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2019-08-27 20:40:311 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
These women have waited 15 years or so to get justice and their day in court, to face their tormenter and grab their power away from him. But when Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in prison, he robbed his many victims of that justice.
But on Tuesday his accusers finally got a chance to detail their abuse in court, though justice was robbed forever from them. He cannot spend any more time in jail and died of his own hand, not anyone else's.
The financier was arrested last month on charges of running a sex-trafficking ring that utilized teenage girls. These were new charges to add to those of soliciting prostitution that he served a short time in prison for a decade ago.
Epstein was found a few weeks after his latest arrest in his prison cell with marks on his neck and was put on suicide watch. He was taken off that watch yet was still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes, though no one did. When they came to bring him his breakfast the next morning, he was hanging with the aid of his bedsheet. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
His accusers got a three-hour hearing on Tuesday with prosecutors requesting that the judge drop the new charges against him.
Chauntae Davies was recruited by the sex-trafficking ring to be a masseuse for Epstein. She described very graphically how he raped her over several years and the sense of loss she feels now in his death.
"It took me a long time to come forward," she admitted. "Every public humiliation that I endured, I have suffered, and he has won."
Later she refused to let those emotions stick with her. "I have found my voice now," she said. "I will not stop fighting."
Through tears, fellow accuser Jennifer Araoz talked of never getting her chance to see Epstein on trial.
"The fact that I will never have a chance to face my predator in court eats away at my soul," she expressed. "Even in death, Jeffrey Epstein is trying to hurt me."
Courtney Wild was 14 when she said Epstein sexually abused her. She told the courtroom that his suicide "robbed myself and all of the other victims" of the opportunity to face him in court.
"For that, he is a coward," she said. "I feel very angry, sad. And justice has never been served in his case."
Multiple women begged prosecutors to continue pursuing Epstein's co-conspirators, including his associate Ghislaine Maxwell, who they called out by name in court. At this point she has not been charged and has denied all accusations.
"The reckoning must not end, it must continue," insisted Virginia Roberts Giuffre. "He did not act alone. We the victims know that."
Victim Sarah Ransome begged, "Please, please finish what you have started. ... We all know he did not act alone."
In all, 16 women spoke up in court, with only 10 of them using their names, the others using "Jane Doe."
One is struggling to see herself as a victim, and a second felt re-traumatized by the financier's suicide. Another read a letter she wrote to him. It began "Dear Jeffrey" and mentioned his "Illness."
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman did not say he would drop the charges, but many believe he will. While he could have issued a written order and not held a hearing, he asked the players to appear in court, especially the accusers who could then "be heard, if they wish to be."
Berman found the news of Epstein's death "certainly shocking," as everyone expected his case would play out in court and that "the accusers and the accused would come face to face, allowing everyone to get their day in court."
He admitted, "It is a rather stunning turn of events."
The judge was asked by Reid H. Weingarten, one of Epstein's attorneys, to conduct an independent inquiry into the death. Prosecutors replied that wasn't the point of the hearing.
Weingarten explained that the defense team was "skeptical of the certitude of the medical examiner's conclusion that this was suicide" and was frustrated that most of their information came from reporters.
"We ask your honor ... to find out what happened to our client. We're angry about the conditions he was held in," he implored. "We don't know what happened. We deeply want to know what happened to our client."
Federal prosecutors in New York have said they're still investigating possible co-conspirators and that it's possible there may be other charges brought.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey said in court that charges against potential co-conspirators and the civil forfeiture of Epstein's assets are not off the table, and the investigation will continue.
"This dismissal in no way lessens the government's resolve," she said.
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