge Monday to keep the wealthy financier behind bars until he goes on trial on federal charges that he sexually abused underage girls.
The women stood just feet from where Epstein was seated in his blue jail outfit as they asked a federal judge to reject a request by Epstein’s lawyers that he remain under house arrest in his $77-million Manhattan mansion until trial on conspiracy and sex trafficking charges.
Courtney Wild, one of the unnamed victims in the 2008 lawsuit against the Department of Justice for the secret plea deal that allowed Epstein to avoid similar charges, spoke for the first time in court with a fellow accuser.
Wild said she was sexually abused by Epstein in Palm Beach, Florida, when she was 14.
“He’s a scary person,” she said.
Annie Farmer said she was 16 when she met Epstein in New York.
“He was inappropriate with me,” she said, adding that she didn’t want to share more details.
The Associated Press doesn’t name alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent. Through their lawyers, both Farmer and Wild said they were willing to be publicly identified.
Judge Richard M. Berman said he’ll rule Thursday whether Epstein can be freed with a strict bail package, but he noted at the outset of two-hour hearing there was a presumption in cases involving sexual abuse of children that a defendant will remain locked up.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller said the government’s case is “getting stronger every single day” since Epstein was arrested July 6 as he arrived at a New Jersey airport from Paris on his private plane.
During a raid at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion following his arrest, Rossmiller said, investigators found “piles of cash,” ”dozens of diamonds“ and an expired passport with Epstein’s picture and a fake name in a locked safe.
“How many safes are there in so many other locations like these?” Rossmiller asked.
He labelled the well-connected Epstein, 66, a flight risk and danger to the community, saying he should remain incarcerated until he is tried on charges that he recruited and abused dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
Epstein’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, said that his 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 plea deal not to prosecute him.
Epstein had demonstrated that he “disciplined himself,” Weinberg said, by not engaging in any crimes since the Florida deal, in which he agreed to submit himself to sex offender registration procedures in multiple states.
The “14-year gap is an elegant rebuttal” to expectations that he would reoffend, Weinberg said.
But the judge later noted he had read literature related to sex offenders that indicated the chance of a sex offender committing a new crime grew over time.
In addition to the charges in the indictment, prosecutors are also reviewing dozens of electronic files seized during the raid on Epstein’s New York residence, finding even more photos than the trove of pictures of nude and seminude young women and girls they had reported prior to a court hearing a week ago.
Prior to the hearing, prosecutors said in court papers that additional women in multiple jurisdictions had identified themselves to the government since Epstein’s arrest, saying they were abused as minors. Also, dozens of individuals have called the government to report information about Epstein and the charges he faces, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said they believe Epstein might have tried to influence witnesses after discovering that he had paid a total of $350,000 to two individuals, including a former employee, in the last year. That came after 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.
Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last week following renewed criticism over the 2008 plea deal with Epstein he oversaw as the U.S. attorney in Miami.
Epstein’s lawyers said the accusations against him are “outside the margins of federal criminal law” and don’t constitute sex trafficking since there were no allegations that he “trafficked anybody for commercial profit; that he forced, coerced, defrauded, or enslaved anybody.”
But prosecutors said efforts by defence lawyers to characterize Epstein’s crimes as “simple prostitution” were “not only offensive but also utterly irrelevant given that federal law does not recognize the concept of a child prostitute – there are only trafficking victims – because a child cannot legally consent to being exploited.”
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