He has two private jets, a Manhattan mansion, a pad in Paris, a sprawling estate in Palm Beach, and an entire island in the Caribbean—not to mention some very famous friends.
But in federal court on Monday afternoon, Jeffrey Epstein looked like any other alleged perp, with disheveled hair, blue jail-issued garb, and neon orange shoes.
The billionaire financier—and registered sex offender—entered a plea to charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy that could keep him in prison blues for years to come.
“Not guilty, your honor,” he told Judge Henry Pitman.
The arraignment was held in a ceremonial courtroom in Lower Manhattan that was so packed that folding chairs were brought in to accommodate the crowd.
The spectators included two women who have publicly accused Epstein in the past, Michelle Licata and Courtney Wild, one of whom wiped away tears while waiting for the hearing to begin. Also in the gallery were attorneys representing victims, including Brad Edwards and David Boies.
Epstein, 66, was flanked by three defense attorneys who sparred with prosecutors over whether he should be released on bail pending trial.
Prosecutors argued for detention, citing his wealth and the amount of evidence that, they say, proves he recruited underage girls for sex and had them lure dozens of more victims to his New York and Florida homes between 2002 and 2005.
“He is a man of nearly infinite means and has tremendous incentive,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller said, adding that authorities have been contacted by multiple potential victims who want to tell their stories.
Defense lawyer Reid Weingarten argued the flight risk was exaggerated and noted that the feds had previously investigated Epstein—a 2005 probe that ended in a sweetheart plea on state prostitution charges.
“To us, this indictment is essentially a do-over,” Weingarten said, calling the earlier deal a “global solution” in a hint that the defense will seek to get the new indictment tossed on the grounds that it’s improper.
“There was no violence, no coercion, no intimidation, no deception,” Weingarten said, prompting the judge to ask if the girls were under 18, wouldn’t the sexual contact constitute rape.
Weingarten said that would make it “statutory rape”—then backtracked, said he was having a “senior moment,” and declared that it would not constitute rape at all because the charges don’t include penetration.
The question of bail was shelved for a future court date, and then the proceedings moved to the courtroom of the judge who will oversee the case, Richard Berman.
The two sides again squared off on whether New York prosecutors were simply bringing charges that had already been dispensed with in the Florida earlier case.
“Instead of calling it prostitution, they’re calling it sex trafficking,” Weingarten complained.
Rossmiller told the judge that the New York office had been in contact with Florida and been assured that the non-prosecution agreement only applied there and that established case law permits the new indictment.
Judge Berman asked if prosecutors expect to add any other defendants to the case. Rossmiller said there was no immediate plan for a superseding indictment but said one could come down the road.
At a press conference outside the courthouse attorney Sigrid McCawley read a statement from Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome, who have publicly accused Epstein in the past.
They called the Manhattan case “a step in the right direction.”
“It is time for Jeffrey Epstein and those who participated and enabled his sex crimes to be brought to true justice,” Giuffre said.
McCawley told The Daily Beast the women are “so ecstatic” about the charges. “There were tears of joy,” she said.
Epstein will return to court on July 15.
Until then, he will remain locked up at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, which prosecutors and defense attorneys can agree is about as far from a mansion on E. 71st Street as a billionaire can get.