Financier Jeffrey Epstein had pleaded not guilty to sex-trafficking charges and was facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted. | Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via AP Photo
By JOSH GERSTEIN
08/10/2019 09:23 AM EDT
Wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein has died in an apparent jailhouse suicide in New York City while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges over his alleged abuse of underage girls, officials said Saturday.
Epstein, 66, appeared to have hanged himself in his cell at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan early Saturday, according to officials.Story Continued Below
A photograph published by the New York Post showed an ashen Epstein being wheeled into a nearby hospital emergency room as New York Fire Department parademics carried out CPR.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office confirmed Epstein’s death. “The cause and manner of death are under investigation,” a spokeswoman said.
Epstein has been at the center of a political firestorm stemming from what critics decried as an overly lenient 2008 plea deal his lawyers struck in Florida to resolve allegations he paid dozens of underage girls for massages that often included sexual activity.
The legal settlement, in which federal prosecutors agreed to forgo federal charges in exchange for Epstein pleading guilty to two state prostitution offenses, resulted in Epstein serving only 13 months in a county jail — much of it on work release at his nearby office during the day.
After federal prosecutors in New York obtained a new indictment of Epstein last month on similar charges, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned due to ongoing questions about the decade-old plea agreement, which he approved as the U.S. Attorney for south Florida at the time.
The prosecution has been closely watched in political circles because Epstein was friendly in the past with a variety of well-connected and prominent businessmen, academics and politicians, including President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton. Trump flew on one of Epstein’s planes at least once, according to flight logs, while Clinton made several trips overseas on Epstein’s aircraft.
Both Trump and Clinton say they broke off all contact with Epstein a decade or more ago.
Epstein was arrested last month as he flew into New Jersey from France on his private jet. His lawyers asked that he be released to home confinement in New York, but a judge refused.
Epstein’s death came about a day after a federal appeals court released roughly 2,000 pages of previously secret documents detailing his alleged misconduct and still-unproven allegations that Epstein directed girls and women in his circle to have sex with his prominent acquaintances.
About two weeks ago, Epstein was found injured in his cell with neck bruising that some press reports described as a suicide attempt.
The jail where Epstein was housed is run by the federal Bureau of Prisons, but pre-trial detainees like Epstein are officially under the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons released a statement saying Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning from an apparent suicide.
“Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff. Staff requested emergency medical services (EMS) and life-saving efforts continued. Mr. Epstein was transported by EMS to a local hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries, and subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff. The FBI is investigating the incident,” the statement added.
Attorney General William Barr said in a statement: “I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody. Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”
In a statement, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman indicated others could still be charged: “Today’s events are disturbing, and we are deeply aware of their potential to present yet another hurdle to giving Epstein’s many victims their day in Court. To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment – which included a conspiracy count – remains ongoing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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