2019-07-08 19:23:511 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Jeffrey Epstein (Image source: Public domain)
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein had friends all over the place, but he's going to have a hard time finding them now. The convicted sex offender, who has ties to both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, has pleaded not guilty after being charged with running a sex-trafficking ring.
Epstein was arrested on Saturday at Teterboro Airport in New Jesery when returning home from Paris, France. U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan charged him after he escaped similar charges more than a decade ago with a non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors in Maimi. The new charges allege he committed sex-trafficking crimes between 2002 and 2005 in both New York and Palm Beach, Florida.
The U.S. attorney in Florida in 2008, Alexander Acosta, gave Epstein what has been referred to as the "deal of a lifetime." Despite 36 underage victims being identified in a federal investigation, the deal allowed him to avoid major repercussions.
The deal allowed Epstein to plead guilty to two state prostitution charges, leading to him serving just 13 months in jail, paying restitution to his victims, and registering as a sex offender, avoiding an embarrassing public trial.
That deal "essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe" and gave immunity to "any potential co-conspirators," according to the Miami Herald.
Acosta is now the Labor secretary in Trump's administration. He said earlier this year he welcomed an investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility into how he handled Epstein's plea.
The new charges state Epstein ran a trafficking ring where he paid hundreds of dollars to underage girls as young as 1 to have sex with him in his Upper East Side home and estate in Palm Beach. It's also alleged he worked with employees and associates who would lure the girls to his homes and even paid some of his victims to recruit more girls, similar to R Kelly.
"In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis," said the U.S. Attorney's office in a press release.
Similar to Bill Cosby, Epstein had a predatory pattern. The young girls were taken to a room in his New York home where they were told to give him a massage while nude. During this he would work his way into physical contact with them, including "one or more sex acts."
"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," according to the indictment.
Armed with a search warrant, agents searched the billionaire's Manhattan mansion and removed "evidence, including nude photographs of what appeared to be underage girls," according to Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Prosecutors have said Epstein "has continued to maintain a vast trove of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls in his Manhattan mansion. Along with "at least hundreds — and perhaps thousands" of photographs, there were compact discs that were found with labels of "Young [Name] + [Name]," "Misc nude 1," and "Girl pics nude."
"It's a great step forward," said David Boies, the attorney for three of Epstein's alleged victims. "This one is something that was a long time coming — too long. It is a great step towards getting justice for these victims, and the prosecutors in New York deserve a lot of credit for putting this together."
"This indictment is important on two levels: first and most important, it is a big step towards getting justice for the many victims of Epstein's sex-trafficking ring," listed Boies. "Second, it's also important because it is a correction of what should have happened 10 years ago. The Justice Department is now doing what it can to make things right."
"The charges are very serious," said Berman, "and they carry a maximum of 45 years in jail, which to someone of Epstein's age is basically a life sentence."
Berman added that his office is "not bound" by the plea deal Epstein agreed to more than a decade ago, as that only binds the Southern District of Florida and not the Southern District of New York.
Before Epstein appeared in court, he was identified by prosecutors as "an extraordinary risk of flight," and to "protect the safety of the community," it was requested he be detained pending trial, as he could "attempt to pressure and intimidate witnesses and potential witnesses in this case, including victims and their families, and otherwise attempt to obstruct justice."
It was noted that he has three U.S. passports, two private jets, and at least 15 cars.
Epstein pleaded not guilty to one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He faces up to 45 years in prison if he is convicted of both charges. His detention hearing is set for Thursday afternoon, and he will be detained until then.
"To us, this indictment is essentially a do-over. ... This is the very stuff that was investigated by the feds in Florida," said Epstein's attorney Reid Weingarten.
Attorney General William Barr recused himself from the case because one of the law firms that represented Epstein many years ago was a frim Barr eventually joined.
While both Trump and Clinton were known friends of Epstein around the time he was allegedly running this sex-trafficking ring, it's unknown if they were involved. There is speculation with their pasts that they may have been, but at this time there is no knowledge of it.
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