New York Justice Loses All Credibility: Manhattan Correctional Center Staff Now Refuses to Assist Investigators
Honestly, how hard was it to see what Jeffrey Epstein was doing? In the last hours of his life, early on the morning of August 10th, it shouldn’t have been difficult at all. He was in a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, awaiting trial on charges related to the sex trafficking of minors, and a guard was required to check on him every half hour. That was less supervision than he had when he was on suicide watch, in late July—the watch was lifted after just six days—but it should have been sufficient. He was supposed to have a cellmate, too, but he didn’t. And the two guards on duty were, reportedly, asleep.
Nothing that’s happened in the arrest and death of Jeffrey Epstein helps dispel the theory that he was an unwilling victim of his own suicide. That nothing includes the NYC Medical Examiner’s determination that Epstein committed suicide.
Those, anyway, were the basic contours of the story as of the end of last week. On Friday, New York’s medical examiner determined that the cause of death was suicide by hanging. Investigations by the Bureau of Prisons, the Justice Department’s inspector general, and the F.B.I. are under way. The warden has temporarily been reassigned; the guards, who may have been working an unacceptable level of overtime and may also have doctored their logs, have been placed on administrative leave. A careful examination of the events should also redress the conditions that lead to the suicides of prisoners who are not well known, and whose situations never come into view. It might also help dispel many of the conspiracy theories now attached to Epstein’s death.
At best the ME’s report is an educated guess. At worst, the ME’s determination is meant to put the cap on a politically motivated murder prepared by a political appointee.
The New York City Medical Examiner is appointed by the city’s mayor, in this case that’s Marxist Bill DeBlasio.
Fox News’ Trace Gallagher filed this report:
But it won’t answer a central question in the case: Was everybody asleep? For years, Epstein was able to operate and be fêted in the social, financial, and academic worlds, despite barely bothering to conceal his illicit activities. Visitors to his various homes would see young women there who looked as if they should still be in school. In Florida, in 2008, he had secured a shamefully lax plea deal, which U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta signed off on. (Acosta later became the Labor Secretary for Donald Trump, who had had his own interactions with Epstein; so, as Trump has practically been shouting on Twitter, did Bill Clinton.) Prosecutors there knew of dozens of alleged victims who were minors, but Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to a pair of state prostitution charges, which both hid and distorted the girls’ stories. The lack of respect for young victims is another pathology that extends beyond the Epstein case. Before the Miami Herald published an investigation of that deal last November, Epstein had managed to return to his life in New York, and to evade accountability.
Money offers one explanation for why people seemed to ignore what was plain to see. But money, here, is really shorthand for a range of ways to exert influence. Epstein used it to buy prestige, donating millions to Harvard and hosting dinners for scientists and scholars; and to buy protection, hiring ruthless legal representation. Even now, though, it’s not clear what his business was. Some of the people who dealt with him were wealthier than he was and, one would think, at least as financially adept. Among them are Les Wexner, the head of L Brands; Leon Black, the founder of the private-equity firm Apollo Global Management; and Glenn Dubin, a co-founder of Highbridge Capital Management, whose wife, Eva, was an old friend of Epstein’s. They all gave Epstein money to manage, or retained him as an adviser in personal financial matters, or allowed him to be included in their deals. Why they would do so isn’t obvious.
The Times, in an account of Epstein’s relationship with JP Morgan, reported that, in late 2008, compliance officers at the firm’s private bank began conducting a review to identify problem clients from whom it ought to disassociate itself. (The bank had had some unfortunate dealings with Bernie Madoff.) They flagged Epstein; this was after the guilty plea, and after reports questioning the source of his wealth had surfaced. The bank kept working with him. (JP Morgan denied to the Times that a top executive had overruled the compliance team.) According to the Times’ sources, the reason, remarkably, was not the amount of money Epstein had but how much the bank valued his relationships—the friends and associates whose business he might steer its way. The Wall Street Journal reported that when Highbridge was sold to JP Morgan, in 2004, Epstein received a fifteen-million-dollar fee from Highbridge, apparently for making an introduction. The bank didn’t extricate itself until 2013; after that, Epstein moved to Deutsche Bank, which kept him on as a client until this summer.
Tolerance of Epstein, in other words, wasn’t simply a matter of bystanders focussing only on the dollar amount and not seeing the rest. He often suggested that he was involved in complex foreign-currency trades, big plays with an intellectual aspect. In reality, he may have just been the guy who gets a cut. But what currency he was actually trading in—charisma, loyalty, insight, tax schemes, or even, as he reportedly insinuated, secrets—is a matter for further inquiry. The financial accounting doesn’t add up.
Indeed, the day before Epstein’s death, Wexner released a statement saying that, in trying to disentangle his finances from Epstein’s, after the plea deal, he’d concluded that Epstein had “misappropriated vast sums of money” belonging to him. It would have been helpful if Wexner had made that discovery public years ago. Instead, Epstein quietly compensated him with a transfer of funds—from a supposedly charitable foundation that he had set up and from another entity that he controlled—to the Wexner family’s foundation. (The proper use of charitable foundations is another issue that the Epstein case raises; they are not supposed to be vehicles for obscuring the true nature of transactions.) Epstein had long deployed philanthropy to burnish his reputation. But he also encouraged speculation about his ties to powerful people. He sold the idea that he had a way in and up that was outside normal channels; it is dispiriting to realize how many influential people seemed to find that appealing.
Meanwhile, Epstein’s victims were trapped in a nightmare. Last week, documents were unsealed in a defamation suit that Virginia Giuffre had filed in 2015 against Ghislaine Maxwell, whose relationship with Epstein is somewhat opaque, and who Giuffre alleges aided him in abusing her. Maxwell settled the suit and has denied any wrongdoing, but others have made similar allegations. Prosecutors have pledged that, despite Epstein’s death, they will pursue any accomplices or co-conspirators. There will, doubtless, be more to learn, from more women.
Hat tip: AMy Dworkin / Illicit Info