The apparent suicide in federal custody of well-connected U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein is being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.
Epstein, who had friendships with U.S. President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew, was facing the possibility of 45 years in prison if convicted on charges of orchestrating a sex trafficking ring and sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.
Several of Epstein’s accusers said Saturday they’re disappointed that the financier won’t have to face them in court or serve a long prison sentence if convicted.
The investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan will continue despite Epstein’s death, a source familiar with the matter said. The government is pursuing an “ongoing investigation of uncharged individuals” in connection with the case.
One Epstein accuser, who filed a since-settled lawsuit against Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, says she’s grateful he will never harm anyone again, but is angry there will be no chance he answers for his conduct.
Virginia Giuffre told The New York Times that her husband woke her early in Australia to share the news that Epstein had died.
“We’ve worked so hard to get here,” Giuffre said, “and he stole that from us, too.”
Another accuser, Jennifer Araoz, who came forward after the new charges were filed, said she was angered by Epstein’s suicide. Araoz alleged that Epstein raped her in his New York mansion in the early 2000s when she was 15.
“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed, the pain and trauma he caused so many people,” she said.
Attorney General William Barr said announced the investigations into Epstein’s death.
“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a news release, adding he was “appalled” by Epstein’s death while in federal custody.
According to media reports, Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after a suspected earlier attempt to kill himself but was removed from the watch at the end of July. He was being held without bail at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
New round of conspiracy theories
News of Epstein’s apparent suicide Saturday morning quickly launched new conspiracy theories online in a saga that has provided fodder for them for years, fueled by Epstein’s ties to princes, politicians and other famous and powerful people.
Hours after Epstein’s death Saturday, as the hashtag #EpsteinMurder was trending worldwide on Twitter, President Donald Trump joined Twitter speculation around Epstein’s death while under the federal government’s watch.
Trump, who rose to conservative prominence by falsely claiming Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., retweeted unsubstantiated claims about Epstein’s death.
Other politicians also took to social media to question the circumstances.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the state where some of Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse crimes took place, called on corrections officials to explain what happened at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
“The Federal Bureau of Prisons must provide answers on what systemic failures of the MCC Manhattan or criminal acts allowed this coward to deny justice to his victims,” he tweeted.
Epstein’s suicide was likely recorded by jail cameras, according to Preet Bharara, the former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
“One hopes it is complete, conclusive, and secured,” he tweeted.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to Florida state prostitution charges, for which he served a 13-month term and most days was freed to work at his office in south Florida. He also was required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to the underage girls he abused.
President Trump’s former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who had been the federal prosecutor handling the Epstein case in Florida at the time of that plea deal, resigned over his handling of the matter.