NEW YORK (CNN) — A federal judge ordered wealthy Florida financier Jeffrey Epstein to remain in jail, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Epstein, 66, is accused of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls.
Epstein asked the judge to allow him to live in his $77-million mansion, one of the largest residences in Manhattan, under the supervision of armed private security and a court-appointed, live-in trustee who would monitor his compliance with bail conditions.
Prosecutors in the Manhattan US Attorney’s office, however, said there is “overwhelming” evidence that he is likely to flee the country. They say his wealth — including his ownership of a private jet and multiple homes, one abroad — the seriousness of the charges he faces, and his behavior in recent weeks should render him ineligible for bail.
Thursday, the judge sided with prosecutors who deemed him an “extreme” flight risk.
He is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal detention facility where he is being kept in isolation, according to one of his lawyers.
Epstein is charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors related to alleged conduct that occurred between 2002 and 2005. He has pleaded not guilty.
He is accused of having paid girls as young as 14 to have sex with him at his Upper East Side home and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005. Prosecutors say he used employees and associates to lure the girls to his residences, and then paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse.
Though the charges concern conduct only through 2005, prosecutors say Epstein’s more recent behavior demonstrates that he “is not reformed, he is not chastened, he is not repentant.”
Lewd photos, diamonds and a foreign passport
During a search of Epstein’s Manhattan home in the hours following his arrest on July 6, agents found “a vast trove of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls,” according to prosecutors, making him “a continuing danger to the community.” Epstein attorney Reid Weingarten told the court the photographs are “ancient” and likely are “erotic pictures of adults.”
Prosecutors also say that beginning in November of last year, two days after a Miami Herald series thrust back into public consciousness a lenient plea deal he received more than a decade earlier for similar behavior, Epstein made $350,000 in payments to two women who are possible co-conspirators and could be considered witnesses in a case against him. In court Monday, one of Epstein’s attorneys suggested the payments could have been “an act of generosity.”
And prosecutors say that agents recovered from a locked safe in Epstein’s home more than $70,000 in cash; 48 loose diamonds, including some as large as 2.38 carats; a large diamond ring; and a foreign passport, expired, with his photograph and a different name. All of those developments, prosecutors have argued over the course of two bail hearings and multiple court filings, make Epstein unfit for release.
In addition, the sex trafficking charge against Epstein carries the presumption that no combination of bail conditions could guarantee the defendant’s appearance in court or protect the public.
Epstein’s attorneys, however, argued that detaining their client would impede his ability to mount a robust defense by restricting his access to his legal team.
They told the court the foreign passport recovered from Epstein’s home was issued by Austria and that Epstein, “an affluent member of the Jewish faith,” had acquired it in the 1980s, “when hijackings were prevalent, in connection to Middle East travel.”
“The passport was for personal protection in the event of travel to dangerous areas, only to be presented to potential (kidnappers), hijackers or terrorists should violent episodes occur,” Epstein’s attorneys wrote. They didn’t offer an explanation as to why the document displayed a name other than their client’s.
They have also touted his “spotless 14-year record” with “meticulous obedience” to the law since he pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in 2008 and registered as a sex offender. On Tuesday, however, an attorney who has represented several women who say they were sexually abused by Epstein said he had “improper sexual contact” while serving his jail sentence, and has had inappropriate contact with some women as recently as 2011.
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