This is completely outrageous…
One female had been an aspiring Texas violinist. Another was a foreign model that was struggling. In her comments, a female invoked her own children. Another said that because of her experience she had stayed single for years.
One by one, on Tuesday, the females went up to a table in Manhattan’s crowded federal courtroom, telling their tale of how financier Jeffrey Epstein had violated them, then leveraging his authority and riches to silence them for years at times. For many, it was the first time they spoke about their experience in public.
Epstein was not there, having killed himself two weeks earlier in prison. But at a hearing, more than 16 of his accusers appeared to dismiss the accusation to discuss the suffering they had suffered and a criminal judicial scheme they said had neglected them.
Many voiced frustration that after hanging himself with a bedsheet, Epstein had stolen them of the opportunity to face him in trial. “For that, he is a coward,” one of the women, Courtney Wild, said.
“I feel very angry and sad,” Wild added. “Justice has never been served in this case.”
The hearing was a moment of catharsis in a criminal proceeding that attracted intense national attention due to Epstein’s ties with several wealthy and powerful people, including President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew of Britain.
Several of Epstein’s accusers explained how at a young age they were forced to have sex with him for cash, then they were forced to keep seeing him through threats and career promises. “These are things that so many girls can relate to,” said one of the women, speaking anonymously. “Change needs to happen.”
Prosecutors guaranteed the court that the investigation would proceed with others who are thought to have helped Epstein in his long-running system of sex trafficking, assisting to procure dozens of adolescent girls and women.
The dismissal of Epstein’s case “in no way prohibits or inhibits the government’s ongoing investigation into other potential co-conspirators, nor does it prevent the bringing of a new case in the future,” a government prosecutor, Maurene Comey, said. She added those inquiries “have been ongoing, remain ongoing and will continue.”
Judge Richard M. Berman scheduled the hearing Tuesday after last week’s federal attorneys wrote to him stating they intended to withdraw the criminal charges against Epstein in light of his death — a judgment that needs permission from a judge. Noting the public’s intense interest in the situation, he called on victims to talk.
“I believe it is the court’s responsibility, and manifestly within its purview, to ensure the victims in this case are treated fairly and with dignity,” he said at the start of the hearing.
Prosecutors had charged that Epstein, 66, brought dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, to his mansion in New York and to his compound in Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005. During naked massage sessions, he then participated in sex acts with the women, attorneys said, paying hundreds of dollars in money each time.
Epstein also encouraged some of his victims to recruit additional girls who were then abused, allowing him to maintain “a steady supply of new victims to exploit,” the indictment had charged. He was indicted on allegations of sex trafficking and accusation of sex trafficking, and could have faced up to 45 years in prison if sentenced.
The judge, in a brief order, said he wanted to hold the hearing because the public might still have an “interest in the process by which the prosecutor seeks dismissal of an indictment.”
The judge did not elaborate, but his statement seemed to recognize the extraordinary public interest in the issues surrounding the death of Epstein and the future of the wider investigation of his associates by the government.
Berman said in the order that he wanted to hear from the prosecution and the lawyers who had represented Epstein, and he also invited the accusers of Epstein and their lawyers to go to court if they wanted to.
The hearing was shifted from the regular courtroom of the judge to a much bigger one that is typically used for high-profile cases to underline the large stake in the issue.
About 6:30 a.m. Aug. 10, Epstein was discovered dead after apparently hanging himself in his prison cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center with a bedsheet.
Law enforcement officials say he wasn’t checked on for about three hours, a prison protocol breach. The medical examiner from the town said on Aug. 16 that suicide had caused Epstein to die.
The news of the death of Epstein — and the conditions concerning it — sent shock waves through the judicial structure and spurred an outcry by Congress and investigations by the FBI and the inspector general of the Justice Department.
Attorney General William Barr called the shortcomings at the jail “serious irregularities,” and pledged to determine why Epstein was apparently left unsupervised just weeks after he was taken off suicide watch after an apparent initial attempt at killing himself on July 23.
“We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability,” Barr said after Epstein’s death.