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Jeffrey Epstein's lust for young girls appears 'uncontrollable,' judge says in denying bail to accused sex trafficker

Key Points
  • A federal judge denied bail to wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein, citing the potential danger he poses to the public and the risk that Epstein will flee to avoid prosecution for child sex trafficking charges.
  • Epstein, 66, asked a judge to release him on a bond of as much as $100 million or more, with conditions that would include requiring him to remain in his New York City mansion, with round-the-clock security monitoring, and an electronic trafficking device.
  • Epstein, a former friend of presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, was arrested on July 6 after a federal grand jury indicted him on a charge of sex trafficking, and one count of conspiring to commit sex trafficking.
Courtroom sketch showing Jeffrey Epstein at his bail hearing in New York on July 15th, 2019.
Artist: Christine Cornell

A federal judge on Thursday denied bail to wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein, citing the potential danger to "new victims" from his apparently "uncontrollable" sexual fixation on young girls, and the risk that Epstein would flee to avoid prosecution for child sex trafficking charges.

The decision by Judge Richard Berman means that the 66-year-old Epstein will remain in jail pending trial in the case, where he faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

Berman, in a damning written order released hours after a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan where he verbally announced his bail ruling, said that lewd photos of young women found in Epstein's mansion are troubling, as is evidence that he tried to influence the potential testimony of accusers and people who allegedly abetted his conduct.

"This newly discovered evidence also suggests that Mr. Epstein poses 'ongoing and forward-looking danger,'" the judge wrote. "Mr. Epstein's dangerousness is considerable and includes sex crimes with minor girls and tampering with potential witnesses."

In the order, Berman said, "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."

"I doubt any bail package could overcome dangerousness ... to community," Berman said during the hearing, agreeing with the recommendation by prosecutors to keep Epstein locked up.

Berman said that risk was "the heart of this decision" to deny the financier release on bond.

He noted that two women who claim they were abused by Epstein gave "compelling testimony" at a court hearing Monday, where they had expressed "fear for their safety."

"The Court is also concerned for new victims," Berman added in his written order.

The judge also called Epstein's proposal for bail "irretrievably inadequate."

Epstein, a former friend of presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, had asked Berman to release him on a bond as much as $100 million or more.

Epstein had also suggested strict bail conditions, which could include requiring him to remain in his New York City mansion, round-the-clock security monitoring, and an electronic tracking device.

Berman, countered, however, that prosecutors had established that Epstein could be dangerous by "clear and convincing evidence," and had shown by a "preponderance" of evidence that he could flee.

The judge noted Epstein's "great wealth and his vast resources," which include private planes and a residence in Paris.

Berman also said Epstein's possession of a passport issued by Austria worried him.

That expired passport has Epstein's photo but a different name on it, as well as a stated residence in Saudi Arabia. It was used in the 1980s for travel, according to prosecutors.

In a letter Thursday, Epstein's lawyers said he was given the passport by a friend at a time when "some Jewish-Americans were informally advised at the time to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally in case of hijacking."

"He never used the document to travel internationally and never presented it to any immigration or customs authority. The passport stamps, predating his receipt of the document, do not reflect Mr. Epstein's entries or exits," the lawyers wrote.

Berman's decision denying bail additionally noted that Epstein recently made payments to potential witnesses against him, that there have been allegations that Epstein failed to comply with requirements for registered sex offenders, and that agents of his intimidated witnesses in a prior investigation.

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NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992

Berman also cited other "items seized" from Epstein's Manhattan mansion the day he was arrested beyond the suspicious passport, which included a trove of "sexually explicit photos," $70,000 in cash, and dozens of diamonds.

At least one of the women in the photos has been identified as someone who was underage at the time the pictures were taken, according to prosecutors.

"The Government's evidence against Mr. Epstein appears strong," Berman wrote in his order.

"The evidence includes testimony of victims, some of whom were minor girls when they were allegedly sexually abused by Mr. Epstein; other witnesses, including potential co-conspirators; physical evidence, including passports reflecting extensive foreign travel; sexually suggestive photographs of nude underage girls; plea discussions; and police reports describing witness tampering and intimidation."

Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for some of Epstein's alleged victims, said outside the courthouse that she was "thrilled with the judge's decision."

"Only by taking away Jeffrey Epstein's freedom can we ensure the freedom of these victims," McCawley said.

It's "a wonderful day for the victims," she added. "It was the right thing to do and I'm happy that he did it."

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters

Since Epstein's arrest, prosecutors have wanted to keep him locked up without bail, calling him a serious flight risk and a danger to the public.

They also have said that in recent months Epstein, who is worth as much as $500 million, had made payments to "co-conspirators who might provide information against him."

Epstein was arrested July 6 at a New Jersey airport after a federal grand jury in Manhattan indicted him on a charge of sex trafficking, and conspiring to commit sex trafficking.

The indictment alleges Epstein sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his Upper East Side, Manhattan, townhouse, and his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion from 2002 through 2005.

Berman on Thursday scheduled a conference for prosecutors and Epstein's lawyers on July 31.

Last week, Trump's Labor secretary, Alex Acosta, resigned after heavy criticism for cutting a deal with Epstein in 2007 —when Acosta was the top federal prosecutor in Miami — that allowed Epstein to escape federal criminal charges related to his alleged abuse of girls.

In exchange for that deal, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to prostitution-related charges filed by Florida state prosecutors, and to register as a sex offender.

He was jailed for 13 months in that case, but spent most of his time on work release. A lawyer for a number of Epstein's accusers said this week that while on work release in his office, Epstein had sexual contact with at least one woman.

—Additional reporting by CNBC's Sunny Kim.