NEW YORK — Multimillionaire and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein will remain jailed while he awaits trial on new allegations that he sexually abused children, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman announced the decision at a hearing, siding with prosecutors after they and defense attorneys traded arguments for more than a week about whether Epstein could be released to some sort of home confinement.
The judge later issued a 33-page written decision, saying he was “concerned for new victims” and that Epstein’s sexual conduct with young girls “appears likely to be uncontrollable.”
Berman pointed to nearly every piece of evidence prosecutors had cited in their bid to keep Epstein locked up, deeming Epstein both a serious danger to the community and a significant flight risk.
He referred to evidence that Epstein had missed required sex offender check-ins and to “sexually explicit photos” investigators recovered at Epstein’s home after his arrest. The judge noted investigators had seized from a safe in Epstein’s home $70,000 in cash, loose diamonds and an expired foreign passport with Epstein’s picture but someone else’s name.
And he called “compelling” the testimony of two women who allege Epstein abused them as children. Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild had this week urged the judge to keep Epstein locked up.
“The Government’s evidence against Mr. Epstein appears strong,” Berman wrote.
At the same time, Berman deemed “inadequate” the defense’s offer to have Epstein placed in home confinement — even with several other conditions. He said Epstein’s attorneys had not given him specific enough information about Epstein’s financial assets but seemed to suggest more data or more assurances might not have swayed his decision.
“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” Berman said in court.
Epstein, 66, was arrested July 6 after landing at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport and charged with sex trafficking dozens of girls from 2002 to 2005. The case drew significant attention because in 2008, the jet-setting financier was able to resolve similar allegations by pleading guilty to just two state charges. He spent about 13 months in jail, with work release privileges, as part of the agreement.
The deal, which has been criticized as overly lenient, was approved by Alex Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in Miami whom President Trump picked as his labor secretary. Acosta resigned from the Labor Department post after the new charges were brought, drawing more attention to his handling of the previous case.
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the new charges, which his attorneys have asserted are effectively an improper do-over of the old case. If Epstein had been granted bail, defense attorneys said, he would have been willing to put up his $77 million Manhattan mansion as collateral and agree to home confinement with 24/7 security that he would have funded.
Sigrid McCawley, an attorney for some who allege Epstein abused them, said she was “thrilled” by Berman’s decision.
“Only by taking away the freedom of Jeffrey Epstein can we restore the freedom of these victims,” she said. “They have been living in fear and intimidation since the day they were abused by him, and now he is in jail.”
Prosecutors argued that no set of restrictions would guarantee Epstein would keep showing up for court. By their telling, Epstein is an impenitent sexual abuser of children who in the past has sought to obstruct inquiries into his misdeeds and has virtually limitless means to escape justice.
Epstein, who financial records show is worth more than $500 million, is a frequent world traveler with access to two private jets, prosecutors said.
They pointed to the expired passport as evidence that Epstein “knows how to obtain false travel documents and/or assume other, foreign identities.” And there is evidence that someone used it: Prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday that the document “contains numerous ingress and egress stamps, including stamps that reflect use of the passport to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.”
Epstein’s attorneys wrote in a court filing Tuesday that the passport, from Austria, expired 32 years ago and asserted it was for Epstein’s safety.
They asserted that “Epstein — an affluent member of the Jewish faith — acquired the passport in the 1980s, when hijackings were prevalent, in connection to Middle East travel.”
“The passport was for personal protection in the event of travel to dangerous areas, only to be presented to potential kidnappers, hijackers or terrorists should violent episodes occur,” they wrote.
On Thursday, Epstein’s defense team wrote that he “never used the document to travel internationally and never presented it to any immigration or customs authority.” The stamps, they wrote, predated when Epstein received the document and “do not reflect Mr. Epstein’s entries or exits.”
They dismissed concerns about his foreign travel, asserting that even as many were “clamoring for his re-prosecution” after news reports on his 2008 deal, he traveled extensively and “invariably returned to the United States.”
Epstein will be held in the federal detention center in Manhattan.
Zapotosky reported from Washington.