NY Prosecutors Charge Jeffrey Epstein With Sex Trafficking

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman speaks during a news conference, in New York, Monday, July 8, 2019. Federal prosecutors announced sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Unsealed court documents show Epstein is charged with creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Federal authorities recovered nude photographs of underage girls from the Upper East Side mansion of extraordinarily wealthy pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, prosecutors revealed after unsealing a sex-trafficking indictment on Monday morning.

Wearing dark blue prison garb, the convicted pedophile pleaded not guilty this afternoon. U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman presided over today’s presentment and arraignment, occurring more than a decade after Epstein entered a secret plea deal in Florida that continues to haunt both his victims and a Trump cabinet member.

“Over the course of many years, the defendant, Jeffrey Epstein, sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations,” the 14-page indictment states.

With Judge Pitman giving the Epstein’s defense more time to make a case for bail, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller warned that Epstein would pose “an extraordinary risk of flight” if released.

“He’s a man of nearly infinite means,” Rossmiller said.

During the day’s second Epstein hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman asked prosecutors whether others might join the tycoon at the defense table.

“It may be early in your investigation to know,” Berman noted. “Do you anticipate that there may be other defendants in this proceeding?”

“Your honor, we don’t expect any imminent superseding indictments in this case,” Rossmiller replied. “It certainly is possible down the road.”

Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown has been widely credited for the reversal of fortune for Epstein, who had been allowed to serve out a paltry 13-month sentence in a county jail. Brown’s Polk Award-winning series “Perversion of Justice” revealed that Epstein largely spent that term outside of prison on work leave and included a nonprosecution agreement for Epstein’s associates.

“We were assisted by some excellent investigative journalism,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who is of no relation to the federal judge, obliquely confirmed during a press conference.

The Herald’s revelations catapulted the decade-old deal back into the national conversation.

Defense attorney Reid Weingarten noted that the 2008 agreement had been “approved all the way up to Main Justice,” and seemed at the time to be a “global agreement.”

In the wake of the journalistic scrutiny, a federal judge in Florida is considering voiding that agreement as a violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

“That should chill the blood of every defense attorney who negotiates a deal with the United States,” Weingarten said.

New York prosecutors note that they are not a party to that agreement, and their allegations are based on evidence of crimes committed within their jurisdiction.

Epstein’s counsel noted that offenses their client pleaded guilty to in the Florida case were far more minor.

“Numerous girls were interviewed, employees were interviewed, and it is fair to say that a significant segment of the law enforcement community in Florida thought what we had in hand was simple prostitution,” Weingarten said. “There was no coercion. There were no threats. There was no violence. And it is also fair to say that a significant portion of the law enforcement community in Florida believed that a local misdemeanor was the appropriate sanction.”

Federal prosecutors bristled at that characterization of the tycoon’s conduct.

“Certainly, the concept of child prostitution is, frankly, offensive and not recognized in federal law,” Rossmiller said. “The idea that children can consent to sex and be prostitutes is beyond the realm of federal law which contemplates trafficking, which is what has been charged here.”

Pitman, the magistrate judge, also pushed back at the argument by Epstein’s counsel.

“Well, if the women involved were under 18, isn’t that rape?” Pitman asked.

“My understanding,” Weingarten tried to say before being interrupted.

“Legally they are incapable of consent, are they not?” Pitman pressed.

“Well, that could be statutory rape,” Weingarten allowed, before later calling that concession a “senior moment.”

“There is no statutory rape because there is no penetration, and that is the answer to that question,” the attorney added.

While Epstein’s attorneys insist the allegations involve “ancient conduct,” prosecutors note that they are not subject to the statute of limitations.

Now, Berman revealed, federal authorities have obtained more physical evidence.

“Contemporaneous with the arrest of Epstein at Teterboro Airport, agents executed a search warrant of his mansion in New York City,” Berman said, disclosing details about a raid on Epstein’s townhouse that produced photographs of agents appearing to break open the door with a crowbar.

Referring to the authorized raid on Epstein’s mansion, Berman said: “Agents seized evidence included nude photographs of what appeared to be underaged girls.”

In a 10-page memo opposing bail, prosecutors provided more details about Epstein’s stash of “at least hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of sexually suggestive photographs of fully- or partially-nude females,” some of whom “appear to be” underage girls.

“Additionally, some of the photographs referenced herein were discovered in a locked safe, in which law enforcement officers also found compact discs with hand-written labels including the following: ‘Young [Name] + [Name],’ ‘Misc nudes 1,’ and ‘Girl pics nude,’” the memo states.

Prosecutors added that counsel for one of the victims confirmed that one of the photographs showed an underage client.

“The defendant, a registered sex offender, is not reformed, he is not chastened, he is not repentant; rather, he is a continuing danger to the community and an individual who faces devastating evidence supporting deeply serious charges,” the memo continues.

The Daily Mail reported years ago that photographs of young girls were also recovered from his Florida property, during the prior prosecution that unraveled.

As the deal covered only those offenses that took place in the Southern District of Florida, federal prosecutors in New York seized upon that opening to arrest Epstein for offenses that took place within their jurisdiction between 2002 and 2005.

Prosecutors also warned that Epstein has shown an “apparent previous willingness” to “harass or tamper with witnesses,” citing an accusation that his private investigator followed an unnamed person’s father, who was “forc[ed] off the road.”

The indictment depicts a self-perpetuating network of Epstein enablers and victims.

“Moreover, in order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein,” the two-count indictment states.

The Daily Beast, which first broke news of Epstein’s arrest on Saturday, reported that he was intercepted at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons database showed that the 66-year-old Epstein became an inmate of New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center the next day.

The case will likely turn up scrutiny upon President Trump’s Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who gave Epstein a sweetheart deal in his capacity as a U.S. attorney in Florida in 2008.

A federal judge recently ruled that the agreement violated the rights of more than 30 victims.

Attorney David Boies, who represent victim Virginia Giuffre, revealed that New York prosecutors do not seem to be repeating that history.

“The victims have been notified — sometimes directly by the prosecutors, sometimes through their lawyers,” Boies said in an interview.

Prompting speculation that government officials will be next to fall, the Southern District of New York’s Public Corruption Unit are said to have pursued and filed today’s charges, which were signed by U.S. Attorney Berman.

Corroborating various news media accounts, prosecutors claim that Epstein’s victims were “as young as 14 years old” and that he paid them hundreds of dollars for what began as massages.

“During the encounter, Epstein would escalate the nature and scope of physical contact with his victim to include, among other things, sex acts such as groping and direct and indirect contact with the victim’s genitals,” the indictment states. “Epstein typically would also masturbate during these sexualized encounters, ask victims to touch him while he masturbated, and touch victims’ genitals with his hands or with sex toys.”

Epstein faces up to 45 years imprisonment if convicted of sex trafficking and a related conspiracy count.

The indictment does not identify his accused co-conspirators.

The Epstein case has been a thorn in the side of powerful government officials across the political spectrum. Former President Bill Clinton, who hitched multiple rides upon Epstein’s jet, the “Lolita Express,” quickly distanced himself from the freshly indicted sex offender.

“In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane: one to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation,” his statement reads. “Staff, supporters of the foundation, and his Secret Service detail traveled on every leg of the trip.”

Though Clinton acknowledged two meetings with Epstein in 2002 – one in the foundation’s Harlem office and another in Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse – the former president said the two have not spoken for more than a decade.

This photo shows the East Side residence of wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender who has been arrested in New York on sex trafficking charges, Monday July 8, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

President Trump, who previously claimed not to “know anything” about Epstein’s arrest this weekend, has been quoted with an eyebrow-raising assessment about Epstein’s sexual appetites.

“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years,” Trump was quoted as saying in New York Magazine. “Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

The quotation came from the magazine’s profile of Epstein in 2002, the year the allegations in the complaint begin.

Prosecutors seek the forfeiture of Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion.

Epstein was presented and arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Pitman, who will also preside over a bail hearing. The scope of Epstein’s vast and murky wealth will come into focus at that bail hearing, where prosecutors will argue that the convicted pedophile is a flight risk.

Asked whether Epstein is a billionaire, Berman told Courthouse News: “No comment.”

The government’s memo only hints at Epstein’s fortune, in references to his luxury properties in Manhattan, New York; Palm Beach, Florida; Stanley, New Mexico; a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Paris, France, where he flew from before his arrest.

The Manhattan residence alone, which prosecutors want to seize, is owned by a limited liability corporation and valued at $77 million.

“As described further below, the defendant possesses three active United States passports, and his international connections and travels are extensive,” the memo states. “For example, in addition to maintaining a residence in Paris, France, as described above, in the past 18 months alone, the defendant has traveled abroad, via private jet, either into or out of the country on approximately more than 20 occasions.”

Judge Berman, who is not related to the U.S. attorney filing the case in his courtroom, is no stranger to high-profile prosecutions. He presided over the prosecution of Reza Zarrab, who perpetrated the biggest money laundering scheme to Iran in U.S. history, and litigation between the NFL and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s union in the “Deflategate” scandal.

Before becoming a federal judge, Berman served on the bench of Queens Family Court, where he opened up public access in the case of Mets outfielder Carl Everett, in high-profile proceedings involving allegations of child abuse.

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