As SDNY prosecutors, Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyers, and U.S. District Judge Richard Berman prepared for Epstein’s bail hearing on Monday, reporting into the alleged sex-trafficking scandal continued unabated over the weekend. Below is a roundup of all the major developments in the case and new details about Epstein’s life that have emerged since Friday.
How Epstein regained his influence after prison
Wondering why elite circles in entertainment and finance welcomed Epstein back after his 13 months in prison beginning in 2008, New York Times reporters Jodi Kanor, Mike McIntre, and Vanessa Friedman found that the financier invested in a pretty simple PR-rehab strategy. Tactics reportedly included paying a writer $600 to write a glowing item in Forbes, which called Epstein “one of the largest backers of cutting edge science.” He also bought up at least a half-dozen URLs, like JeffreyEpsteinScience.com and JeffreyEpsteinEducation.com, whose sites were full of old pictures of him with academic heavyweights (and misspellings), giving the impression that his past giving to academic and science institutions was in fact quite recent. The lenient plea deal in Florida helped as well, as it “gave others a reason to dismiss his wrongdoing, decide he had already paid his penalty or not question what had happened.”
Two other moments from the report are worth quoting — the first involving comedian Chelsea Handler at a dinner at Epstein’s house with Charlie Rose, Woody Allen, and Soon-Yi Previn, where Handler jokingly asked the couple, “So, how did the two of you meet?”
The second involves an alleged interaction between Epstein and publicist R. Couri Hay about how he might continue to improve his reputation:
Mr. Epstein asserted that what he was convicted of did not constitute pedophilia, said Mr. Hay, who declined to represent him.
The girls he had sex with were “tweens and teens,” Mr. Epstein told him.
Former Dalton students say Epstein behaved inappropriately toward female students
The Times also reported on Epstein’s time at Manhattan’s prestigious Dalton school in the mid-1970s, when Attorney General William Barr’s father Donald wrangled him a job teaching math and physics, even though he’d dropped out of college:
Eight former students who attended the prestigious school during Mr. Epstein’s short tenure there said that his conduct with teenage girls had left an impression that had lingered for decades. One former student recalled him showing up at a party where students were drinking, while most remembered his persistent attention on the girls in hallways and classrooms.
“I can remember thinking at the time, ‘This is wrong,’” said Scott Spizer, who graduated from Dalton in 1976.
Though none of the female students interviewed recalled any “unwanted touching,” Dalton graduates remember the 21-year-old teacher flirting with students as young as 14. “There was a real clarity of the inappropriateness of the behavior — that this isn’t how adult male teachers conduct themselves,” former student Millicent Young told the Times.
New Mexico’s attorney general is investigating Epstein — and his ranch
The New Mexico state attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into Epstein and whether he sexually abused any of his victims at the $15.7 million ranch he owns in the state, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. The spokesperson for Attorney General Hector Balderas announced on Thursday that his office “has been in contact with survivors and is investigating this horrific matter,” and that it will pass along any findings to the SDNY.
The new federal sex-trafficking case against Epstein does not reference his Stanley, New Mexico, property, known as Zorro Ranch, but at least two women have alleged that Epstein committed his crimes there too. Virginia Roberts Giuffre has said she was abused at the ranch when she was an underage teen. In addition, a former employee of Epstein’s, Maria Farmer, said in an affidavit in April that:
During the summer of 1996, Epstein and [alleged accomplice Ghislaine] Maxwell flew my younger sister to their ranch in New Mexico. She was only 15 at the time and they directed her take off all of her clothes and get on a massage table. Maxwell and Epstein then touched her inappropriately on the massage table.
Epstein built a 26,700-square-foot mansion, 4,000-square-foot courtyard, and a private runway and airplane hangar on his 10,000-acre desert property about 40 miles south of Santa Fe. He bought the property from the family of former New Mexico governor Bruce King. The late governor’s son, Gary King, was New Mexico’s attorney general from 2007 to 2015 and received (and later returned) a total of $50,000 in donations from Epstein or firms linked to him.
New Mexico’s attorney general calls for new sex-offender law
Balderas has also responded to the outrage over New Mexico’s not having required Epstein to register as a sex offender after his Florida conviction (Florida and New York did). Balderas said on Friday that he would push for legislation that would require any convicted sex trafficker to register on the state’s sex-offender list (a bill to do just that recently died in the state legislature). “New Mexico continues to lag behind the rest of the country in strengthening outdated and weak laws that fail to protect our children from abuse,” Balderas acknowledged, adding that it was “a huge black eye for our state.”