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Jeffrey Epstein denied bail in child sex-trafficking case

Jeffrey Epstein, center, appears in court in West Palm Beach, Fla., on July 30, 2008. A judge in federal court denied the accused child sex trafficker's request for bail on Thursday, July 18, 2019.

UMA SANGHVI/PALM BEACH POST/AP

By BOB VAN VORIS, CHRIS DOLMETSCH AND PATRICIA HURTADO | Bloomberg | Published: July 18, 2019

NEW YORK -- Jeffrey Epstein will remain behind bars after a judge denied the accused child sex trafficker's request for bail.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman on Thursday turned aside Epstein's bid to be confined in his Manhattan mansion, where he had offered to pay for armed guards and wear an ankle bracelet tracking his location.

Instead, he will await his trial in jail, where he's been since his arrest on July 6, while he works with his team of lawyers to defend himself against accusations that he sexually assaulted teenage girls from 2002 to 2005.

Berman said the U.S. has established that Epstein posed a flight risk. He said his findings on the danger Epstein posed to the community were at the "heart of the decision" and that he found the defense's proposed bail package "irretrievably inadequate." He cited the danger to alleged and potential victims and the "compelling testimony" of the two alleged victims who testified during Monday's bail hearing.

"I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community," the judge said.

Epstein, 66, faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison if convicted. The ruling is a win for prosecutors as it increases the pressure on Epstein.

Prosecutors argued in a hearing Monday that Epstein should remain locked up because of the risk he could flee to escape trial, victimize others or influence witnesses. Investigators found piles of cash, dozens of diamonds and an expired Austrian passport, with Epstein's picture and a different name, in a safe in his Manhattan home.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking in minors and conspiracy and says he has fully complied with the law for the past 14 years. He said he got the passport in the 1980s to disguise his identity as a wealthy, Jewish American if he were ever kidnapped or taken hostage on a hijacked airliner.

Two women who claim they were abused by Epstein echoed prosecutors' pleas to keep him behind bars.

"He's a scary person to have walking the street," Courtney Wild told Berman in Monday's bail hearing. She urged the judge to deny him bail "for the safety of any other girls who are going through what I'm going through."

"I was 16 years old when I had the misfortune of meeting Jeffrey Epstein in New York," Annie Farmer said. "He later flew me to New Mexico. I want to voice my support that he not be set free."

Prosecutors said Epstein may try to pay off or intimidate witnesses if granted bail. They claim he made payments totaling $350,000 to two possible witnesses two days after the Miami Herald published a series on his alleged crimes in November. Epstein's lawyer, Martin Weinberg, said there had been no effort to interfere with any investigation and that these were merely payments to a former employee and a friend.

Epstein was arrested in New Jersey after stepping off his private jet from Paris. As a result of Berman's ruling, he'll be returned to the lower-Manhattan jail he's shared with Paul Manafort and Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Epstein's lawyers said he is being improperly prosecuted a second time for acts that ended in 2005 and were resolved in a federal non-prosecution agreement and guilty plea to two state charges of soliciting prostitution. He spent 13 months in prison, where he was allowed out to pursue his work as a fund manager six days a week.

They argued he has demonstrated "14 years of self-discipline," hasn't broken the law and had complied with all the requirements of his sex-offender status.

Prosecutors, pointing to Epstein's wealth, told Berman no conditions would ensure his appearance in court. Epstein gave the judge a one-page summary of his finances, which Berman called "cursory," saying Monday that it "does not fully assist me" in making his decision on bail.

The financial summary showed $559 million in assets, including $57 million in cash, $14 million in fixed income, $113 million in equities and $195 million held in hedge funds and private equity. His estimate of the value of six homes he owns includes the $55.9 million mansion on the Upper East Side and a $63.9 million private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The case is U.S. v. Epstein, 19-cr-00490, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
 

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