Disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein commits suicide at Manhattan jail

William K. Rashbaum, Benjamin Weiser and Michael Gold, The New York Times

Posted at Aug 10 2019 09:47 PM | Updated as of Aug 10 2019 10:55 PM

Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry in March 2017 and obtained by Reuters on July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout/file Photo via Reuters

NEW YORK — Jeffrey Epstein, the financier indicted on sex trafficking charges last month, committed suicide at a Manhattan jail, officials said on Saturday.

Epstein hanged himself and his body was found at roughly 7:30 Saturday morning at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

Manhattan federal prosecutors last month charged Epstein, 66, with sex trafficking of girls as young as 14, and details of his behavior have been emerging for years.

Epstein, a financier with opulent homes, a private jet and access to elite circles, had been dogged for decades by accusations that he had paid dozens of girls for sexual acts in Florida.

He previously avoided federal criminal charges in 2008 after prosecutors brokered a widely criticized deal that allowed him to plea to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor and serve 13 months in jail. Even while in custody, Epstein was allowed to leave the jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week, to work at his office in Florida.

Last month, a week after being denied bail, Epstein was found unconscious in his cell at the jail in Manhattan with marks on his neck, and prison officials were investigating the incident as a possible suicide attempt.

It was not immediately clear on Saturday whether authorities had put in additional safeguards to watch him after the incident. The federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Martin Weinberg, Epstein’s defense lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A cache of previously sealed legal documents, released on Friday by a federal appeals court, provided new, disturbing details about what was going on inside Epstein’s homes and how his associates recruited young women and girls, including from a Florida high school.

The documents — among the most expansive sets of materials publicly disclosed in the 13 years since Epstein was first charged with sex crimes — include depositions, police incident reports, photographs, receipts, flight logs and even a memoir written by a woman who said she was a sex trafficking victim of Epstein and his acquaintances.

The documents were filed as part of a defamation lawsuit in federal court that Virginia Giuffre brought in 2015 against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime companion and confidante. Giuffre and Maxwell settled the lawsuit shortly before the trial was to begin in 2017.

The Miami Herald and other media outlets petitioned the court to have the lawsuit documents unsealed. The request was initially denied, but an appeals court ordered them released last month.

Days after the ruling, on July 3, Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport after his private plane landed on a flight from Paris. Federal prosecutors charged him with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy.

Prosecutors said in their indictment that he and his employees engaged in a sex trafficking scheme, bringing girls as young as 14 to both his Upper East Side mansion and his palatial waterfront home in Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, he would have faced up to 45 years in prison.

Epstein had sought home detention at his Upper East Side mansion while he awaited trial. His lawyers had proposed allowing Epstein to post a substantial bond and stay in his luxurious seven-story townhouse, watched by 24-hour security guards, at his expense.

But a federal judge denied the request, concluding that Epstein was a flight risk, citing his “vast wealth,” which prosecutors have placed at more than $500 million.

Epstein, a former money manager with Wall Street experience, depicted himself as a wealthy financier with stellar investment savvy.

In addition to his homes in Florida and New York, he also owned a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a massive ranch in New Mexico and a residence in Paris. He had numerous high-end vehicles and access to private planes and helicopters.

Epstein levied his supposed financial prowess to cultivate connections to a dazzling assembly of elected officials, prominent scientists and business elites. His acquaintances, at various moments, included President Donald Trump, Stephen Hawking and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.

Even after he served time in a Florida jail and became a registered sex offender, Epstein successfully maintained a reputation as a billionaire investor, philanthropist and sophist.

In the time since Epstein’s arrest, evidence has suggested that the former money manager’s business acumen was more myth than fact. His client list was not as extensive as believed, and the services he offered were less remarkable than once portrayed.

Earlier this week, perhaps Epstein’s most notable client, Leslie H. Wexner, the executive behind Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, accused Epstein of misappropriating “vast sums of money” from him and his family.