BATTLE IN THE AFTERLIFE
Three more women sued the estate of Jeffrey Epstein on Tuesday, saying they were sexually abused by the financier both before and after the controversial deal that allowed him to avoid federal prosecution for sex crimes in 2007.
The new lawsuits, filed in Manhattan federal court, bring the number of civil cases against Epstein’s estate since his death in jail on 10 August to at least five.
Epstein was arrested on 6 July and pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of girls as young as 14. He died in his cell at the New York Metropolitan correctional center (MCC), aged 66. An autopsy report released last Friday concluded that he hanged himself.
Two days before that, in a development first reported by the New York Poston Monday, Epstein signed a will placing his property, worth more than $577m, in a trust.
Prosecutors have moved to dismiss the criminal indictment against Epstein but they have also said they are considering charging others with facilitating his alleged abuse of dozens of girls.
Intense media speculation continues to surround the whereabouts of Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who was closely connected to Epstein. On Monday the Daily Mail reported that a picture of Maxwell in Los Angelespublished last week may have been staged. Maxwell, who denies wrongdoing, is believed to be in Massachusetts.
Epstein, a hedge fund manager, was friends with the rich and famous, and owned a Caribbean island, homes in Paris and New York, a New Mexico ranch and a fleet of high-price cars.
The registered sex offender socialised with Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and a host of other famous and powerful men. The prince is also at the centre of intense speculation, after the Mail published a video of him at Epstein’s Manhattan home in 2010.
On Monday Brad Edwards, a lawyer for Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was made to have sex with the prince, told the Guardian: “I look forward to coordinating a formal deposition where [Andrew] will be given the opportunity to tell us everything he knows. We would like to do this as soon as possible, at his convenience, and again we are very appreciative of his willingness to help.”
In a statement on Sunday, Buckingham Palace said Andrew was “appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes” and said he “deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent”.
Epstein has widely been described as a billionaire but according to court records and his will, when he died had more than $112m of equities and nearly $200m in “hedge funds & private equity investments”. Among properties that will be subject to appraisal and valuation are his collection of fine arts, antiques and other collectibles.
Several attorneys vowed to go after Epstein’s assets even if the will includes named beneficiaries.
“Give his entire estate to his victims,” one of those lawyers, Lisa Bloom, said in an email to the Associated Press. “It is the only justice they can get. And they deserve it. And on behalf of the Epstein victims I represent, I intend to fight for it.”
Two of the women who filed suit on Tuesday say they met Epstein when they were 17. A third said she met him when she was 20. All describe being brought to Epstein’s home to provide massages and then being subjected to repeated, unwanted sex acts.
All said the abuse continued after Epstein reached the deal with federal prosecutors in Florida in 2007 that allowed him to plead guilty to state prostitution charges and spend 13 months in a county jail which he was allowed to leave during the day.
Two of the women said Epstein continued to abuse them during work release. The third said abuse resumed after his sentence ended.
Lawyers for Epstein did not immediately comment.
Epstein’s death triggered multiple investigations, prompting the US attorney general, William Barr, to remove the acting chief of the federal Bureau of Prisons. A harsh spotlight has been shone on staffing shortages and conditions at the New York jail.
Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement has been widely criticized. Alexander Acosta, who oversaw the deal when he was US attorney in Florida, resigned as US labor secretary after Epstein’s arrest.
As part of the deal, Epstein made undisclosed financial settlements with dozens of his victims. It’s unclear how those settlements might affect any claims made on his estate.
The former federal prosecutor David S Weinstein told the AP that states and US territories have certain timeframes within which to make a claim against an estate.
“There are certainly going to be a lot of lawyers involved,” he said. “It’s not going to be over any time soon.”