World

Jeffrey Epstein ordered to stay in jail through sex trafficking trial

A judge denied bail Thursday for jailed hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges after prosecutors argued the jet-setting defendant is a danger to the public and might flee the United States.

Judge not swayed by bid to put up hundreds of millions in collateral

Jeffrey Epstein appears in a 2017 photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service's sex offender registry. (New York state Division of Criminal Justice Services via Reuters)

A judge denied bail Thursday for jailed hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges after prosecutors argued the jet-setting defendant is a danger to the public and might flee the United States.

Epstein, with his hands folded before him, showed no reaction to the announcement by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman. His lawyers did not comment afterward.

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.

He noted the "compelling testimony" at Monday's bail hearing by Epstein accusers Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild, who "testified that they fear for their safety and the safety of others if Mr. Epstein were to be released."

Wild, who said she was sexually abused by Epstein when she was 14 in Palm Beach, Florida, pleaded with the judge to keep him jailed.

"He's a scary person to have walking the streets," Courtney Wild said during the Monday hearing.

Berman said danger formed "the heart of this decision, that is to say, dealing with danger to others and to the community."

Courtney Wild speaks Tuesday in New York City at a news conference concerning Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking case. A federal judge said the testimony of Wild and Annie Farmer, not pictured, was 'compelling.' (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The defence had argued he should be allowed to await trial under house arrest with electronic monitoring at his $77 million US Manhattan mansion. They said he wouldn't run and was willing to pledge a fortune of at least $559 million as collateral.

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.

Reason for fake passport disputed

In a court filing Wednesday, prosecutors disputed a claim by defence 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, defence 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.

Writer Molly Jong-Fast thinks the allegations of sex trafficking against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein point to a wider problem of power and corruption in society. "This has been a sort of panoply of different powerful men covering for each other," she said. 19:20

Defence lawyers told the judge in another court filing this week that Epstein obtained the document out of fear that "as an affluent member of the Jewish faith" he might be kidnapped in the Middle East.

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 .

Alexander Acosta, who was serving as U.S President Donald Trump's secretary of labour, resigned last week after coming under renewed criticism for overseeing the decade-old arrangement as U.S. attorney in Miami.

Lawyers for Epstein said their client has stayed clean since pleading guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution charges in Florida in 2008 and that the federal government is reneging on the plea deal.

Epstein pleaded not guilty to the latest charges on July 8.

Epstein at one time counted Trump and former president Bill Clinton as friends. Trump and Clinton have claimed since the New York charges were filed that they have had no involvement with Epstein in recent years.

With files from CBC News

now