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Judge denies Jeffrey Epstein's request for bail in sex traffic case

In this courtroom sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, second

In this courtroom sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, second from right, listens along with his attorneys in court Thursday. Photo Credit: AP/Aggie Kenny

A Manhattan federal judge on Thursday refused to release Jeffrey Epstein, finding that the half-billionaire  financier accused of sex trafficking had the resources to flee and was too great a danger on the streets because his attraction to young girls appeared “uncontrollable.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said discovery of a “trove” of hundreds of photos of naked young women in a search of Epstein’s Manhattan mansion highlighted the risk of releasing a man charged with sexually touching “dozens” of underage girls hired to provide nude massages.

“Mr. Epstein's alleged excessive attraction to sexual conduct with or in the presence of minor girls, which is said to include his soliciting and receiving massages from young girls and young women perhaps as many as four times a day, appears likely to be uncontrollable,” Berman wrote in a 33-page decision.

In the decision, following an oral ruling in court Thursday morning, Berman called Epstein an “ongoing and forward looking danger,” citing news articles, prosecution claims he might threaten witnesses, and two alleged victims who asked the judge to detain him at a Monday court hearing.

The judge also rejected as “irretrievably inadequate” a plan from Epstein’s lawyers to have him await trial under home detention at his $77 million East 71st Street mansion, monitored with an ankle bracelet, camera surveillance and possibly armed guards he would have hired.

“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” Berman said.

Epstein, 66, was arrested July 6 and charged with conspiracy and sex trafficking for allegedly hiring girls as young as 14 for massages and sexually abusing them at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.

In 2008, he pleaded guilty to two state prostitution felonies in Florida, served a 13-month jail sentence and registered as a sex offender as part of a deal to avoid federal charges in Florida. Whether that deal bars the new case in New York is a major point of contention.

Epstein has been held at the federal jail in Manhattan since his arrest. He can appeal Berman’s detention ruling, but his lawyers did not respond to an email about their plans.

Prosecutors argued Epstein’s wealth — a self-estimated net worth of $550 million — made him a severe flight risk. He owns six houses, including one in Paris, and a private jet, and agents reported finding $70,000 cash and diamonds in his mansion’s safe along with an expired Austrian passport with Epstein’s picture but a fake name.

Berman cited those factors but said his biggest concern was the danger Epstein presented. He quoted news articles raising questions about whether Epstein followed sex-offender reporting rules in New York and whether he had sex on work release during his Florida jail sentence.

The judge also said Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild, the two alleged victims who spoke in court, were “poignant,” and concluded that the nude photos discovered at Epstein’s house belied defense claims that the lack of charges since 2008 showed he has “disciplined” himself.

“It seems fair to say that Mr. Epstein’s future behavior will be consistent with past behavior, including the trove of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls which were recently uncovered,” he wrote.

Epstein’s lawyers say he kept the fake passport in the 1980s to obscure his Jewish identity in case of a hijacking. They offered to post a bond in any amount Berman ordered to secure release, and have said that the 2008 non-prosecution agreement in Florida puts the government’s case in doubt.

Prosecutors hotly dispute that claim, and legal experts have said New York federal prosecutors are probably not bound by the Florida deal.


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