Editor's note: Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York on July 6, 2019, and faces federal charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. For more information, see The Daily Beast's reporting here.
Years ago, when she was only 14, a very pretty and naive young girl from West Palm Beach, Florida met billionaire Jeffrey Epstein at his Palm Beach mansion on El Brillo Way.
In police reports, and later in interviews with me, the girl—known as Jane Doe #1—laid out the story of how she became the very first person to accuse Epstein of sexual abuse in 2005. Her complaint was the spark that ignited a series of investigations by local police and the FBI, which uncovered more than 40 alleged victims. Now, in an exclusive video for The Daily Beast, she tells her own story for the very first time.
Epstein’s predatory behavior is back in the news with a vengeance thanks to court filings earlier this month by another victim, Virginia Louise Roberts, a self-identified “sex slave” of Epstein’s, who claimed that Epstein loaned her out to powerful friends, including Britain’s Prince Andrew and his own lawyer Alan Dershowitz. (Prince Andrew and Dershowitz have both vehemently denied these claims.)
In a lenient 2008 plea deal with the U.S. Attorney General, Epstein received 18 months of jail time for soliciting sex with a minor. He served 13 months in a county jail, rather than a federal penitentiary, and then spent 18 months under ‘house arrest,’ during which time he traveled frequently to his homes in New York and to his private Caribbean island.
In February of 2005, as Jane Doe #1 told police and as she recounts in her video, a teenager named Haley Robson—a neighbor in West Palm Beach—approached her with an offer. At the time, Jane was in the ninth grade, living with her father, stepmother and sister, and working 10 hours per week at a Chick-Fil-A, since she wasn’t old enough to carry a full-time job.
According to the police affidavit (PDF), and as Jane Doe recounts in the video, Robson told the girl that she could earn $200 for giving a massage to a rich man. In the video, Jane says she thought Robson was just trying to be a “cool older role model helping me make an easy couple hundred dollars." In retrospect, she believes that Robson “manipulated me into doing this although at the time I did not know what was going on.”
Police say Robson—who called herself Epstein’s Palm Beach “Heidi Fleiss,” according to the police affidavit (PDF)—admitted to being one of Epstein’s procurers, who would solicit (PDF) underage girls for his thrice-daily “massages,” promising them easy money. (Robson was never arrested or charged with a crime in connection to Epstein, although police reportedly had at one point submitted a warrant for her arrest, for lewd and lascivious acts on a victim under 16 years of age, to the state attorney’s office.)
“To a fourteen-year-old girl, $200 is a lot of money,” Jane Doe says in the video. And so she agreed to let Robson and a pal collect her at her father’s house and drive her to El Brillo Way. She says Robson told her to lie about her age—to say that she was 18—if Epstein asked, according to the police affidavit.
When she arrived at Epstein’s home, Jane says, Robson brought her through the kitchen entrance. A few minutes later, Epstein came in with a pretty female assistant. He introduced himself as Jeff, shook Jane’s hand, and told her to follow the assistant. Jane says Epstein seemed “nice.”
In the video, Jane says the assistant escorted her upstairs through Epstein’s master bedroom to a large bathroom. The assistant pulled out a “fold-out massage table” and offered Jane a number of massage lotions to choose from. Once the massage table was ready, the assistant told Jane to “get undressed, just to my undergarments,” because “he would be coming in shortly.
Jane says she was so nervous and confused that it “took a couple of minutes to get my head straight.” She asked herself, “What the heck am I doing?” but stayed put, mostly because “I was pretending to be 18” and she thought “an 18-year-old would never say ‘no’ to this.”
“I waited in my underwear and bra until he came into the room,” Jane says. Epstein was naked “except for a bath towel wrapped around his waist.” She says he told her to “take off her bra.”
“I was a little shrimp, didn’t have boobs, and didn’t look 18 at all,” Jane says. “My face, the way I spoke, and my body didn’t look like I was 18.” She says she thought Epstein “could tell I wasn’t feeling very comfortable,” so “he started to small-talk.” He asked her name, where she went to school, and how she knew Robson. During the drive there, Jane says, Robson had walked her through a number of talking points, such as her age, where they had supposedly met, and her likes and dislikes.
Jane says Epstein started to talk about his life. He said he “owned a lot of real estate” and “bragged about all his girlfriends, different girlfriends, especially one in particular—a young girl—in New York City [whose] parents had to come on dates with them [and sat] in the back seat of the car [to] escort them.” She says he told her “about his jet, [how he] flew girls to different places, but never said how much money he was worth.”
“He bragged a lot about how many girls he dated, partied with, took to different places and the different areas he [traveled].”
Because, at 14, Jane was quite small, she “couldn’t reach his back to give [him] a massage.” So, she says, he told her to “sit on the towel piggy-back style on top of [him].” During the massage, according to the police affidavit, “he used some sort of vibrating thing” on her vaginal area, on top of her underwear. Jane says he then rested on his back and “started to masturbate in front of me,” she says. Jane feigned “not to notice, since I had to pretend to be 18.”
“When he was finished, he got up and handed me $300 because the extra $100 was for watching him masturbate,” she says. “Usually you were paid $200.” Epstein told her to “write down your name and telephone number in the little pad next to the couch.” Then, he left the room.
Jane dressed and walked down to the kitchen by herself. When she stepped into the kitchen, she says, Epstein was talking to Robson and another girl. “He said goodbye and that was it.” Jane never saw him again.
Back in the car, Jane says in the video, Robson asked her about how much money Epstein gave her. Then she “started naming all the different situations—sexual situations, a list of sexual favors—and what he would pay for each, such as letting him touch you, giving him oral sex, and going all the way.” The list of favors, Jane says, “was worth hundreds of dollars.”
The following Monday, Jane says she went back to school and shared the secret with her best friend of what she says had happened with Epstein. She also showed her the money she had hidden in her wallet. But she says her friend told several other people and the news spread like wildfire. Jane was upset and “got into a physical altercation.” Both girls ended up at the principal’s office, where the friend relayed what Jane had told her. The principal called Jane’s stepmother, and a few days later, Jane was contacted by a female police officer. The officer, who interviewed her several times at the school, showed her a photo of Epstein and she identified him, she says. Weeks later, Jane was transferred to a different high school.
Jane Doe #1’s tip to the Palm Beach Police Department launched an investigation into Epstein that would spiral into a ten-year legal tsunami for police and victims alike. A police search of the El Brillo mansion turned up, among other things, framed pictures of nude underage girls, soap in the shape of male genitalia, a cache of vibrators, and an Amazon receipt for books on S&M and sexual slavery.
In 2010, the former Palm Beach police chief, Michael Reiter, told The Daily Beast that Epstein’s lawyers tried to intimidate him and obstruct his investigation. When the State Attorney’s office declined to press serious charges and the police chief went to the FBI. The investigation then became a federal investigation.
During the FBI investigation, which unearthed dozens of victims, Jane says that she and her family went underground for the most part. Her mother says Epstein “had a private investigator show up at my house but he did not get any information from me.” Jane says she was harassed, possibly shadowed and ultimately “bullied” by one of Epstein’s attorneys.
Jane Doe says she testified before a Florida grand jury then didn’t hear from the state again until 2008. By that time, Epstein had already negotiated the non-prosecution agreement (NPA).
Once the criminal case was settled, victims started to file civil cases against Epstien.
In 2008, when the civil litigation began, Spencer Kuvin was hired to represent a number of victims, including Jane Doe #1.
Four alleged victims, who say they were surprised by Epstein’s secret plea deal (Non Prosecution Agreement NPA), have taken legal action (PDF) against the government in recent weeks.
Last year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that alleged victims, whose previous attempts to pursue relief against Epstein were thwarted by the non-prosecution agreement still had standing to assert violations under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA).
That ruling opened the door to new litigation, prompting the recent attempt by Virginia Louise Roberts, aka Jane Doe #3, and Jane Doe #4 to join the suit first brought by lawyers Brad Edwards and Paul Cassell against the government on behalf of a different Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2 more than six years ago.
After the civil case was filed, Jane Doe #1 moved out of state for a while. In 2011, I interviewed her near the Palm Beach Police Department on South County Road; and it was then she revealed she was the first victim to come forward. Her bravery and resolve opened up a Pandora’s Box that may yet implicate some of the world’s richest and most powerful men. But Jane Doe #1’s life as a carefree and lighthearted teen ended abruptly in 2005. What remains of the child today is a sweet, fearful and vulnerable young girl reluctant to speak out despite the mounting evidence and ongoing cases.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article implied that Jane Doe #1 was not informed that her civil lawsuit against Epstein had been settled until after she received a check in the mail. Because Jane Doe #1 was a minor at the time, her legal guardian was made aware of the settlement proposal and had to sign off on it before any payment could be issued. As a result, that sentence has been removed from the article.