MANHATTAN (CN) – Between the decoy passport, his status as a convicted sex offender and untold assets of over half a billion dollars, Jeffrey Epstein had been an unlikely candidate for bail pending trial on sex-trafficking charges.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman made that denial official Thursday, easing the fears of victims who protested Epstein’s bid to hole up at the $77 million New York mansion prosecutors have marked as a crime scene.
“I find that the government has established danger to others and to the community by clear and convincing evidence,” Berman said, reciting his ruling this morning at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse.
Citing remarks to the court by two new accusers – Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild – Berman said during the brief hearing that one consideration stood out above all others.
Farmer said she was 16 years old when she had the “misfortune” to meet Epstein, who sent her to his ranch in New Mexico. Wild claimed that Epstein sexually abused her at the age of 14.
In his ruling, Berman emphasized that their testimony at a bail hearing this week carried weight.
“There is another very important issue to be considered in this case,” the 33-page opinion released by Berman early this evening states. “It has to do with ‘victims’ of the crimes charged in the Indictment. Victims refer to the ‘minor’ girls who are alleged to have been sexually trafficked by the defendant.”
One subhead of the ruling declares flatly: “Mr. Epstein Or His Representatives Have Intimidated, Threatened, And/Or Made Payments To Potential Witnesses,” quoting a Palm County police incident report quoting one of Epstein’s victims as having threatened by representatives for the sex offender.
“Those who help [Mr. Epstein] will be compensated and those who hurt [Mr. Epstein] will be dealt with,” the report states, as quoted in the ruling.
Berman also emphasized Epstein’s danger to the community at this morning’s hearing, which lasted less than 15 minutes. He previously described that danger as the “heart” of his decision.
Finding a risk of flight by “preponderance of the evidence,” Berman noted that the sex offender’s safe contained an Austrian passport bearing Epstein’s image but another name as well as a Saudi residence. Epstein self-reported more than $500 million in assets to a still-unidentified financial institute, but he would not provide a forensic accounting of his untold wealth unless granted bail.
Bail refusal hardly came as a surprise: Berman rejected a similar package three years ago in the case of gold trader Reza Zarrab, who wanted to await his trial for the biggest money-laundering scheme in U.S. history in a Manhattan high rise.
In the Zarrab case, Berman found that such pretrial accommodations would “foster inequity and unequal treatment” in the criminal-justice system, and those concerns had been amplified with Epstein.
Berman said that overseeing the financier’s deluxe home incarceration is “not the court’s function.”
“The defense bail package proposes excessive involvement of the court in routine aspects of Mr. Epstein’s proposed home confinement,” the opinion states.
The Miami Herald’s investigative series “Perversion of Justice” reignited interest in a secret plea deal Epstein struck with the government a decade ago, allowing him to plead guilty to state-level prostitution charges instead of a federal indictment accusing him of the serial sex-abuse of underage girls. The paper likened the abuse to a “Sex Pyramid Scheme,” in which recruiters lured vulnerable girls with money to give Epstein massages that turned into assaults, and then deployed the girls to find others.
Florida’s work-release program allowed Epstein to serve out most days of his 13-month sentence outside his county jail cell, and an attorney for one of the financier’s new accusers alleged he had sexual relations during that release with young women who — unlike the victims in this case — are believed to be over the age of consent.
Meanwhile the number of underaged girls Epstein is believed to have abused keeps growing.
A Florida lawsuit over Epstein’s old plea deal placed that number at more than 30, but that was before prosecutors blasted a hotline 1-800-CALL-FBI seeking more victims. Prosecutors say untold numbers have been calling.