(Bloomberg) -- Jeffrey Epstein will remain behind bars after a judge denied his request for bail, an early win for prosecutors that increases the pressure on the accused child sex trafficker and his defense team.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman on Thursday turned aside Epstein’s bid to be confined to his Manhattan mansion, where he had offered to pay for armed guards and wear an ankle bracelet showing his location.
“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” the judge said.
While also noting that the wealthy money manager might flee, Berman rested his decision on the threat Epstein posed to alleged victims and potential witnesses. He noted the “compelling testimony” at a bail hearing Monday from two women who said Epstein had sexually abused them when they were teens.
"Mr. Epstein’s alleged excessive attraction to sexual conduct with or in the presence of minor girls -- which is said to include his soliciting and receiving massages from young girls and young women perhaps as many as four times a day -- appears likely to be uncontrollable,” he said in a 33-page decision released later in the day.
Epstein will now await his trial in jail, where he’s been since his arrest on July 6, while he works with his attorneys to defend himself against accusations that he sexually assaulted teenage girls from 2002 to 2005. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking in minors and conspiracy and says he has fully complied with the law for the past 14 years.
If he is convicted, Epstein, 66, faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison.
Moments before Berman entered the courtroom for Thursday’s 11-minute hearing, Epstein was escorted into the room by two federal marshals. Wearing a pair of black wire-rimmed reading glasses, he kept his hands clasped in front of his mouth as Berman ticked through the reasons against granting bail.
In his bail hearing Monday, two women who claim they were abused by Epstein had echoed prosecutors’ pleas to keep him behind bars.
“He’s a scary person to have walking the street,” Courtney Wild told Berman. She urged the judge to deny him bail “for the safety of any other girls who are going through what I’m going through.”
On Thursday, Epstein showed little emotion as the judge announced his ruling. After the hearing, he was led back to jail. His lawyers declined to say whether they would appeal the bail ruling.
Berman set a court conference for July 31. Next week, another federal judge in Manhattan will hear arguments over whether to unseal documents in a lawsuit brought by an alleged victim against a British socialite who associated with Epstein. Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell are still seeking to block the disclosure, even after an appeals court ordered that most of the documents be made public.
In the criminal case before Berman, prosecutors claimed Epstein made payments totaling $350,000 to two possible witnesses two days after the Miami Herald published a series on his alleged crimes in November. At the time of his arrest, investigators found piles of cash, dozens of diamonds and an expired Austrian passport, with Epstein’s picture and a different name, in a safe in his Manhattan home. In his ruling Thursday, Berman noted the diamonds and passport, as well as photos of nude and partly clothed women and girls.
Epstein said he got the passport in the 1980s to disguise his identity as a wealthy, Jewish American if he were ever kidnapped or taken hostage on a hijacked airliner. Defense attorney Martin Weinberg said there had been no effort to interfere with any investigation and that these were merely payments to a former employee and a friend.
Epstein’s lawyers said he is being improperly prosecuted a second time for acts that ended in 2005 and were resolved in a federal non-prosecution agreement and guilty plea to two state charges of soliciting prostitution. He spent 13 months in prison, where he was allowed out to pursue his work as a fund manager six days a week.
They argued he has demonstrated “14 years of self-discipline,” hasn’t broken the law and had complied with all the requirements of his sex-offender status.
The Florida plea deal recently came under fire amid reporting on the case by the Miami Herald and others, and led to the resignation of U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who negotiated the agreement while he was a federal prosecutor in Florida.
Prosecutors, pointing to Epstein’s wealth, told Berman no conditions would ensure his appearance in court. Epstein gave the judge a one-page summary of his finances that showed $559 million in assets, including $57 million in cash, $14 million in fixed income, $113 million in equities and $195 million held in hedge funds and private equity. His estimate of the value of six homes he owns includes the $55.9 million mansion on the Upper East Side and a $63.9 million private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In court on Thursday, Berman cited Epstein’s “great wealth and his vast resources, which include private planes and frequent international travel and also a foreign residence in Paris.”
In his ruling, Berman said Epstein alleged crimes "are among the most heinous in the law principally, in the court’s view, because they involve minor girls." Citing the New York Post, he said that Epstein has challenged his sex-offender classification level in at least one jurisdiction since 2008, and never reported as an offender to New York police.
Epstein was arrested in New Jersey after stepping off his private jet from Paris. As a result of Berman’s ruling, he’ll be returned to the lower-Manhattan jail he’s shared with Paul Manafort and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The case is U.S. v. Epstein, 19-cr-00490, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
(Udpates with judge’s opinion.)
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