U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman rejected accused child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s bail request and ordered the wealthy financier to be held in federal custody until his trial.
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“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” Berman said at a hearing Thursday.
Attorneys for Epstein had proposed last week that he be released on a $77 million bail package secured by the mortgage on his Manhattan mansion. Epstein’s representatives said he would provide his private jet as further collateral, submit to electronic monitoring and regular check-ins with federal authorities until his trial. The proposal also said that Epstein would surrender all passports and de-register all forms of transportation.
Federal prosecutors argued that Epstein was a flight risk because of his substantial wealth and asked the judge to hold him without bail until his trial. In addition, prosecutors alleged that Epstein attempted to tamper with witnesses by making $350,000 in payments to two associates who were potential witnesses to his alleged crimes. The payments reportedly occurred shortly after the Miami Herald published an investigative report on the circumstances behind his 2008 plea deal.
Epstein pleaded not guilty earlier this month to federal sex-trafficking charges. The financier stands accused of sexually exploiting dozens of female minors at his homes in New York and Florida during early 2000s. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison.
During a hearing earlier this week, two Epstein accusers asked Berman to keep him behind bars until his trial. One woman, Courtney Wild, accused Epstein of sexually abusing her in Palm Beach, Florida when she was just 14 years old.
“He’s a scary person to have walking the streets,” Wild said.
Berman delayed the decision on Epstein’s bail until Thursday, but he pointed out that there is a presumption that defendants in sex trafficking cases involving juveniles be held until trial.
Epstein declared $559 million in self-reported assets in court filings earlier this week, including $59 million in cash and properties in Manhattan, New Mexico, Paris and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to a state solicitation charge in a widely criticized plea deal reached with federal prosecutors, who agreed at the time not to pursue further charges against him. He served 13 months of an 18-month sentence.
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who served as a U.S. attorney in Florida and oversaw the plea deal, resigned this month after facing widespread criticism over his handling of the situation. Acosta said federal prosecutors agreed to the deal, which required Epstein to register as a sex offender, in order to keep him from walking free.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.