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Thousands of Epstein documents were released, questions remain

The documents have received a lot of attention, and they shed little new light on the financier's habitual sexual abuse of underage girls.
Thousands of Epstein documents were released, questions remain
Posted at 3:37 PM, Jan 06, 2024

For nearly two decades, journalists, police detectives, FBI agents, lawyers and amateur sleuths have pried into the depraved world of Jeffrey Epstein.

Yet even after the release of thousands of pages of court records in recent days, some questions about the millionaire pedophile remain unanswered. The documents have gotten a lot of attention, but they shed little new light on the financier’s habitual sexual abuse of underage girls.

More than anything, the public is still fascinated with the possibility that some of the rich and powerful men in Epstein's social circle were also involved in the abuse.

Here's a look at what we know — and what we don't — about Epstein and his crimes.

Epstein first began getting media attention in 2002 after news organizations covered a trip to Africa by former President Bill Clinton, actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Chris Tucker. The five-day tour of Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Mozambique and South Africa was intended to draw attention to the fight against AIDS.

After the visit, New York magazine ran a profile of the man who provided the private jet for the trip: Jeffrey Epstein. The story portrayed him as an "international money man of mystery," who cultivated relationships with Nobel Prize-winning scientists and diplomats, but puzzled Wall Street insiders who couldn't figure out how a college dropout got so rich.

"Terrific guy," said Epstein's neighbor in both Florida and New York, Donald Trump, who was quoted in the story. "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

Those celebrity contacts made it big news when Epstein was arrested in 2006 over allegations that he had hired multiple teenage girls to give him sexualized massages at his home in Palm Beach, Florida.

Two years later, prosecutors allowed Epstein to plead guilty to a charge involving a single victim. He served 13 months in a jail work-release program, then quietly started rebuilding his network of influential friends, with the help of his socialite former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell.

After a series of Miami Herald stories about the plea bargain that deprived Epstein's victims of justice, federal prosecutors in New York revived the investigation and charged Epstein in 2019 with sex trafficking.

When Epstein killed himself in jail, prosecutors charged Maxwell with facilitating his illicit sexual encounters and participating in some of the abuse. She was convicted and is serving a 20-year prison term.

Questions are still unanswered surrounding who else was involved.

In 2009, one of Epstein's victims, Virginia Giuffre, filed a lawsuit saying he had flown her around the world for sexual encounters with billionaires, politicians, royals and heads of state.

She initially kept the names of those men secret, but in later legal filings started providing names: Britain's Prince Andrew, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, the French modeling scout Jean Luc Brunel, the billionaire Glenn Dubin and the law professor Alan Dershowitz, who had represented Epstein.

Some details of Giuffre's allegations have changed over time. She initially said she was 15 when Epstein began to abuse her, but she later acknowledged that she met him the summer she turned 17.

In 2022, she withdrew her allegations against Dershowitz, saying she "may have made a mistake" in identifying him as one of her abusers. She said she "was very young at the time" and "it was a very stressful and traumatic environment."

In one newspaper interview, for which Giuffre was paid $160,000, she described dancing with Prince Andrew at a club but said there was no sexual contact. Later, she said they had three sexual encounters. She said the newspaper had refused to print those allegations.

In another interview, she described riding in a helicopter with Bill Clinton and flirting with Donald Trump, but she later said in a deposition that those things hadn't happened and were mistakes by the reporter.

Giuffre's allegations have been investigated by the FBI. No charges have been brought based on her claims, but because of the attention generated by them Brunel was investigated in France and charged with raping other underage girls. He killed himself while awaiting trial.

Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor in 2020, Geoffrey Berman, sought to speak with Prince Andrew about matters related to Epstein, but the royal declined to be interviewed. Berman blasted Andrew at the time for falsely portraying himself to the public as eager to cooperate when he was actually dodging questions.

Andrew has repeatedly denied having sex with Giuffre and said he couldn't recall ever meeting her, though a photograph appears to show them together, and a member of Epstein's household staff also testified about seeing the two at Epstein's home in New York.

Many of the documents unsealed in recent days involve efforts by Maxwell's lawyers to discredit Giuffre, and Giuffre's lawyers' efforts to gather evidence backing up her accounts.

The records released in the case have contained scant evidence of wrongdoing by famous figures, but testimony from multiple witnesses confirmed Giuffre's accounts of Epstein's sexual misconduct.

There is still mystery surrounding the circumstances of Epstein's death while in jail.

Any chance that Epstein himself might have been able to answer questions about his famous friends died with him at a federal detention center in Manhattan in August 2019.

The death, a month after he was arrested, has fueled conspiracy theories. But multiple investigations, including an autopsy and FBI probe, have concluded Epstein died by suicide.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a June report that Epstein was able to take his own life because of "negligence, misconduct and outright job performance failures" within the jail.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center was shut down in 2021 amid concerns about squalid conditions, COVID-19, crumbling infrastructure and lingering questions about Epstein's death.

Overworked officers assigned to guard Epstein had failed to recognize he had amassed a surplus of bed linens. After a first suspected suicide attempt, jail officials left him alone and never assigned him a new cellmate.

On the night Epstein died, officers sat at desks just 15 feet from his cell, shopping online and snoozing instead of making required rounds every 30 minutes, prosecutors said.

The day before Epstein killed himself, a federal court unsealed about 2,000 pages of records in Giuffre's lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell — the same case involved in the records released in recent days.

That, combined with a lack of significant interpersonal connections and "the idea of potentially spending his life in prison were likely factors contributing to Mr. Epstein's suicide," prison officials wrote.

Whether Epstein would have ever been keen to answer questions to clear up some of the mysteries surrounding his life is a different story. In a 2016 deposition in Giuffre's lawsuit, he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

A look at what's next in the story.

The document dump isn't over yet. So far, 191 of the approximately 250 files that U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska authorized for release have been made public. Lawyers involved in the case are posting them to the docket on a rolling basis, as per the judge's instructions.

Another batch is expected on Monday, though there is little indication they will yield more than what has already been seen in the nearly 3,000 pages of deposition transcripts, legal memos, emails and other records made public since Wednesday.

Versions of many of those records had already been made public in past years, though with some sections blacked out for privacy reasons or to protect the identities of Epstein's victims.

SEE MORE: What to know about names released in Jeffrey Epstein court docs

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