A New York federal judge on Thursday ordered Jeffrey Epstein held without bail, siding with prosecutors who argued the wealthy financier and accused sex trafficker posed a flight risk.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said prosecutors showed “clear and convincing evidence” that Epstein was a flight risk.
“The government application for continued remand is hereby granted,” Berman said just minutes after the pretrial proceeding began.
The federal judge’s ruling means Epstein will remain behind bars while he fights charges that he exploited dozens of girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” Berman said.
The defense had argued he should be allowed to await trial under house arrest with electronic monitoring at his $77 million Manhattan mansion. They said he wouldn’t run and was willing to pledge a fortune of at least $559 million as collateral.
The prosecutors have also argued Epstein was a risk of trying to influence witnesses after it was discovered he had paid a total of $350,000 to two people, including a former employee, in the last year. That came after the Miami Herald reported the circumstances of his state court conviction in 2008, which led to a 13-month jail term and a plea deal that allowed him to avoid a federal prosecution.
The judge said he also rejected bail because Epstein presents a flight risk, in part because of his “great wealth and vast resources,” including private jets, frequent international travel and a foreign residence in Paris.
At a hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller said the government’s case against Epstein is “getting stronger every single day” as more women contact authorities to say he sexually abused them when they were minors.
Rossmiller said the government learned earlier this week that a raid of Epstein’s mansion following his July 6 arrest turned up “piles of cash, dozens of diamonds” and a passport with a picture of the defendant but a name other than his in a locked safe. He also said hundreds, if not thousands, of sexually explicit photos of young women found in his home included at least one purported victim.
In a court filing Wednesday, prosecutors disputed a claim by defense lawyers that there was no evidence he’d ever used his Austrian passport, saying it contained stamps showing it was used to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.
Prior to Thursday’s bail hearing, defense lawyers told the judge that Epstein was given the passport by a friend after some Jewish-Americans were informally advised to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when travelling internationally during a period when hijackings were more common.
They said he never used it and the passport stamps predated his receipt of the document.
“He is a lifelong American citizen. He has no other citizenship or legal permanent residency,” the lawyers wrote.
Prosecutors have also argued Epstein was a risk of trying to influence witnesses after it was discovered he had paid a total of $350,000 to two people, including a former employee, in the last year. That came after the Miami Herald reported the circumstances of his state court conviction in 2008, which led to a 13-month jail term and a plea deal that allowed him to avoid a federal prosecution.
Berman also said Thursday that testimony Monday from two women who claimed to be victims of Epstein played a role in his no-bail ruling.
“I was 16 years old when I had the misfortune of meeting Mr. Epstein here in New York,” said Annie Farmer, adding she was there to voice her support for the prosecution’s move to keep Epstein locked up.
When Berman asked if she was sexually abused, the witness responded: “He was inappropriate with me. I would prefer not to get into the details at this time.”
Another woman, Courtney Wild, said she was sexually abused by Epstein.
“Hi, your honor, my name is Courtney Wild and I was sexually assaulted by Jeffrey Epstein at the age of 14,” she told the court.
Wild also asked that Epstein not be released before his trial.
“He is a scary person to have walking the street,” she said.
Weinberg argued that Epstein wasn’t going anywhere and looked forward to clearing his name: “He’s going to defend this case.”
The charges come more than a decade after Epstein signed a nonprosecution deal in 2008 that allowed him to dodge a federal indictment alleging he abused several underage girls.
Epstein ultimately pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting minors for prostitution and served a 13-month sentence in a Florida county jail. He was forced to register as a sex offender under that deal