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Prosecutors fear Jeffrey Epstein may influence witnesses, urge no bail

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / March 28, 2017

    Jeffrey Epstein is seen here in an image provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS/ July 30, 2008

    Jeffrey Epstein, center, appears in court in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2008. Federal prosecutors urged a judge today to keep financier Jeffrey Epstein behind bars until trial on sex trafficking charges involving underage girls.

NEW YORK >> Federal prosecutors urged a judge today to keep financier Jeffrey Epstein behind bars until trial on sex trafficking charges involving underage girls, labeling him a “serial sexual predator” and expressing concern he might try to influence witnesses.

Prosecutors submitted written arguments in advance of a bail hearing Monday, saying he faces “the very real possibility” of spending the rest of his life in prison amid a “shocking lack of understanding” of the gravity of his crimes.

They said he also has a history of obstruction and manipulation of witnesses, including in the last year, and victims have told prosecutors they might be harassed or abused if he is freed.

“The defendant is a serial sexual predator who is charged with abusing underage girls for years,” prosecutors wrote. “And any doubt that the defendant is unrepentant and unreformed was eliminated when law enforcement agents discovered hundreds or thousands of nude and semi-nude photographs of young females in his Manhattan mansion on the night of his arrest, more than a decade after he was first convicted of a sex crime involving a juvenile.”

Prosecutors said evidence against Epstein has grown since his arrest Saturday after several additional women identified themselves to the government as victims and dozens of individuals called prosecutors to convey information about Epstein and his crimes.

They said victims support his detention and they know of no victim expressing support for bail.

They said he poses a “tremendous risk of flight and a danger to the community” and could easily continue earning over $10 million annually outside the United States. They said records the government obtained from one financial institution revealed over $500 million

The filing came a day after defense lawyers told U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman that Epstein should be given bail and confined to his $77 million Manhattan mansion with electronic monitoring. Epstein pleaded not guilty Monday to charges alleging he recruited and abused dozens of underage girls at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 2000s.

The case is being brought more than a decade after Epstein secretly cut a deal with prosecutors to dispose of nearly identical allegations.

The exposure of that deal and revelations amid the new charges against Epstein led to the resignation Friday of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who oversaw that.

In their submission, prosecutors also they were worried Epstein, 66, might try to derail his trial. They said Epstein recently paid $100,000 to one individual “named as a possible co-conspirator” in a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in Florida 12 years ago.

They said the payment, along with $250,000 sent to another person who was a former employee and was named as a possible co-conspirator in the non-prosecution agreement, came after the Miami Herald in November began publishing a series of articles describing the circumstances of his state court conviction in Florida in 2008 and the deal to avoid federal prosecution.

“This course of action, and in particular its timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations,” prosecutor said.

His lawyers said the new charges will fail because he’s protected by his non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors.

The new charges have focused attention on his finances and his lofty connections. Epstein was once a friend of Donald Trump before he became president and ex-President Bill Clinton — both of whom have distanced themselves from the financier recently.

Earlier in the day, the judge agreed to let Epstein’s wealth remain secret, for now, when defense lawyers file documents related to them.

Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement allowed him to plead guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution instead of facing federal charges. He served 13 months in jail, was required to reach financial settlements with dozens of his alleged victims and register as a sex offender.

In a court filing, Epstein’s lawyers argued that he had long lived with the fear that federal prosecutors might pursue sexual abuse charges against him again and had never sought to flee the country.

On Friday, the New Mexico attorney general’s office said it was investigating charges against the financier, who owns a ranch south of Santa Fe. The office is interviewing people who say they were victims of Epstein and plans to forward any evidence to federal authorities, spokesman Matt Baca said in an emailed statement.

An email seeking comment was sent to a lawyer for Epstein.

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