MANHATTAN (CN) – Wealthy pedophile Jeffrey Epstein asked a federal judge Thursday for leave to await trial inside his $77 million mansion — an Upper East Side building that allegedly doubled as his sex-trafficking hub, where authorities claim to have recovered a large stash of child pornography.
“Mr. Epstein stands ready and willing to pay for 24-hour armed guards should the court deem it necessary or appropriate,” Epstein’s attorney Reid Weingarten wrote in a 15-page letter.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who is presiding over Epstein’s case, is unlikely to find the convicted child sex-offender’s proposal appropriate.
In the unrelated 2016 trial of Reza Zarrab, a gold trader who perpetrated the biggest money laundering scheme to Iran in U.S. history, the veteran jurist struck a blow against the phenomenon of well-healed criminal defendants buying cushy bail packages.
Zarrab wanted to await trial in a Manhattan high-rise that The New York Times described as a “gilded cage,” sparking a passionate opinion from Judge Berman against a two-tiered system of justice for the rich and poor.
“Most importantly, the defendant’s privately funded armed guard proposal is unreasonable because it helps to foster inequity and unequal treatment in favor of a very small cohort of criminal defendants who are extremely wealthy, such as Mr. Zarrab,” Berman wrote at the time.
Acknowledging the Zarrab precedent, Epstein’s attorneys claimed such a ruling would discriminate against the rich.
“Those reservations, though admirably motivated and sincerely held, raise substantial equal protection concerns,” the memo argues. “They impair the statutory right to release on the least restrictive conditions in the circumstances presented – an inherently individualized determination – based largely on socioeconomic status, a suspect if not invidious classification.”
“Avoiding ‘inequity and unequal treatment’ rooted in such dubious socioeconomic distinctions – doing ‘equal right to the poor’ and ‘rich’ alike – are imperatives that run both ways,” it continues.
Epstein’s attorneys appear poised to fight a constitutional battle challenging that precedent, citing other cases where millionaires and billionaires were able to prepare for trial in luxury.
“More precisely, we realize that Your Honor objects to the measure as more akin to custody than release, finding it inequitable for wealthier defendants to ‘buy their way out’ of jail pending trial,” the motion states. “Nonetheless, a band of other courts in our area have endorsed the procedure, and the Second Circuit has affirmed its use.”
Listing 14 measures to keep their client from fleeing, Epstein’s attorneys will have to do more than defend systemic inequalities in the U.S. criminal justice system. They will have to persuade Judge Berman and, failing that, appellate courts, that a registered sex offender of unknown wealth who owns properties around the world is not a danger to the community or a risk of flight.
None of the measures proposed by Weingarten prohibits Epstein from contacting his alleged victims. Prosecutors claim that the 66-year-old has a history of attempting to “harass or tamper with witnesses” through his proxies, relating one incident in which his private investigator trailed an unnamed father, who was “forc[ed] off the road.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, whose reply memo is due on Friday, declined to comment on Epstein’s request.
On Monday, the day Epstein’s indictment was unsealed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller told a federal magistrate that the tycoon’s finances were a mystery.
"The defendant has refused to answer any questions about his income or assets for the pretrial services report, so the scope of his wealth and his assets remains entirely concealed to the government and to the court," Rossmiller had said.
Weingarten offered to disclose Epstein’s finances under seal to Berman, who has issued high-profile rulings favoring transparency from the earliest days of his career. Before becoming a federal judge, Berman presided over Queens Family Court and allowed for press access in a child custody dispute involving Carl Everett.
If Epstein’s finances hit the public light, such information could resolve a longstanding controversy over how he makes his money and whether he is billionaire.
Though prosecutors called Epstein a man of “nearly infinite means,” Tthe New York Times reported that this reputation might be “more illusion than fact.”
Epstein’s bail hearing is scheduled for Monday.
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