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Federal judge denies bail to Palm Beach billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in sex trafficking case

Posted: 8:00 PM, Jul 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-18 18:45:15-04
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A federal judge in New York has denied bail to Palm Beach billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in his high-profile sex trafficking case.

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On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman called Epstein a "danger to others and to the community by clear and convincing evidence," as well as a flight risk.

Prosecutors had worried about Epstein fleeing the country, and said a search of his New York home turned up a bogus passport that listed a Saudi Arabia residence, along with piles of cash and dozens of diamonds.

Epstein's lawyers had wanted him released on house arrest to his $77 million Manhattan mansion and equipped with a GPS monitoring device. They also said he was willing to pledge at least $559 million as collateral.

The financier's legal team claimed Epstein obtained that foreign passport decades ago out of fear that he might be kidnapped in the Middle East.

"Our clients are happy with the steadfast attitude of the prosecuting team," said Stan Pottinger, an attorney for some of Epstein's alleged victims, following Thursday's ruling. "Obviously respectful and appreciative of the court's decision."

"They have been living in fear and intimidation since the day they were abused by him, and now he is in jail," said Sigrid McCauley, another attorney for the alleged victims.

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Epstein, a 66-year-old hedge fund manager, was charged earlier this month with sex trafficking and conspiracy and pleaded not guilty. The charges carry a maximum sentenced of life in prison.

Prosecutors said Epstein paid underage girls, some as young as 14 years old, hundreds of dollars in cash for massages, then molested them at his homes in Palm Beach and New York between 2002 and 2005.

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On Thursday, attorneys for the alleged victims urged others who may have been abused by Epstein to break their silence.

"You can trust the process," said Pottinger. "You should come forward and help see that justice is done."

Epstein was first investigated for sex trafficking in 2005, but that case ended in a non-prosecution deal that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to lesser state charges. He served 13 months in jail, but was regularly allowed to leave to work at his office, and also had to register as a sex offender.

The plea deal was overseen by Alexander Acosta, the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time. Last week, Acosta defended his handling of the case.

"We believe that we proceeded appropriately," Acosta said at a news conference. "Based on the evidence, there was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register."

Despite that defense, just two days later, Acosta resigned as U.S. Labor Secretary because of the Epstein controversy.

"I do not think it is right and fair to this administration's Labor Department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today," Acosta said at a news conference last Friday.

WPTV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.