When Jeffrey Epstein served a short-term prison sentence as part of a much-maligned plea deal more than a decade ago, he was given extraordinarily generous terms of incarceration that allowed him to roam far from the Palm Beach prison walls during most of his stay. Now that Epstein has been arrested a second time — and faces a far graver sentence — his high-end lawyers are once again trying to make his criminal-justice experience as comfortable as possible.
In a motion filed on Thursday, Epstein’s lawyers asked District Judge Richard Berman to allow Epstein to wait out his pretrial proceedings at his opulent Upper East Side townhouse, where authorities recently found a trove of photos of underage girls. The attorneys laid out 14 conditions for Epstein’s stay there, including that he be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet, that he unregister his private jet (the horror!), that he only leave the residence for medical appointments, and more.
Epstein’s lawyers argue that he should be allowed this favorable treatment and that he isn’t a flight risk because what he was accused of does not technically constitute sex trafficking, since he didn’t charge any money for it.
Try as they might, Epstein’s lawyers face a significant hurdle for procuring this kind of luxe treatment for their client. The judge overseeing the case, Richard Berman, roundly rejected a similar request in another case involving a superrich defendant: a Turkish businessman who had proposed that he be protected by personal armed guards at his residence in 2016. Back then, Berman wrote, “[T]he defendant’s privately funded armed guard proposal is unreasonable because it helps to foster inequity and unequal treatment in favor of a very small cohort of criminal defendants who are extremely wealthy.”
But Epstein’s lawyers argue that Berman’s decision in that case raised “equal protection” concerns, unduly punishing the rich simply because they happen to be rich.
Epstein’s house, where the financier of mysterious means has lived since 1996, is valued at around $56 million. It was the most expensive residence in New York at the time of its purchase, in 1989, for $13.2 million, and has become the object of speculation and fascination since Epstein’s arrest last weekend, as new details have trickled out about the eccentric touches he added to the place, including a “photorealistic prison scene” with Epstein in the middle and a chessboard with custom figures dressed in underwear.
Berman does not sound like the kind of judge who will look favorably on Epstein’s very one percent approach to his problems. But you can’t help the defendant’s lawyers for trying.