NEW YORK – Jeffrey Epstein remained in detention Monday after a bail hearing that included accusations from two women who said the financier and registered sex offender sexually attacked them when they were teens.
Federal Judge Richard Berman said he will announce a decision on bail Thursday for Epstein, 66, who awaits trial on sex-trafficking and sex-trafficking conspiracy charges. Epstein, who appeared at Monday’s hearing in a dark blue jail smock and pants and periodically jotted notes to his lawyers, was returned to the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
One of his lawyers, Martin Weinberg, said Epstein would never flee to avoid prosecution and was "ready to sign" and pledge millions for bail, no matter the price.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller argued there were no conditions of release under which Epstein, who federal prosecutors say has a net worth of more than $500 million, would not endanger the community and would not pose a flight risk. Community danger and the possibility of skipping court are the major issues in most bail decisions.
Courtney Wild, one of Epstein's accusers, stood at the federal courtroom lectern and declared, "I was sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein at the age of 14."
Wild characterized Epstein as a "very scary person to have walking the streets" and said he should remain in detention to protect other girls from experiencing what she went through.
Annie Farmer, a second woman who identified to the court as an Epstein victim, charged that the financier acted inappropriately with her when she was 15.
More women have come forward with accusations against Epstein since the sex-trafficking indictment against him was unsealed last week, Rossmiller told the judge. He disclosed that piles of cash and dozens of diamonds were found in a locked safe belonging to Epstein.
Federal investigators’ search of the safe turned up an expired 1980s-era passport that had a photo of Epstein with a different name and identified the bearer as a resident of Saudi Arabia.
Prosecution evidence against Epstein is “already significantly stronger” than it was last week, “and it’s getting stronger by the day,” Rossmiller said.
In most criminal cases, defendants are presumed to be bail candidates unless other conditions, such as a strong risk of skipping court, are deemed to be unreasonably high. The charges against Epstein carry a presumption of detention pending trial, based on laws enacted by Congress.
Weinberg argued that Epstein, who pleaded not guilty, should be granted bail in part because the case against him is complex and he needs to work actively with his lawyers to marshal his legal defense.
The defense team argued that Epstein should be freed pending trial because he is not accused of committing any crimes in more than a decade.
The indictment comes 11 years after Epstein avoided what could have been a lengthy prison sentence when he pleaded guilty in Florida to state charges of soliciting and procuring a person under 18 for prostitution.
The lesser state penalty was imposed after federal prosecutors in Florida prepared but did not submit a criminal indictment that could have brought tougher punishment upon a conviction. Instead, they reached a nonprosecution agreement with Epstein that was contingent on his guilty plea to the state charges. Epstein was required to register as a sex offender.
Last week, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned amid the fallout over the plea deal. When he was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, he signed off on Epstein's deal.
Monday, Epstein's legal team cited the absence of any charges against their client since the Florida case as evidence that he should be granted bail.
“A spotless 14-year record of walking the straight and narrow, complemented by an exemplary 10-year history of diligent sex offender registration and reporting, is compelling proof he was able, once the prior investigation commenced, to conform his conduct to the law’s dictates,” the lawyers wrote in court papers filed before the hearing.
Prosecutors ridiculed Weinberg's arguments that Epstein "disciplined himself' from having any sexual contact with younger girls since the Florida case and was not "an out of control rapist."
"This idea that the defendant has disciplined himself is a concession that he has a problem," Rossmiller said.
The government lawyers – joined by the judge – focused on Epstein's failure to file a detailed financial disclosure of his holdings, including his six homes, all assets and liabilities, artwork, gems, investments, cash and the types of currencies.
Rossmiller noted that the Manhattan mansion that Epstein offered last week as security for a bail bond is subject to forfeiture.
Prosecutors accused Epstein last week of witness tampering, though they provided no details during Monday's hearing.
The federal indictment unsealed a week ago charged that Epstein "sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes" in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, along with other locations. The charges stem from accusations in 2002-2005.
Outside the Manhattan courthouse, proponents of New York’s Child Victims Act held a news conference on the new law's implications for cases such as Epstein’s. The law will allow survivors of childhood abuse to sue perpetrators civilly in the state until the age of 55, up from 23, and bring criminal charges until age 28.
“It’s time to sue the hell out of abusers and the institutions that enable them," said attorney Carrie Goldberg, who offered to represent Epstein accusers pro bono. "It’s time to redistribute the wealth to victims, it’s time to expose the law enforcement agencies that fail us, and it’s time to take law into our hands. Litigation is a form of protest.”
Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Cara Kelly
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jeffrey Epstein: Financier, sex offender makes pitch for bail Monday