Jeffrey Epstein, the accused sex trafficker, financier, and friend to many a prominent person over the years, is dead of an apparent suicide at a Manhattan jail, according to multiple news reports.
Questions are mounting about the death after The Washington Post reported that some of Epstein’s neck bones were broken, and The New York Times reported that there are accusations jail guards were sleeping when they should have been checking on Epstein and falsified records.
ABC News first broke the news that Epstein had died. Julia Macfarlane, ABC News foreign affairs reporter, wrote on Twitter on the morning of August 10, 2019: “Breaking: Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide overnight at MCC Manhattan, the federal lockup where he had been held pending trial on federal sex trafficking charges, three law enforcement officials told @ABC News. Via @AaronKatersky.”
US Attorney General William Barr said Saturday that he was “appalled” by the death. The Justice Department’s Inspector General is investigating, CNN reported. Many people on social media questioned the death due to the high-profile nature of Epstein’s case and associates. ABC News is reporting that jail protocols requiring a check every 30 minutes were not followed in Epstein’s case.
Barr said Monday, August 12, that the Department of Justice has learned of “serious irregularities” at the federal facility where Epstein was being held that are “deeply concerning” and said officials “demand a serious investigation.” He said the FBI and the DOJ’s Inspector General’s office “are doing just that” and will “get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”
Barr, speaking at a law enforcement conference in New Orleans, said, “This sex trafficking case was very important to the Department of Justice and to me personally. It was important to the dedicated prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and to our FBI agents who investigated the case and were preparing it for trial. Most importantly, this case was important to the victims who had the courage to come forward and deserve the opportunity to confront the accused in the courtroom. I was appalled, and indeed the whole department was, and frankly, angry, to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.”
The attorney general added, “Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it.”
President Donald Trump even tweeted an Epstein conspiracy theory connecting the Clintons to the death, a claim for which there is no evidence, as #clintonbodycount trended on Twitter.
However, many people thought the death was curious. Members of Congress demanded answers. Questions abounded. Among them: Why Epstein was taken off suicide watch. “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a news release. CNN reported that Barr was “livid.”
Aaron Katersky, of the ABC investigative unit, also wrote on Twitter that Epstein was dead. “Jeffrey Epstein is dead. Sources tell @abc. Epstein committed suicide at MCC Manhattan.” NBC News then followed the ABC report and confirmed that Epstein has died, as did other prominent news outlets.
“JEFFREY EPSTEIN IS DEAD, FOUR OFFICIALS SAY. THEY SAY HE DIED BY SUICIDE,” reported NBC’s Tom Winter.
Epstein had been facing 45 years in prison if convicted of the sex trafficking and conspiracy charges that alleged he was involved in the sex trafficking of underage girls in New York and Florida.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Epstein’s Apparent Cause of Death Was Hanging But He Had Broken Neck Bones, Reports Say
What was the cause of death? Lauren Peikoff, a senior producer for MSNC, wrote on Twitter that Epstein died of hanging. Prison guards found Epstein dead, according to TMZ. He was 66-years-old and fighting charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy, some of which involved minors as young as age 14.
However, the Washington Post is now reporting, through sources, that he had broken neck bones, per his autopsy. That can be found in hangings but is more common in homicide by strangulation, the newspaper added. The hyoid bone was among those broke, The Post reported.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that no foul play was suspected and Epstein died of an “apparent suicide,” according to CNN. It’s believed Epstein hanged himself. CNN reported that the FBI is investigating the death.
The news comes after a slew of once-sealed documents named prominent politicians (who denied the accusations) in connection with the Epstein scandal. Jeffrey Epstein was an extremely wealthy investment adviser who hobnobbed with some of the world’s most famous people, including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. According to Politico, both the president and former president had flown on Epstein’s private planes. However, although Clinton and Trump knew Jeffrey Epstein, there have been no proven accusations of sexual impropriety involving them in connection with Epstein.
Trump once called Epstein “a great guy” and Clinton “flew on Epstein’s jet more than two dozen times on various philanthropic trips,” AP reported.
2. The Reports of Epstein’s Death Came After a Possible Previous Failed Suicide Attempt
In late July 2019, Epstein “was discovered semi-conscious, in a fetal position, with marks on his neck,” sources told NBC News.
However, on that occasion he was able to walk into a federal court hearing with no outward signs of injury on July 31, 2019, according to NBC. In the earlier attempt, authorities weren’t sure whether Epstein tried to hang himself or was injured by a fellow inmate, however.
Further details of Epstein’s August 10, 2019 reported suicide were not yet clear. Epstein was supposed to be on suicide watch after the earlier attempt, according to ABC but CNN reported that he was taken off it before his death. BBC’s Megha Mohan wrote on Twitter, “So many questions now. One being how Epstein could have killed himself at MCC Manhattan – the jail where the 1993 World Trade Centre bomber as well as El Chapo was held. It’s supposed to have the strictest security and be ‘tougher than Guantanemo Bay.'”
The charges against Epstein allege in part that he would bring underage girls to his Palm Beach mansion for sexual activity, luring them to Florida with the use of “female fixers,” according to The Associated Press. He also had a private Caribbean island and other homes throughout the United States.
3. There Was a Major Development in the Case the Day Before Epstein’s Death
Some of the world’s most prominent people have been caught up in the Epstein scandal. Among them: Prince Andrew. A federal court in New York released new documents in a 2015 defamation case involving Epstein the day before his death, CNN reported.
The documents shed light on specific claims made by Virginia Roberts Giuffre against the multimillionaire. She was recruited for Epstein’s alleged sex ring “while working as a teenage locker room attendant at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort,” according to Politico.
According to CNN, the new documents also contained new allegations that Guiffre alleged she was told to have sex with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former US Sen. George Mitchell. Both men fervently and categorically denied those claims. They have not been charged in connection with the case.
Guiffre alleged that she was Epstein’s “sex slave” when she was a teenager and that a British woman named Ghislane Maxwell assisted Epstein. Maxwell was not charged in the case.
Giuffre has long claimed that she was told to perform sex acts with Prince Andrew, who has adamantly denied those claims. Another woman also made an allegation against Prince Andrew in the new documents, sparking Buckingham Palace to tell CNN, “This relates to proceedings in the United States, to which The Duke of York is not a party. Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.”
4. Epstein Was a Very Wealthy Man Due to His Financial Success
Some sites have put Epstein’s net worth at as much as a billion dollars, although others refer to him as a multimillionaire. Either way, he was a very rich man who spent a lot of time in the Virgin Islands.
He started out as an options trader for Bear Stearns and also has a background in mathematics. Once he left Bear Stearns, he started his own financial company called J. Epstein & Co., which helped manage the assets of the extremely wealthy.
The company, eventually named The Financial Trust Company, was based on St. Thomas island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can read more about Epstein’s net worth here.
5. Epstein Received a Controversial Plea Deal
Epstein was accused in the indictment of having “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his home in Manhattan, New York, Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.” He had pleaded not guilty to the accusations in federal court.
However, that news came after a major investigative report by the Miami Herald that shed light on a plea deal that Epstein received in 2008 in Florida. That plea deal was approved by Alexander Acosta, who was a prosecutor at the time but would go on to become Secretary of Labor for Donald Trump. Acosta later resigned.
The plea agreement was widely criticized for such aspects as keeping details of Epstein’s crimes scret and allowing him to avoid more serious charges in federal court. The victims alleged in a lawsuit that they were shut out of process.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating that deal.
The eventual indictment he faced alleged that Epstein “intentionally sought out minors.” It painted lurid details, alleging Epstein would ask young girls, even those who were only 14, to address and massage him.
“During the encounter, Epstein would escalate the nature and scope of physical contact with his victim to include, among other things, sex acts such as groping and direct and indirect contact with the victim’s genitals,” the indictment states, also alleging that Epstein would also masturbate during the encounters and “ask victims to touch him while he masturbated, and touch victims’ genitals with his hands or with sex toys.” You can read more about the indictment here.
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