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Court To Decide If Jeffrey Epstein Will Remain Behind Bars Ahead of Sex Crimes Trial

Federal prosecutors announced charges of sex trafficking against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein last week. He is seen here in 2005.
Patrick McMullan
Getty Images
Federal prosecutors announced charges of sex trafficking against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein last week. He is seen here in 2005.

Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier and sex offender, is due back in a New York court Thursday. Epstein is expected to learn from a federal judge whether he will be granted bail or has to remain behind bars as he awaits trial on new sex crimes charges involving underage girls.

Lawyers for Epstein argue their client should await trial at his multimillion-dollar Manhattan mansion on house arrest. Prosecutors argue the well-connected money man is a flight risk, adding if he's not detained, Epstein's victims could be subjected to "harassment and abuse by the defendant."

Epstein is jailed at Metropolitan Correctional Center where he has been since his July 6 arrestat an airport in New Jersey. It's a facility that is accustomed to holding high profile terrorists and mobsters. Inmates have included former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who got a sentence of life in prison plus 30 years on Wednesday.

If federal prosecutors and lawyers representing his accusers have their way, Epstein will stay put.

Since federal prosecutors slapped Epstein, 66, with new sex trafficking charges charges last week, a bright light and a long shadow has been cast on his alleged predatory behavior that, so far, spans three states — Florida, New York and New Mexico.

It has also forced a Trump Cabinet secretary to resign his post and the president himself to assert he wasn't "a fan" of Epstein, despite the financier's visits to Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

Tape of Trump and Epstein surfaces

On Wednesday, NBC released video from its archives, showing Trump partying with cheerleaders from the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins NFL teams in 1992. Trump is seen dancing with women, even patting one on the derrière. At one point, Trump ushers Epstein and two other men join the party at the venue.

That video was shot more a decade and a half before Epstein entered a plea deal with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta in Miami. Acosta, who announced last week that Friday will be his last day as Secretary of Labor, could not escape the glare of the Epstein case as he was dogged by questions of his handling of the what many say was a sweetheart plea deal for Epstein years ago.

Epstein had been charged with crimes similar to those he's facing in New York, including recruiting dozens of underage girls, some as young as 13, for erotic massages and sex at his Palm Beach, Fla., home. Under the plea agreement brokered by Acosta, Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to lesser state prostitution charges and made to register as a sex offender.

The deal also included immunity from federal prosecution and a 13-month sentence where he spent most of his days at his Palm Beach office.

Courtney Wild (left), joined by her attorney Brad Edwards, reads a statement during a news conference, calling on victims of Jeffrey Epstein to contact the FBI or lawyers with their information in New York, Tuesday.
Bebeto Matthews / AP
Courtney Wild (left), joined by her attorney Brad Edwards, reads a statement during a news conference, calling on victims of Jeffrey Epstein to contact the FBI or lawyers with their information in New York, Tuesday.

Allegations of Abuse During Epstein's Jail Time

At a press conference Tuesday, attorney Brad Edwards, who represents some women who say they were abused by Epstein as teenagers, claimed that Epstein continued his predatory behavior during his work release from a Palm Beach-area jail in 2008 and 2009.

"He was having office visitors, some that were flown to him from New York, and continuing to engage in similar conduct literally while he was in quote-unquote jail," Edwards told reporters.

Edwards said, "I don't know that any of his visitors were underage. ... I do know that he was able to have visitors that were under the age of 21, [and that at least one said she was there for] "improper sexual contact."

He declined to provide more details, citing ongoing litigation.

A public affairs official with Palm Beach Sheriff's Office said in a statement that "Epstein was carefully guarded." The statement said more than 464 reports were filed by deputies, adding that "he was allowed NO family, friends or guests. His attorney or business partner ONLY."

Palm Beach Sheriff's officials also point to a YouTube video of Palm Beach Chief Deputy Michael Gauger's interview for a documentary film in April. Gauger described Epstein's behavior during his sentence as "excellent."

"If Mr. Epstein would have violated any condition of that work release ... then he would have immediately been arrested and taken into custody and brought back to the stockade and all privileges would have ceased," Gauger said.

Gauger also said Epstein was picked up by a driver, who would take Epstein to his office where Epstein was met by a "permit deputy" which Epstein paid for. He allowed to be out of jail most days from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Courtney Wild, an Epstein accuser who is suing the federal government over the 2008 plea agreement, appeared at the press conference with her attorney, Edwards, and urged other victims to come forward.

"I was sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein as a child," Wild said. "In 2008, the U.S. attorney in Florida gave him a free pass on abusing me and many other victims."

Wild said she was not surprised Epstein abused other girls in New York.

"He did it everywhere. And as long as the victims speak up, he isn't going to get away this time."

Accusations of 'A Flight Risk' and Witness Tampering

Prior to Thursday's court proceedings, lawyers for Epstein lobbied the court to allow him to be detained on house arrest at his Upper East Side mansion. He agreed to turn over his passport, wear an electronic monitor and forfeit his jet.

In court documents, prosecutors said the collateral was "plainly insufficient," saying Epstein's wealth — "more than $500 million" — could be used to help him flee. Prosecutors also point to the Manhattan residence as being a site of the alleged crimes as reason to deny Epstein's request.

During Epstein's court appearance on Monday, federal prosecutors said investigators found "piles of cash," diamonds and an expired foreign passport during a raid following his arrest.

In court filings filed last week, federal prosecutors in New York said they have evidence Epstein used a trust account to pay $350,000 to two associates in an effort to "influence individuals who were close to him" who might be witnesses against him at trial.

All of this comes on the heels of news of an active investigation into Epstein's activities in New Mexico.

He has a property there called Zorro Ranch, which he built decades ago, and where some of Epstein's victims say they were abused. In an interview with NPR's Ari Shapiro, Hector Balderas, New Mexico's attorney general said state authorities were meeting with "survivors and victims involved in the matter."

"I'm very concerned that there definitely was a course of conduct here in New Mexico within our borders and that we don't leave any stone unturned," Balderas said.

He added that while New Mexico didn't have a human trafficking statute that would cover any of Epstein's alleged acts there, any evidence pertaining to the case found in his state will be forwarded to federal authorities in New York.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.