A federal judge ordered Manhattan financier Jeffrey Epstein remain behind bars at a bail hearing Thursday, following a bombshell search-warrant revelation that Epstein had a fake passport and piles of cash stashed in his safe.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman cited risk of flight and danger to the community in his decision against Epstein, a registered sex offender and private-island owner who faces new federal charges of exploiting dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. That means Epstein will remain behind bars pending trial, a date for the start of which has yet to be set.
One of his attorneys, Martin Weinberg, said the legal team hadn't read the court's opinion, but when they review it, "We will seriously contemplate an appeal to the 2nd Circuit."
Berman said prosecutors established a "preponderance" of evidence of Epstein being a flight risk, calling the fake Saudi passport "concerning, and said the government also established community danger by "clear and convincing evidence."
Wearing blue prison garb with purple shirt sleeves rolled up underneath, Epstein sat quietly, his hands folded on the defense table, as Berman explained his ruling. Epstein's lawyers had wanted him released on house arrest with electronic monitoring at his $77 million Manhattan mansion. They said he wouldn't run and was willing to pledge a fortune of at least $559 million as collateral.
Berman described their proposed bail package as "irretrievably inadequate," saying, "I doubt any bail package can overcome his danger to the community."
Prosecutors, meanwhile, had argued evidence against Epstein was growing "stronger by the day" after several more women contacted them in recent days to say he abused them when they were underage.
Berman cited victims' testimony as having an impact on his decision, in addition to Epstein's alleged history of intimidating, threatening and paying off witnesses or other parties involved in the case.
One of the accusers he cited was Courtney Wild, who recently came forward and said Epstein started sexually abusing her when she was 14 in Palm Beach. She told reporters at a news conference in New York Tuesday that Epstein "will never stop sexually abusing children until he is in jail" and urged the judge to deny bail.
An attorney for three Epstein accusers said she and her clients were pleased by Berman's ruling.
"It gives us hope that justice may truly be possible against this sex offender who has hurt so many for so long," lawyer Lisa Bloom tweeted.
Berman also questioned whether Epstein has adhered to the requirements of being a registered sex offender, which he had to do as part of a plea deal with Florida prosecutors more than a decade ago.
Epstein's legal team had tried to explain to the judge why a passport from the 1980s with their client's picture but not his real name was found in a safe at his house.
"Epstein – an affluent member of the Jewish faith – acquired the passport in the 1980s, when hijackings were prevalent, in connection to Middle East travel," they wrote. "The passport was for personal protection in the event of travel to dangerous areas, only to be presented to potential kidnappers, hijackers or terrorists should violent episodes occur."
They claim the prosecution never offered any evidence to suggest that Epstein ever used the document. Berman disagreed.
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and sex trafficking charges brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. Wild's accusations are not part of that indictment. The financier's next court date is set for July 31.