A judge denied bail for jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges Thursday, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the “heart of this decision.”
Epstein, with his hands folded before him, showed no reaction to the announcement by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman. His lawyers did not comment afterward.
The decision means Epstein will remain behind bars while he fights charges that he exploited dozens of girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” Berman said, citing a danger “certainly including the minor victims in this case and prospective victims as well.”
He noted the “compelling testimony” at Monday’s bail hearing by 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.”
Wild, who said she was sexually abused by Epstein when she was 14 in Palm Beach, Florida, pleaded with the judge to keep him jailed.
“He’s a scary person to have walking the streets,” Courtney Wild said during the Monday hearing.
Berman said danger formed “the heart of this decision, that is to say, dealing with danger to others and to the community.”
The defence had argued 66-year-old Epstein should be allowed to await trial under house arrest with electronic monitoring at his $77 million Manhattan mansion. They said he wouldn’t run and was willing to pledge a fortune of at least $559 million as collateral.
The judge said he also rejected bail because Epstein presents a flight risk, in part because of his “great wealth and vast resources,” including 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 Epstein is “getting stronger every single day” as more women contact authorities to say he sexually abused them when they were minors.
Rossmiller said the government learned earlier this week that a raid of Epstein’s mansion following 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 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 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.
“He is a life-long American citizen. He has no other citizenship or legal permanent residency,” the lawyers wrote.
Defence lawyers told the judge in another court filing earlier this week that Epstein obtained the document out of fear that “as an affluent member of the Jewish faith” he might be kidnapped in the Middle East.
Prosecutors have also argued Epstein was a risk of trying to influence witnesses after it was discovered he had paid a total of $350,000 to two people, 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 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 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.
Tom Hays And Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press