Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in August as he awaited trial on federal sex-trafficking charges

By Jeff Truesdell
November 26, 2019 09:00 AM
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Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images; Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan

Prince Andrew’s disastrous recent broadcast interview discussing his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has pushed allegations about the disgraced financier, who died by suicide in a New York City jail in August, back onto the front pages.

Here’s what to know about the Epstein case.

He Was Convicted for Soliciting a Minor for Prostitution

In 2008, Epstein — who counted himself as a one-time friend to dozens of high-profile celebrities, moguls and public officials, including presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump in his pre-White House days — pleaded guilty in Florida state court to soliciting a person under 18 for prostitution. PEOPLE confirmed he was sentenced to 13 months in jail, although he served much of the time in work release at his office in Palm Beach. He was required to register as a sex offender.

New Charges Accused Epstein of Trafficking Girls as Young as 14

On July 6, Epstein was arrested at a New Jersey airport and charged in a new federal indictment that alleged he had “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes.” The incidents occurred in several locations, including Manhattan and Palm Beach. The indictment alleged Epstein paid some victims to recruit additional victims.

The indictment charged Epstein with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He faced a maximum 45-year prison sentence if convicted. According to court records filed in Manhattan Federal Court, some of the alleged victims were as young as 14 at the time of the alleged abuse.

Jeffrey Epstein
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Epstein pleaded not guilty to all charges but was denied bail following a search of his property that revealed he had a fake passport and stacks of cash hidden in his safe. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman ordered him to remain behind bars as a flight risk pending a trial date.

Jeffrey Epstein
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Guards Found Epstein Unconscious in His Cell as He Awaited Trial

On Aug. 10, guards at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center reported finding Epstein, 66, unconscious in his jail cell around 7:30 a.m. in cardiac arrest. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. NYC Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson officially ruled his death a suicide by hanging.

The incident occurred two weeks after Epstein had been discovered injured in his cell, lying in a fetal position with marks on his neck.

Jail Staffers Have Been Accused of Failed Oversight

Two staff members assigned to guard Epstein at the federal jail, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, subsequently were detained and charged with falsifying records about their activities when they were meant to check on him every 30 minutes, according to an indictment, reports The New York Times.

The criminal charge alleged the two men were napping and looking online at items for sale rather than conducting their required rounds during the time that Epstein hung himself between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., when security cameras showed that no one entered the wing where Epstein was alone in his cell.

Prince Andrew’s Friendship With Epstein Dates Back to 1991

Queen Elizabeth‘s son recalled meeting Epstein in 1991, through the financier’s then-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell.

“It would be, to some extent, a stretch to say that as it were we were close friends,” Andrew said in the sit-down BBC Newsnight interview. “I mean, we were friends because of other people,” he said, although he acknowledged staying overnight in Epstein’s residences.

Prince Andrew
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In a time period covered during that interview, Andrew denied knowing Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, who claims that she was forced to have sex with the royal three times between 1999 and 2002 in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by the disgraced financier, starting when she was 17 years old.

“I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever,” the Duke of York, 59, said about Giuffre’s allegations. “It just never happened.”

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The allegation also invoked a connection to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach residence and members-only club, as Giuffre, a former towel girl at the property, claimed Epstein used his girlfriend at the time to recruit her into sexual slavery while she worked there, according to Politico.

In a 2002 interview with New York magazine, Trump said: “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. 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. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

In the swift fallout from Andrew’s interview, he announced Nov. 20 that he was “stepping away” from public duties for the “foreseeable future.”