Politics

Jeffrey Epstein 'is a coward' whose jail suicide 'robbed' victims of their day in court, accuser says

Key Points
  • A woman who said she was sexually abused by wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein called him "a coward" for a jailhouse suicide that "robbed myself and all the other victims of our day in court" to confront him for his alleged crimes.
  • A federal prosecutor said Tuesday that Epstein's death will not stop the federal government's effort to get "justice for the victims in this case," and possibly to recoup money from the dead financier's large estate.
  • Epstein, a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, died from hanging himself earlier in August.
Jeffrey Epstein in 2004.
Rick Friedman | Corbis News | Getty Images

A woman who said Tuesday that she was sexually victimized by wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein called him "a coward" for a jailhouse suicide that "robbed myself and all the other victims of our day in court" to confront him for his alleged crimes.

"Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused me for years," the woman, Courtney Wild, said in U.S. District Court in Manhattan during a hearing called for prosecutors to formally dismiss the case against the former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton as a result of his death earlier in August.

"I feel very angry and sad and justice has never been served in this case," said Wild, one of nearly two dozen Epstein accusers who were heard by the court.

"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," she said.

But one accuser, who did not give her name, said, "I cannot say I am pleased he committed suicide but I am happy he will never have the opportunity to hurt anyone else."

The accusers who spoke Tuesday described, in sometimes stomach-churning details, their experiences with Epstein and his associates. Their stories include claims of rape, other sexual misconduct, emotional manipulation, threats to ruin their lives and promises of modeling work with Victoria's Secret.

One accuser said that she fled Epstein's clutches when he groped her, and tried to use a sex toy on her. Afterward, one of Epstein's employees warned the girl "to be careful, that Mr. Epstein knew powerful people including Bill Clinton."

Lawyers for the victims said there were many more women who were abused by Epstein than were in the courtroom.

Sarah Ransome, another accuser, urged prosecutors during the hearing, "Please, please finish what you have started ... we all know he did not act alone."

"We are all survivors, and the pursuit of justice should not abate," Ransome said.

Another accuser, who did not disclose her name, told Judge Richard Berman on Tuesday, "It didn't feel good to wake up that morning and hear he allegedly committed suicide."

"I still feel like I'm learning the ways he's impacted me," that woman said.

A third woman, who also did not give her name, said, "I think that many of us will never heal from what happened to us."

"As destructive as that relationship was and as much of a villain as we've created him to be, based on facts, we've created him to be a villain, but he's a complex villain."

At the time of his death from hanging, Epstein, 66, was accused of child sex trafficking by prosecutors, who said he had sexually exploited many minor girls from 2002 through 2005 at his luxurious residences in Manhattan and Florida.

Prosecutors said his abuse was abetted by a number of unidentified conspirators who helped provide him with a stream of young girls and women to satisfy his sexual obsessions.

The case against Epstein mirrored allegations investigated more than a decade ago by federal prosecutors in Florida and state prosecutors there.

After that investigation, the federal prosecutors declined to file serious charges against Epstein in exchange for his agreement to plead guilty to relatively minor state-filed prostitution-related charges, for which he served just 13 months in jail.

Teala Davies, an alleged victim of Jeffrey Epstein, speaks to the media while Gloria Allred, who is representing alleged victims, looks on after a hearing in the criminal case against Epstein, at Federal Court in New York, August 27, 2019.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

One of Epstein's accusers who spoke Tuesday said that "I was recruited by Ghislaine Maxwell," a longtime friend of Epstein.

Multiple other accusers made similar claims about Maxwell, a British socialite who is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, a media tycoon whose mysterious death at sea in 1991 led to him being exposed as a swindler who had looted his companies' pension funds of hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Ghislaine and Jeffrey took me in," the woman said. "They made me seem as though I was part of a family, something I desperately needed."

The accuser described a rape by Epstein that left her vomiting from stress for several days.

"Every woman who is sitting in this room today, we have all suffered and he is winning in death," the woman said. "His death has robbed me of that justice."

Maxwell, 57, long has been named by Epstein's accusers as a woman who recruited underage girls so that he could sexually abuse them under the pretext of getting massages at his properties in Manhattan, Palm Beach, Florida, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maxwell has denied any wrongdoing.

Another woman who spoke at the hearing, Theresa Helm, also named Maxwell and another Epstein confidante, Sarah Kellen, as "the women that helped him."

"My experience is with Ghislane Maxwell and Sarah Kellen, and they definitely need to be held accountable," Helm said. "It was almost a system, they need to be held accountable, all of them."

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who settled a civil defamation lawsuit against Maxwell for having called Giuffre's claims lies, said, "I am a victim of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislane Maxwell and the horrible acts they committed against me."

"I commend the prosecutors for the Southern District of New York for their ongoing pursuit of justice, said Giuffre, who also said she "was recruited by Ghislane Maxwell at Mar-A-Lago when I was 17, I was given hope that I could have a meaningful career as a massage therapist."

Giuffre said "the reckoning" against Epstein "must not end, it must continue."

A widely distributed photo in the media shows Giuffre as a girl smiling and posing next to a beaming Prince Andrew of Great Britain, as Maxwell stands smiling in the background. Epstein was friends with Andrew.

Neither Maxwell nor any other of Epstein's alleged conspirators has been criminally charged. But the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, has suggested some of them could be.

And Gloria Allred, a high-profile lawyer for a number of Epstein's accusers, told Judge Berman, "We do want truth. We do want justice. We do want those conspirators to face justice."

At the hearing Tuesday, one of Berman's prosecutors said Epstein's sucide will not stop the effort to get "justice for the victims in this case," and possibly to recoup money from the dead financier large financial estate.

VIDEO0:5800:58
NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992

"To be very clear today's dismissal in no way inhibits or prohibits the government's ongoing investigation," the prosecutor, Maurene Comey, said.

"It in no way does it prohibit the government from seeking civil forfeiture."

"The investigation into those matters has been ongoing, is ongoing and will continue," she said.

"This dismissal in no way deters the government's resolve in seeking justice for the victims in this case," Comey said.

Berman, the top prosecutor, opened Tuesday's hearing by saying that Epstein's death from hanging in a federal jail earlier in August is "rather a stunning turn of events" in the high-profile case.

Berman said he was giving Epstein's victims an opportunity to tell their stories to the judge both as a matter of law, and to show "respect" for the women who have come forward.

"I believe it is the court's responsibility and in its purview that the victims in the case are dealt with, with dignity and with humanity," Berman said.

Epstein was reportedly worth almost $580 million at the the time of his death. He had been held since his arrest without bail in the Manhattan Correctional Center after Berman ruled that he represented a danger to women if released given his sexual obsessions.

His suicide is being investigated by the FBI and the inspector general of the Justice Department, the federal agency that oversees the Bureau of Prisons, which runs the jail where Epstein was being held.

The suicide came less than a month after Epstein was placed on suicide watch after being found semiconscious with marks on his neck in his cell. Epstein was taken off sucide watch not long after that first incident.

Allred referred to that series of events at the hearing, saying, "Everybody knows the system failed, failed the victims, failed the court ... failed everyone."