NEW YORK – Lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein argued Thursday that the wealthy financier should be freed on a bail package as high as $77 million and other restrictions while he awaits trial on charges of sex trafficking involving young girls.
Epstein, who's now locked in the Manhattan Correctional Center, should be freed because his only criminal brush with the law was a 2008 non-prosecution agreement reached with federal prosecutors for conduct "substantially overlapping" the indictment unsealed against him in New York on Monday, his lawyers argued.
The man who once counted President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew among his friends is accused of sexually trafficking girls as young as 14 at his mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side and home in Palm Beach, Florida, from 2002 to 2005. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.
"The government's indictment labels this a 'Sex Trafficking' case. Yes, the government may have witnesses who will testify to participating in sexual massages – most over 18; some under; some who told the police they lied about their age to gain admission to Mr. Epstein's residence; some who will testify that Mr. Epstein knew they were not yet 18," defense lawyers Reid Weingarten and Martin Weinberg wrote in a pretrial release proposal filed in Manhattan federal court.
Epstein plans to contest the charges and poses no threat to flee or danger to the community while he does, the attorneys argued. They outlined a series of "highly restrictive" conditions to secure his release and ensure that he appears for trial:
- Home detention of Epstein in his Manhattan townhouse with electronic monitoring via Global Positioning System and 24-hour private security guards.
- An agreement that he will not seek or obtain any new passport during the case.
- A personal recognizance bond secured by a mortgage on the townhouse, which is valued at roughly $77 million.
- A pledge of Epstein's private jet as additional collateral, plus a proposal to de-register or ground the aircraft.
- A proposal for Epstein's brother, Mark, to serve as co-surety of the bond, secured by a mortgage on the brother's home in West Palm Beach, Florida
- An offer for an Epstein friend to pledge his investment interests in two properties to further secure the bond.
Separately, the attorneys said they would seek court authorization to file a sealed supplemental disclosure that outlines Epstein's finances before his bail hearing scheduled next week.
Manhattan federal prosecutors are scheduled to file separate bail arguments on Friday. They previously argued that Epstein should remain behind bars pending trial because he has a home in France, in addition to residences in Manhattan, Palm Beach, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They also argued that his wealth, private jet, and the magnitude of the charges against him make Epstein a flight risk.
Epstein's alleged targets: 'The more vulnerable the better,' investigator says
The defense team argued that the New York federal indictment should never have been pursued because Epstein was already investigated and punished by a federal non-prosecution agreement in Florida.
"The defense strongly disagrees with the premise that the government can offer and execute an immunity or nonprosecution agreement with a citizen in the location of one of two venues where an interstate telephone call (or flight or any form or wire or mail communication) occurs and then circumvent the consequences of that immunity grant by having the very same prosecution office promote and motivate a prosecution by another office at the second venue of what in fact was a single criminal transaction," the attorneys wrote.
Accused sex trafficker's townhouse: Inside Jeffrey Epstein's New York mansion: 'Vast trove' of lewd photos, a life-size doll and other oddities
New Epstein accuser: Epstein accuser Jennifer Araoz says she was 15 when 'he forcibly raped me'
Details of Jeffrey Epstein indictment: Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein pleads not guilty to sex-trafficking claims that 'shock the conscience'
Epstein has complied with the terms of the non-prosecution agreement, registering as a sex offender and fulfilling other conditions, the lawyers added.
"What is significant for bail purposes is that notwithstanding this notice of the government's illegal position, and his knowledge of the substantial penalties that he would face if charged and convicted, Mr. Epstein made no attempt to flee in the approximately six years preceding his arrest," the lawyers wrote. "During that time, as noted by the government, he engaged in substantial international travel, always returning to his residences in the United States."
Announcing the New York indictment on Monday, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said the non-prosecution agreement that Florida federal prosecutors reached with Epstein was not binding on federal prosecutors in New York.
The legal interpretation cited by Berman "will be the subject of a major dispute in this case," the defense team said.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the bail dispute in a hearing Monday.
In 2016, the judge denied bail to Reza Zarrab, a wealthy gold trader from Turkey who was accused of conspiring to evade U.S. financial sanctions against Iran and other charges.
Zarrab proposed to pay for 24-hour monitoring electronic monitoring, security guards and other restrictions if he were allowed to remain free during the prosecution. Berman, however, ruled that Zarrab posed a risk of fleeing and said there were no conditions or combination of conditions of release" that would reasonably assure he would appear for trial.
"Most importantly, the defendant's privately funded armed guard proposal is unreasonable because it helps to foster inequity and unequal treatment in favor of a very small cohort of criminal defendants who are extremely wealthy, such as Mr. Zarrab," Berman wrote in his ruling.
Epstein's attorneys addressed that decision in their Thursday filing. They noted that the Epstein case has no national security implications and features a defendant who is an American citizen with several U.S. homes. Although Epstein also has a home in Paris, the U.S. has an extradition treaty with France, the attorneys said.
"This Court’s opinion in Zarrab stands only for the proposition that wealthy defendants should not be provided an unfair advantage. It does not, of course, suggest that wealthy defendants should bear a special disadvantage," Epstein's lawyers contended.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jeffrey Epstein lawyers offer up to $77M bail in sex trafficking case