MANHATTAN (CN) – More than a dozen victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s decades-long sexual abuse network gave voice to their traumatic stories in New York federal court Tuesday, two weeks after the finance tycoon hanged himself while awaiting trial in the neighboring jail.
Sixteen of Epstein’s victims spoke in person, and another six had their statements read into the record, as part of the procedural close of Epstein’s prosecution in the Southern District of New York.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey reiterated at the hearing Tuesday that proceedings against Epstein’s recruiters and third-party co-conspirators remain ongoing.
“To be very clear, dismissal of this indictment as to Jeffrey Epstein in no way prohibits or inhibits the government’s ongoing investigation into other potential coconspirators, nor does it prevent the bringing of a new case in the future or the prosecution of new defendants,” Comey said this morning.
Introduced in court by attorney Brad Edwards from the South Florida law firm Edwards Pottinger, the first victim to make a statement was Courtney Wild, who had previously urged U.S. District Judge Richard Berman at a July bail hearing to keep Epstein in pretrial detention for the safety of any girls who were trapped by his manipulation and abuse.
“Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused me for years, robbing me of my innocence and mental health,” Wild said during her brief remarks this morning, beginning a 90-minute queue of heart-wrenching victim stories.
“Jeffrey Epstein has done nothing but manipulate our justice system, where he has never been held accountable for his actions, even to this day,” Wild said. “Jeffrey Epstein robbed myself and all the other victims of our day in court to confront him one by one, and for that he is a coward.”
After Wild, Edwards introduced an anonymous accuser identified in court as Jane Doe #1 who said that Epstein’s death as had an incalculable impact in making her a victim.
“I don’t like that word,” she said, “but I still feel like I am learning the ways that he’s impacted me as a complex situation, but he was also a major part of my life.”
“It felt like a whole new trauma all over again, and I don’t know why, you know, because I — I’m trying to defend myself against him at this point in my life, but it still does not feel good,” the first anonymous victim said. “It didn’t feel good to wake up that morning and find out that he had allegedly committed suicide.”
Despite Epstein not being brought to trial, the victim said she was hopeful that the attention paid to the depraved Epstein saga could be cause for societal change.
“Even though this whole situation sucks, I would like to think that it may be possibly a catalyst for change because, obviously, as we’re seeing with the ‘Me Too’ movement, change needs to happen and it’s — what I’m seeing in the papers is not a common story, but it’s so much more common than you realize,” she said
In the wake of Epstein’s July 10 death at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, some of the focus for ongoing accountability has shifted to his alleged accomplice and recruiter, British socialite Ghislane Maxwell, whom victims referenced many times at Tuesday’s hearing.
While many of these victims called for an investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, Chauntae Davies was the first victim to mention Maxwell by name, saying Maxwell recruited her and brought her to Epstein’s private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands where she gave Epstein massages and then was raped by Epstein in the villa he shared with Maxwell.
“Every woman sitting in this room today, and all of the women who have yet come forward and who have not yet to come forward and whose lives have been affected by Jeffrey Epstein’s sick abuse of young girls, we have all suffered, and he is still winning in death,” Davies said. “I refuse to let this man win in death. I couldn’t fight back when Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused me because I hadn’t yet found my voice. Well, I have found my voice now, and while Jeffrey may no longer be here to hear it, I will not stop fighting, and I will not be silenced anymore.”
Represented by the law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner, Virginia Roberts Giuffre also said that she had been assaulted by Maxwell and Epstein “in the dark and cruel and criminal acts they committed against me and hundreds of other girls and young women for years and years and years, unstopped.”
A day before Epstein was found hanging in his MCC jail cell, the Second Circuit unsealed thousands of pages of damning exhibit evidence against Epstein from Giuffre’s defamation lawsuit against Maxwell for denying sex-trafficking accusations.
Another victim, Theresa Helm also demanded that Maxwell and another Epstein accomplice, Sarah Kellen, be brought to justice.
“Jeffrey is no longer here, and the women that helped him are,” Helm said “My experience is with Ghislaine Maxwell and Sarah Kellen, and they definitely need to be held accountable for helping him, helping themselves, helping one another carry on this huge, almost like a system. So they need to be held accountable, all of them, and I would like to see that, certainly on behalf of myself and for everyone here.”
Epstein’s defense table at the Tuesday hearing included Boston-based attorney Martin Weinberg and Reid Weingarten and Michael Miller from Steptoe & Johnson. A fourth chair closest to the jury box, one where Epstein himself may have sat if he were alive, remained empty.
Weinberg and Weingarten both called for Judge Berman to probe Epstein’s death during pretrial custody at the MCC.
Weingarten urged the federal judge to visit the nearby detention facility to experience the “dreadful” conditions firsthand.
“Whether or not this indictment is dismissed, I think this court has the inherent authority to find out what happened on its watch,” Weingarten said. “Obviously, when the court detained Jeffrey Epstein, the court did not anticipate that weeks later he would be dead in his cell. I think given the inherent authority of the court, the court should make inquiry.”
Weingarten added: “We understand that there were orders out there that Jeffrey Epstein was never to be left alone and that the orders were ignored by many of the employees of the prison. In a word, yikes.”
An anonymous Jane Doe victim with dyed-blue hair referenced Weinberg’s “yikes” moment as she testified about Epstein molesting her at his New Mexico ranch in 2004 when she was 15.
“What I remember most vividly was him explaining to me how beneficial the experience was for me and how much he was helping me to grow. Yikes,” the victim said calmly, directing her gaze briefly at the defense table.
Represented by famed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, the anonymous victim described the weight of her trauma. “I felt powerless not merely because one man wanted to strip me of my innocence, but because I was the victim of a system that just enfranchises human beings, making them vulnerable to pedophilic exploitation,” she said. “As unjust as what happened to me was, I believe that experience to be a symptom of insidious and pathological violence that extreme wealth yields, a violence which ultimately stays hidden through channels of extreme power that serve it.”
Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that their investigation into Epstein-related sex-trafficking crimes remains active and ongoing.