The jail cell death of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein over the weekend positioned prosecutors to pursue his associates, some of whom allegedly assisted him in abusing underage girls. On Monday, his accusers and law enforcement officials indicated they had taken the first steps toward doing so.
The US attorney’s office in Manhattan has suggested it will advance the case by focusing on the conspiracy charge against Epstein, which accused him of working with employees and associates to operate a vast sex-trafficking ring involving dozens of girls. The conspiracy count could allow prosecutors to charge anyone else involved in the scheme.
Some of Epstein’s accusers on Monday moved toward pursuing his alleged co-conspirators in a civil case: they asked a federal judge to unwind a nonprosecution agreement the alleged sex trafficker reached with Florida prosecutors a decade ago that immunized his associates.
Inner circle also under scrutiny unrelated to alleged sex trafficking
Members of Epstein’s inner circle who have not faced sexual abuse allegations also appear to be bracing for further legal action.
The financial and personal relationship between Epstein and his onetime client and close friend, L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner, has attracted attention since Epstein’s arrest, though Wexner has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Now Wexner has hired one of the most prominent criminal defense attorneys in New York, Mary Jo White, who is a partner at law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and is the former US attorney in Manhattan, according to people familiar with the matter.
In recent weeks, one of these people said, White reached out on Wexner’s behalf to prosecutors working on the Epstein case. Spokesmen for Debevoise and the Manhattan US attorney’s office declined to comment.
Last week, Wexner wrote a letter to his charitable foundation saying that Epstein “misappropriated vast sums of money from me and my family.”
L Brands has hired an outside law firm to conduct an internal investigation. A representative for the company declined a CNN request seeking comment from Wexner.
Prosecutors will draw on Epstein evidence
As they pursue potential targets beyond Epstein, prosecutors will likely have the ability to use material they seized from a search conducted of his Upper East Side mansion in the hours after his arrest in July, according to former federal prosecutor Rachel Maimin, a partner at law firm Lowenstein Sandler LLP who helped prosecute the case against President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen for campaign-finance violations and other crimes.
During the search of Epstein’s home, agents recovered a “vast trove” of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls, dozens of electronic files, compact discs with labels that suggested they contained pictures or videos of people other than Epstein and other material in a locked safe, according to court filings.
“Others wouldn’t have standing to object to it because they have no privacy interest in the property,” said Maimin, adding that if prosecutors are contemplating new charges beyond conspiracy, they may choose to obtain a new search warrant for the material out of an abundance of caution.
On Monday afternoon, federal agents appeared to take new evidence-gathering measures. Agents from the FBI’s New York office visited Little St. James, the island Epstein owns in the Caribbean, according to a spokeswoman for the bureau.
His death was a blow to Manhattan prosecutors
Of course, Epstein’s death does put a stop to the case against him individually, a matter that was set to be one of the highest-profile criminal trials the Manhattan US attorney’s office had undertaken in years.
Epstein’s death is a blow to prosecutors at the Manhattan US attorney’s office, where officials were highly invested in the case. In the months leading up to the indictment, prosecutors took “extraordinary efforts,” they told the court, to keep their investigation of him secret so that they could prevent Epstein from evading prosecution.
A press conference after Epstein’s arrest was punctuated by a dramatic moment when US Attorney Geoffrey Berman stepped out from behind the lectern and pointed his finger at an oversized photo of Epstein’s face, imploring people to come forward “if you believe you are a victim of this man.” As the case proceeded, a phalanx of senior leadership at the office attended each of Epstein’s pretrial court appearances, with Berman arriving alongside the chief of the public corruption unit and his deputy.
But the case is far from over
Over the weekend, Berman signaled that prosecutors would not let the case expire, saying “our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing.”
That charge in the indictment accuses Epstein of having “worked and conspired with others, including employees and associates who facilitated his conduct by, among other things, contacting victims and scheduling their sexual encounters with Epstein at the New York Residence and at the Palm Beach Residence.”
The indictment alleges that when Epstein traveled from New York to Palm Beach by private jet, “an employee or associate would ensure that minor victims were available for encounters upon his arrival in Florida.”
The indictment describes, but doesn’t name, a New York-based employee, as well as two other assistants it suggests were based in Palm Beach.
Multiple civil lawsuits filed over the years by various women who have accused Epstein of sexual abuse also allege that he was aided by a coterie of female assistants and employees, primarily a British socialite, Ghislaine Maxwell.
Maxwell allegedly procured underage victims for Epstein and at times herself engaged in sexual assault of minors. Maxwell, who hasn’t made a public statement since Epstein was charged in July, has previously denied the allegations. Her attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Epstein’s death also doesn’t end a number of related civil cases making their way through the courts, including a defamation lawsuit filed by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre against famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who once represented Epstein and with whom Giuffre has said Epstein forced her to engage in sex acts.
Dershowitz has denied those allegations, saying they were fabricated, and has filed a motion to dismiss her defamation case. A hearing in that matter is scheduled next month.
And there are additional court papers expected to be unsealed in a separate defamation case that Giuffre settled in 2017 with Maxwell. A judge has set a court date to discuss the unsealing on September 4.
On Monday, US Attorney General William Barr pledged that the Justice Department wouldn’t let those who aided Epstein’s alleged crimes walk away in the wake of his death.
“Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” Barr said during a speech in New Orleans.
“Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.”