Accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein set to return to court after injury in jail

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS.

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters

Jeffrey Epstein’s month started badly. It’s only gotten worse from there. And his next court date Wednesday, the last day of July, isn’t likely to bring any good news.

Epstein, 66, the accused pedophile and super-rich money manager who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump, is expected to appear at 11 a.m. ET in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

His lawyers and prosecutors are set to recommend to Judge Richard Berman a schedule for the case to address the biggest hurdles in Epstein’s criminal case on child sex trafficking charges.

Berman asked the two sides to meet prior to the Wednesday morning conference to hash out an agreeable date for Epstein’s trial, and to “devise a mutually acceptable schedule” for the evidence-gathering and exclusion processes.

But some legal minds also suspect the defense lawyers will press the judge about Epstein’s detention in federal lockup, where he was recently put on suicide watch after being found injured in his jail cell with marks on his neck.

Former federal prosecutor Michael Weinstein told CNBC that he anticipates Epstein’s lawyers will urge Berman to reconsider his decision to deny Epstein bail.

They might argue that “you need to let him out of jail because he’s not suited to be there, he’s threatened there” and, as an accused child abuser, is on the “lowest rung of all the criminals” in the prison hierarchy, Weinstein said.

Attorney Martin Weinberg walks from the Southern District of New York federal courthouse, following a bail hearing for his client Jeffrey Epstein, in New York City on July 18, 2019.

Brendan McDermid | REUTERS

Wednesday marks Epstein’s first court date in nearly two weeks, when Berman rejected the $100 million-plus bail package that the financier’s lawyers had proposed.

That deal would have allowed Epstein — who is accused by the New York feds of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls — to live under house arrest in his Upper East Side mansion. The lawyers offered a variety of extra conditions Epstein would have to follow, including wearing a tracking device and being subject to round-the-clock security monitoring.

But Berman sided with the prosecutors, who said Epstein — who owns private jets, multiple homes around the world and is worth more than $500 million — posed an extreme flight risk and a danger to the community, and allegedly paid off potential witnesses.

The judge’s order remanding Epstein to jail says that his “alleged excessive attraction to sexual conduct with or in the presence of minor girls — which is said to include his soliciting and receiving massages from young girls and young women perhaps as many as four times a day — appears likely to be uncontrollable.”

Epstein has been jailed in lower Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center since his July 6 arrest, when he was confronted by federal agents at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey as he stepped his private plane after a flight from Paris, France.

He is charged one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors. The indictment alleges Epstein sexually abused dozens of girls, some as young as 14 years old, in his Manhattan mansion and in Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.

Epstein was already registered as a sex offender as a result of pleading guilty in 2008 to state charges filed in Florida related to prostitution involving an underage girl. The non-prosecution agreement Epstein signed in that case allowed him to avoid federal criminal charges in exchange for pleading guilty to a single Florida state charge of procuring an underage girl for prostitution. He ended up serving 13 months in a Florida jail, and was allowed out on work release for much of his stay.

Alex Acosta, the top federal prosecutor in southern Florida when the non-prosecution deal was crafted, resigned as Trump’s Labor secretary earlier in July amid renewed outrage over the lenient treatment Epstein received then.

Epstein’s problems hardly ended after his arrest and incarceration in New York. Last week, Epstein was discovered on the floor of his cell in the Special Housing Unit for at-risk inmates, where he was semi-conscious and in the fetal position with marks on his neck, WNBC-TV first reported.

Some sources speculated to WNBC-TV that Epstein may have attempted suicide, while another source said officials had not ruled out whether Epstein was assaulted. Another source told the outlet that Epstein might have been trying to get a transfer to a different jail than his current center, which had recently housed notorious criminals including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

A day before his mysterious injury, Epstein was served court papers detailing new claims by a woman who says he raped her in 2002 when she was just 15.

That accuser, Jennifer Araoz, plans to sue Epstein next month for claims of sexual assault, battery and rape, which she alleges he started committing when she was a New York high school student in 2001, according to a court filing earlier this month. NBC News interviewed Araoz on July 10, the day her court petition was made public.

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