His accusers can still take their case to court, even after his death.
Now that Jeffrey Epstein is dead, the many women who have accused him of sexual abuse will not get the opportunity to face him in court.
But they may still have a chance for restitution. Even though Epstein will not stand trial for the sex trafficking charges he was facing when he died, several of his accusers are pursuing civil action. One woman, who filed suit this week against Epstein’s estate, says that in addition to sexually abusing her, Epstein forced her to marry one of his female associates, a non-US citizen, so she could stay in the country.
Epstein signed a will two days before he died, leaving his $577 million estate in a trust. But according to the New York Times, the lawsuits against Epstein’s estate may have to be resolved before any beneficiaries get money from the will.
Authorities in New York are continuing to investigate Epstein’s case and could be looking at charges against potential co-conspirators. And the FBI is investigating how authorities at a Manhattan jail allowed Epstein to die in an apparent suicide, even though he had been placed on suicide watch several days prior.
For the women who have spoken out against Epstein, his death closes off one avenue for justice. “I’m angry as hell,” said one woman through her attorney, Lisa Bloom, “that I and his other victims will never see him face the consequences for his horrendous actions.”
But more opportunities remain for Epstein’s accusers to get some recompense and for the American public to get answers about who else was involved in Epstein’s crimes.
The legal battles around Epstein’s case will continue after his death
When Epstein was found dead in his cell on August 10, it put an end to his prosecution on sex trafficking charges. But the legal battles around his alleged abuse of dozens of girls and women — and around his sudden death — are far from over. Below is some of what’s in store:
Accusers are filing civil actions
The women who say Epstein assaulted or abused them, many when they were underage, will not get to see him sentenced in a criminal court.
But they can still file civil claims against his estate, which is valued in his will at more than $577 million, according to the New York Post. The will puts the estate in a vehicle Epstein called The 1953 Trust, but the money probably cannot be distributed to any beneficiaries until the suits against the estate are resolved, the New York Times reported.
Earlier this month, Jennifer Araoz, who says Epstein abused her beginning when she was 14 years old, filed suit against the money manager’s estate. She was the first person connected with the Epstein case to sue under New York’s recently passed Child Victims Act, according to BuzzFeed News.
The new law could allow more survivors of abuse by Epstein to seek restitution, said Bloom, the attorney. The law extends the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, giving survivors until age 55 to file civil suits relating to their abuse (previously, New York law gave survivors only until age 23, one of the strictest limits in the country).
“That extension of the statute of limitations is really fortuitous for Epstein victims, and for any victims in New York,” Bloom said.
Soon after Araoz filed, two women represented by Bloom also filed suit against Epstein’s estate. Their suit “alleges that the victims worked at a New York City restaurant in 2004 when a young adult woman came to them, offering them hundreds of dollars and future economic opportunities if they would simply go to Mr. Epstein’s home and give him a massage,” Bloom said in a statement to media. “Once at Mr. Epstein’s New York home, they were assaulted.”
The women were 18 and 20 at the time, they say. They are seeking monetary damages for the “psychological devastation” Epstein caused — “anguish, damaged relationships, self esteem, career derailment, and much more” — Bloom said in her statement.
Around five additional women have also contacted Bloom’s office with claims against Epstein since his death, the attorney told Vox. Her office is currently vetting their allegations.
And this week, three more women filed suit against Epstein’s estate, according to the Daily Beast. One, identified in court papers as “Katlyn Doe,” says that Epstein coerced her into marrying “a non-United States citizen and recruiter of females for Jeffrey Epstein” so that the recruiter could stay in the country. Epstein arranged to have the two women live at an apartment he owned, the suit says, while he continued to force Doe to have sex with him. The two women divorced in 2017.
The criminal investigation in New York will continue
On the day of Epstein’s death, Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman issued a statement assuring accusers and others of his office’s intention to continue working on the sex offender’s case. “To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so,” Berman said, “let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing.”
After Epstein was arrested in New Jersey last month, he was charged with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. And as Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum noted at the Times, Berman’s mention of the conspiracy count in his statement on Saturday felt pointed. No one else has yet been charged in connection with allegations of sexual abuse and trafficking by Epstein — but, former federal prosecutor Daniel C. Richman told the Times, the fact that Berman’s office chose to mention the conspiracy charge “suggests it already has some living people in its sights.”
Authorities are investigating Epstein’s death, and members of Congress are calling for additional investigations
Since Epstein was found dead, questions have swirled around how he was able to end his own life. After a possible suicide attempt in July, he had been placed on suicide watch at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, the jail where he was awaiting trial. But he was taken off suicide watch several days prior to his death, according to the New York Times. And though jail procedures should have dictated that Epstein be placed with a cellmate and checked on by guards every half-hour, those policies were not followed in Epstein’s case, the Times reports.
Now the FBI and Department of Justice are investigating Epstein’s death, according to CNN. And members of both parties in Congress, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), are calling for a congressional investigation.
Lawsuits against others connected to Epstein can continue
Some of Epstein’s accusers have alleged abuse by others as well. Virginia Roberts Giuffre, for instance, has said she was trafficked by Epstein to Alan Dershowitz, an attorney and Harvard law professor who helped negotiate the deal that kept Epstein out of prison in 2008. Dershowitz has denied the allegation, calling Giuffre a “prostitute” and a “bad mother”; she is suing him for defamation.
Others connected with Epstein are facing legal action. In addition to filing suit against Epstein’s estate, Jennifer Araoz is suing longtime Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell along with three of the money manager’s former employees, alleging that they aided Epstein in his abuse.
Meanwhile, the women who say Epstein abused them are dealing with the aftermath of his death. While one of her clients was angry that Epstein would not face justice, Bloom said, the other had a very different reaction.
“It was a sense of relief that he could no longer harm anyone else, and that he wouldn’t come after her,” Bloom said.
“Even when he was in jail, she was afraid that he was going to retaliate against her in some way,” the attorney added. “At least her fear can now be put to rest.”
Author: Anna North