Prosecutors say multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein's wealth makes him a risk to flee the country or to tamper with the investigation, so he should be detained ahead of his sex trafficking trial.
But Epstein's lawyers say he has scrupulously followed the terms of his 2008 plea deal over the past decade-plus and is no longer a danger to anyone. They argued he should be allowed to live pre-trial at his Manhattan mansion -- a home that prosecutors say would be a "gilded cage."
The two arguments came to a head in federal court on Monday for Epstein's bail hearing, where each side was given 20 minutes to lay out their positions.
US District Court Judge Richard M. Berman said he plans to make a ruling on Thursday. A pre-trial services report filed on Monday recommended that Epstein be detained, Berman said in court Monday.
Epstein, 66, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors in alleged incidents between 2002 and 2005.
The indictment says that he paid girls as young as 14 to have sex with him at his Upper East Side home and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, worked with employees and associates to lure the girls to his residences and even paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse.
The hedge fund manager was arrested July 6 at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey aboard his private jet, which had just landed from Paris. He is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal detention center in lower Manhattan.
Monday's bail hearing has provided further details about Epstein's past and the extent of his wealth, both of which are shrouded in mystery.
In court, prosecutors said that investigators going through Epstein's possessions found an expired foreign passport issued in the 1980s that showed Epstein's photo under a different name. The passport also listed his residence as Saudi Arabia.
In addition, prosecutors said they had obtained financial records confirming that Epstein is worth more than $500 million, including a single account with over $110 million. Epstein's defense submitted a financial summary of his assets under seal, and Judge Berman said he was inclined to make it public.
Defense highlights 14-year clean record
Shortly after his arrest, federal agents executing a search warrant of Epstein's mansion in New York seized a "vast trove" of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls, prosecutors said in a court filing.
That "substantial collection of photographic trophies," prosecutors argued in their bail filing, demonstrated the ongoing danger he poses to the public and is a key reason why he should be detained.
The federal charges in the indictment are similar to those Epstein avoided more than a decade ago when he signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Miami. As part of the agreement, he pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges in 2008, served 13 months in prison and registered as a sex offender.
A November 2018 Miami Herald investigation explored how Epstein used his powerhouse legal team and massive wealth to secure that agreement, which the Herald called the "deal of a lifetime." Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was the top federal prosecutor in Miami at the time, resigned from President Donald Trump's Cabinet on Friday amid criticism over the deal.
That non-prosecution agreement is at the center of the legal dispute in the trial. Prosecutors in the US Southern District of New York say it only applies to the prosecutors in the Miami district, but Epstein's attorneys say they understood the agreement applied to other districts, too.
In their bail filing, Epstein's lawyers proposed a bail package last Thursday that would allow him to live pre-trial at his Upper East Side mansion, one of the largest residences in Manhattan and valued at $77 million, according to court documents.
The arrangement also would put Epstein under electronic monitoring by GPS, require him to post a "substantial" personal recognizance bond secured by his Manhattan home, and de-register and ground his private jet.
His lawyers argued that the non-prosecution agreement and plea deal was the result of his "only notable brush with the law." They said he had closely followed the conditions of his plea deal, including his sex offender registration requirements.
"A spotless 14-year record of walking the straight and narrow, complemented by an exemplary 10-year history of diligent sex offender registration and reporting, is compelling proof he was able, once the prior investigation commenced, to conform his conduct to the law's dictates," the attorneys wrote.
History of witness tampering
Prosecutors are not buying those arguments.
They said in court filings that Epstein's wealth makes him a major flight risk, as he owns a private jet as well as six homes, including a private island in the US Virgin Islands. The plan proposed by Epstein's attorneys is "little more than a barely-secured bond masquerading as a 14-point plan," prosecutors said.
They argued that his proposal to use the home as collateral is pointless because the government is seeking to seize the property if he is convicted. They also dismissed his offer to agree to extradition in any country as "unenforceable," and they said electronic monitoring would do little but "merely give the defendant less of a head start in fleeing," according to the court filing.
Further, prosecutors said Epstein could use his wealth to tamper with the investigation -- and has a history of doing just that.
For example, prosecutors said in a court filing Friday that Epstein made $350,000 in payments to two possible co-conspirators after the Miami Herald's stories were published in November 2018. The payments were made to two individuals who could potentially testify against Epstein at trial, the prosecutors said in the court filing.
"This course of action, and in particular its timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations," prosecutors wrote.
In addition, police reports, court documents and interviews with victim attorneys revealed a number of intimidation and bare-knuckle tactics that accusers and witnesses told police they faced after Florida authorities opened their first investigation into Epstein.
During that probe, at least three private investigators who police believed were working on Epstein's behalf tracked down accusers and possible witnesses to the alleged attacks, according to police reports. They sat in black SUVs outside the homes of accusers, questioned their current and former boyfriends, and chased one parent's car off the road, according to police reports and a lawyer for three accusers.
Epstein's current attorney Reid Weingarten denied in a court filing Thursday any knowledge of the alleged car chase. If it happened, he said, it was not authorized by Epstein.