Updated 3:53 p.m.
Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier accused of sex trafficking, was found unresponsive in his jail cell from an apparent suicide at approximately 6:30 a.m. Saturday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.
Epstein was transported by EMS from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan to a local hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries. He was subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff.
The FBI is investigating.
Epstein, 66, was charged with sex trafficking of minors and sex trafficking conspiracy in July and was being held without bail. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and would have faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Last month, he was found unconscious in his cell with marks on his neck. Prison officials were investigating that incident as a possible suicide attempt but had not ruled out the possibility that he was attacked or that he had somehow staged the injuries, New York Times reporter Michael Gold told NPR’s Weekend Edition.
Epstein had been on suicide watch after he was found with injuries on July 23. The New York Times reported he received a daily psychiatric evaluation and then was removed from suicide watch on July 29. He was returned to the special housing unit, a separate area of the prison with extra security, according to reporting from the Times.
In response to the unusual circumstances around Epstein, U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered an investigation into Epstein’s death, saying he was “appalled” to learn Epstein was found dead from an apparent suicide in federal custody.
“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement. “In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”
A trove of previously sealed legal documents released Friday — one day before Epstein’s death — revealed names of prominent businessmen and politicians who were associated with Epstein over the years, Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown told NPR’s Weekend Edition.
Now, Brown said authorities may try to refocus their investigation on the people in Epstein’s inner circle, including his longtime confidante Ghislaine Maxwell.
The documents, which were among the largest collection to be released in the 13 years since Epstein’s case began, offered details of how Epstein is said to have trafficked teenage girls as young as 14 years old, as well as the key role Maxwell had in helping him, the Miami Herald reported.
Epstein’s sudden death has angered some of his accusers.
Civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents some of the women who have accused Epstein, said they still plan to hold those involved responsible.
Predator Jeffrey Epstein killed himself. On behalf of the victims I represent, we would have preferred he lived to face justice.
Our civil cases can still proceed against his estate. Victims deserve to be made whole for the lifelong damage he caused. We’re just getting started.
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) August 10, 2019
Jennifer Araoz, who accused Epstein of raping her when she was a 15-year-old New York City high school student, released a statement after his death.
“I am angry Jeffrey Epstein won’t have to face his survivors of his abuse in court,” she said. “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. Epstein is gone, but justice must still be served. I hope the authorities will pursue and prosecute his accomplices and enablers, and ensure redress for his victims.”
Lawmakers are also reacting to Epstein’s death with indignation. Congresswoman Lois Frankel of Florida is calling on Congress to investigate.
“The death of Jeffrey Epstein does not end the need for justice for his victims or the right of the public to know why a prolific child molester got a slap on the wrist instead of a long prison sentence,” Frankel said. “With the obvious end to criminal proceedings against Epstein, it is important that the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform begin its investigation immediately.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted “We need answers. Lots of them.”
This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.
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