A judge denied bail for jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex-trafficking charges on Thursday, saying he poses a danger to the public and might use his “great wealth and vast resources” to flee the country.
Mr. Epstein, with his hands folded before him, showed no reaction to the announcement by U.S. District Justice Richard M. Berman. His lawyers did not comment afterward.
“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” Justice Berman said, citing a danger for both the “minor victims in this case and prospective victims as well.”
The decision means Mr. Epstein will remain behind bars while he fights charges that he exploited dozens of girls in New York and Florida during the early 2000s. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Two politicians lauded Justice Berman’s bail decision, with U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz saying the “survivors deserve more answer and true justice.”
Justice Berman noted the “compelling testimony” at Monday’s bail hearing by Mr. Epstein accusers Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild, who “testified that they fear for their safety and the safety of others if Mr. Epstein were to be released.”
Ms. Wild, who said she was sexually abused by Mr. Epstein when she was 14 in Palm Beach, Fla., pleaded with the judge to keep him jailed.
“He’s a scary person to have walking the streets,” Ms. Wild said during the Monday hearing.
The defence had argued 66-year-old Mr. Epstein should be allowed to await trial under house arrest with electronic monitoring at his US$77-million Manhattan mansion. They said he wouldn’t run and was willing to pledge a fortune of at least US$559-million as collateral.
The judge said he also rejected bail because Mr. Epstein presents a flight risk, in part because of his opulent lifestyle that includes private jets, frequent international travel and a foreign residence in Paris.
On Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller said the government’s case against Mr. Epstein is “getting stronger every single day” as more women contact authorities to say he sexually abused them when they were minors.
Mr. Rossmiller said the government learned earlier this week that a raid of Mr. Epstein’s mansion after his July 6 arrest turned up “piles of cash, dozens of diamonds” and a passport with a picture of the defendant but a name other than his in a locked safe. He also said hundreds, if not thousands, of sexually explicit photos of young women found in his home included at least one purported victim.
In a court filing on Wednesday, prosecutors disputed a claim by defence lawyers that there was no evidence he’d ever used the fake passport, saying the Austrian passport contained stamps reflecting it was used to enter France, Spain, Britain and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.
Prior to Thursday’s bail hearing, defence lawyers told the judge that Mr. Epstein was given the passport by a friend after some Jewish-Americans were informally advised to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when travelling internationally during a period when hijackings were more common.
They said he never used it and the passport stamps predated his receipt of the document.
Prosecutors have also argued Mr. Epstein was a risk of trying to influence witnesses after it was discovered he had paid a total of US$350,000 to two people, including a former employee, in the past 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 a plea deal that allowed him to avoid a federal prosecution.
Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last week after coming under renewed criticism for overseeing the decade-old arrangement as U.S. attorney in Miami.
Lawyers for Mr. Epstein said their client has stayed clean since pleading guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution charges in Florida in 2008, and that the federal government is reneging on the plea deal.
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