A least a dozen women who have accused the late multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein of sexual assault and abuse are expected to attend and likely will speak at a Tuesday hearing in federal court in Manhattan.
Following Epstein’s suicide this month in federal prison, prosecutors told US Judge Richard Berman they were seeking to have the indictment against him dismissed. Berman could simply have signed the order but instead scheduled Tuesday’s hearing to shed more light on prosecutors’ decision and to allow victims to address the court.
“The court believes that where, as here, a defendant has died before any judgment has been entered against him, the public may still have an informational interest in the process by which the prosecutor seeks dismissal of an indictment,” the judge wrote.
Since Epstein was charged in early July, prosecutors have heard from a number of people with allegations against him and have gotten other information that’s enabled them to “dramatically expand the scope of our investigation,” they’ve said.
“To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, 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,” the federal prosecutor said.
Tuesday’s hearing will give victims a chance to speak after more than a decade of attempts to hold Epstein accountable.
Victims tread a rocky road to justice
Two of Epstein’s victims spoke during a July detention hearing for Epstein. Courtney Wild and Annie Farmer told Berman that Epstein should not be granted bail, which was denied.
Still, the path to this point has been riddled with roadblocks for Epstein’s victims. In 2007, federal prosecutors in Florida signed a nonprosecution agreement with Epstein that allowed him to escape federal charges and instead plead guilty to prostitution-related state charges. He served a 13-month sentence that allowed him to work outside jail for 12 hours a day.
The deal was inked without notifying the victims in advance. A federal judge later said the Department of Justice violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by failing to notify them about the charging decision.
After a series of critical Miami Herald stories, Epstein was charged last month with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. Prosecutors accused him of operating a sex trafficking ring in which he paid underage girls to have sex with him and paid some of them to recruit other victims.
He had pleaded not guilty.