Judge denies Jeffrey Epstein bail in child sex trafficking case, citing ‘danger’ to public

  • A federal judge denied bail to wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein, citing the potential danger he poses to the public and the risk that Epstein will flee to avoid prosecution for child sex trafficking charges.
  • Epstein, 66, was asking a judge to release him on a bond of as high as $100 million or more, with conditions that would include requiring him to remain in his New York City mansion, round-the-clock security monitoring and an electronic trafficking device.
  • Epstein, a former friend of presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, was arrested July 6 after a federal grand jury indicted him on a charge of sex trafficking, and one count of conspiring to commit sex trafficking.
Courtroom sketch showing Jeffrey Epstein at his bail hearing in New York on July 15th, 2019.

Artist: Christine Cornell
Courtroom sketch showing Jeffrey Epstein at his bail hearing in New York on July 15th, 2019.

A federal judge on Thursday denied bail to wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein, citing the potential danger he poses to the public and the risk that Epstein will flee to avoid prosecution for child sex trafficking charges.

The decision by Judge Richard Berman means that the 66-year-old Epstein will remain in jail pending trial in the case, where he faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

“I doubt any bail package could overcome dangerousness …. to community,” Berman said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, agreeing with the recommendation by prosecutors to keep Epstein locked up.

Berman said that risk was “the heart of this decision” to deny the financier release on bond.

He noted that two women who claim they were abused by Epstein gave “compelling testimony” at a court hearing on Monday, where they had expressed “fear for their safety.”

The judge also called Epstein’s proposal for bail “irretrievably inadequate.”

Epstein, a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, had asked Berman to release him on a bond of as high as $100 million or more. 

Epstein had also suggested strict bail conditions, which could include requiring him to remain in his New York City mansion, round-the-clock security monitoring and an electronic trafficking device.

But Berman said that prosecutors had established that Epstein could be dangerous by “clear and convincing evidence,” and had shown by a “preponderance” of evidence that he could flee. 

The judge noted that Epstein’s “great wealth and his vast resources,” which include private planes and a residence in Paris, France.

And Berman said Epstein’s possession of a passport issued by the country of Austria worried him.

That expired passport has Epstein’s photo but a different name on it, as well as stated residence in Saudi Arabia. It was used in the 1980s for travel, according to prosecutors.

Berman’s decision additionally noted that Epstein recently made payments to potential witnesses against him, that there have been allegations that Epstein failed to comply with requirements for registered sex offenders, and that agents of his intimidated witnesses in a prior investigation.

And Berman cited other “items seized” from Epstein’s Manhattan mansion the day he was arrested beyond the suspicious passport, which included a trove of “sexually explicit photos,” $70,000 in cash and dozens of diamonds.

At least one of the women in the photos has been identified as someone who was underage at the time the pictures were taken, according to prosecutors.

Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for some of Epstein’s alleged victims, said outside the courthouse that she was “thrilled with the judge’s decision.”

“Only by taking away Jeffrey Epstein’s freedom can we ensure the freedom of these victims,” McCawley said.

It’s “a wonderful day for the victims,” she added. “It was the right thing to do and I’m happy that he did it.”

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS.

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters
U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS.

Prosecutors since Epstein’s arrest have wanted to keep him locked up without bail, calling him a serious flight risk, and a danger to the public.

They also have said that in recent months Epstein, who is worth as much as $500 million, had made payments to “co-conspirators who might provide information against him.”

Epstein was arrested July 6 at a New Jersey airport after a federal grand jury in Manhattan indicted him on a charge of sex trafficking, and conspiring to commit sex trafficking.

The indictment alleges that Epstein sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his Upper East Side, Manhattan, townhouse, and his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion from 2002 through 2005.

Berman on Thursday sheduled a conference for prosecutors and Epstein’s lawyers on July 31.

Last week, Trump’s Labor secretary, Alex Acosta, resigned after heavy criticism for cutting a deal with Epstein in 2007 —when Acosta was the top federal prosecutor in Miami — that allowed Epstein to escape federal criminal charges related to his alleged abuse of girls.

In exchange for that deal, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to prostitution-related charges filed by Florida state prosecutors, and to register as a sex offender.

He was jailed for 13 months in that case, but spent most of his time on work release. A lawyer for a number of Epstein’s accusers said this week that while on work release in his office, Epstein had sexual contact with at least one woman.

— Additional reporting by CNBC’s Sunny Kim



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