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Jeffrey Epstein, accused sex trafficker, dies by suicide: Officials

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Posted at 12:13 PM, Aug 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-10 13:13:49-04

Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced millionaire who was facing federal sex trafficking charges, died by suicide early Saturday in his Lower Manhattan prison cell, law enforcement sources and the Bureau of Prisons confirmed to ABC News.

Epstein hanged himself, the sources said.

He was found unresponsive in his cell at Metropolitan Correctional Center around 6:30 a.m., the Bureau of Prisons said. He transported in cardiac arrest to New York Downtown Hospital at 6:39 a.m., according to sources.

Epstein, 66, was set to stand trial next year for allegedly sexually abusing dozens of girls in New York and Florida.

His death came less than three weeks after he was found unresponsive in his cell at the federal prison in Lower Manhattan, with marks on his neck that appeared to be self-inflicted, sources told ABC News. He was placed on suicide watch following the July 23 incident, but was not on suicide watch at the time of his death.

The FBI is investigating the incident, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

(MORE: Financier Jeffrey Epstein allegedly had 'improper sexual contact' with young women while in 'jail': Lawyer)

Epstein was arrested in July for alleged sex trafficking of girls at his Upper East Side mansion and his home in Palm Beach, Florida. Some of the charges date back to the early 2000s.

(MORE: Former lead prosecutor tried to ‘prosecute Jeffrey Epstein to the fullest extent of the law’: Lawyer)

Financier Jeffrey Epstein looks on near Judge Richard Berman during a status hearing in his sex trafficking case, in this court sketch in New York, July 31, 2019 (Jane Rosenburg/Reuters).

Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges. He faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

Following news of his death, his alleged victims condemned his suicide and what they described as a lack of justice for them and other accusers.

"I am extremely mad and hurt thinking he once again thought he was above us and took the easy way out ... I still can't wrap my head around the fact that's really true," Jena-Lisa Jones, 30, an alleged victim of Epstein when she was 14 in Florida, said in a statement. "God will have his judgement now."

Jennifer Araoz, 32, who claimed that Epstein raped her when she was 14, called on authorities to "pursue and prosecute his accomplices and enablers.

"I am angry Jeffrey Epstein won’t have to face his survivors of his abuse in court. We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed the pain and trauma he caused so many people," Araoz said.

Michelle Licata, an alleged Florida victim of Epstein when she was 16, said she didn't want anyone to die.

"I just wanted him to be held accountable for his actions. Simple as that," she said.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News the criminal case against Epstein will not end with his death. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan will continue to evaluate the evidence and hear from his accusers, the sources said.

A source familiar with the case told ABC News that Attorney General William Barr is "livid." Barr said in a statement he was "appalled" at the news and the Inspector General is opening an investigation into Epstein's death, in addition to the FBI's investigation.

"Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered," he said.

Politicians, too, demanded answers in the wake of Epstein's suicide.

Lois Frankel, a Democratic congressman who represents Palm Beach, said his death "does not end the need for justice for his victims or the right of the public to know why a prolific child molester got a slap on the wrist instead of a long prison sentence."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., wrote on Twitter, "We need answers. Lots of them."

(MORE: Millionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein put on suicide watch after being found injured in jail: Source)

His alleged crimes were thrown back into the spotlight amid renewed scrutiny of the plea deal Epstein reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami in 2007, led by then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta. A non-prosecution agreement allowed Epstein, a hedge-fund manager, to plead guilty to two state charges and avoid federal charges for an allegedly broad pattern of similar sexual misconduct. He would serve just 13 months of an 18-month sentence in county jail in Florida.

(MORE: Millionaire Jeffrey Epstein's sex-trafficking trial set for next year; a million pages of discovery expected)
The alleged victims in that case told ABC News they were not made aware of the details of the plea agreement while it was being negotiated.
The alleged victims in that case told ABC News they were not made aware of the details of the plea agreement while it was being negotiated.

The deal is currently under review by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Acosta was serving as President Trump's Labor Secretary amid the controversy over his role in the deal. He later resigned from that position.

On Friday, a federal appellate court in New York unsealed around 2,000 pages of documents from a now-settled civil defamation case between Virginia Roberts Giuffre, an alleged Epstein victim, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime Epstein associate.

Giuffre accused Maxwell of recruiting her while she was working as a locker-room attendant at Mar-A-Lago in 2000 and bringing her to Epstein's home for a massage. She claims that she eventually became a teen sex slave to Epstein, and a victim of sex trafficking, beginning at age 17, at the hands of both Epstein and Maxwell.
Giuffre accused Maxwell of recruiting her while she was working as a locker-room attendant at Mar-A-Lago in 2000 and bringing her to Epstein's home for a massage. She claims that she eventually became a teen sex slave to Epstein, and a victim of sex trafficking, beginning at age 17, at the hands of both Epstein and Maxwell.

The newly-unsealed documents showed that Giuffre alleged that Epstein and Maxwell directed her to have sex with, among others: Prince Andrew; criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz; former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson; former Senator George Mitchell; a well-known prime minster, who she wouldn't name; and a foreign man who was introduced to her as a "prince."

Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 8, 2004.

Maxwell has consistently denied Giuffre's claims.

(MORE: Judge signs protective order over materials feds to turn over to jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein)

"Ghislaine Maxwell did not participate in, facilitate, manage or otherwise conspire to commit sex trafficking" as alleged by Giuffre, her attorney wrote in a 2016 court filing.

Maxwell's attorneys also contend in the newly unsealed court filings that Giuffre had “utterly failed” to substantiate her allegations that Maxwell facilitated her abuse. Giuffre’s claims about having been trafficked to other prominent men, Maxwell’s lawyers wrote, are “patently incredible.”

Mitchell called the allegations "false."

"I have never met, spoken with or had any contact with Ms. Giuffre," he said in a statement issued Friday. "In my contacts with Mr. Epstein I never observed or suspected any inappropriate conduct with underage girls. I only learned of his actions when they were reported in the media related to his prosecution in Florida. We have had no further contact."

Richardson also denied Giuffre's claims.

"These allegations and inferences are completely false. Governor Richardson has never even been contacted by any party regarding this lawsuit," Maddy Mahony, a spokeswoman for Richardson, said in a statement. "To be clear, in Governor Richardson’s limited interactions with Mr. Epstein, he never saw him in the presence of young or underage girls. Governor Richardson has never been to Mr. Epstein’s residence in the Virgin Islands. Governor Richardson has never met Ms. Giuffre."

Giuffre's allegations were never tested in court because the case was settled prior to trial.

During a detention hearing in July, Epstein came face-to-face with two other accusers. Annie Farmer said she was 16 when Epstein had her sent to New Mexico where he was allegedly “inappropriate” with her. Courtney Wild told the judge she was 14 when Epstein allegedly sexually abused her in Palm Beach, Florida. Both women spoke in support of keeping Epstein locked up without bail.

Epstein appeared to watch them address the judge, but his face showed no emotion.

A federal judge later denied bail for Epstein, after deciding he was too great a flight risk to release from custody.

Epstein's body will be taken to the city morgue and an autopsy will be conducted as soon as Sunday, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

ABC News' James Hill, Kaitlyn Folmer, Pierre Thomas and Kristin Shae Pisarcik contributed to this report.