By Stuart Marques
As Yogi Berra once said: "It ain't over til it's over" - and the Jeffrey Epstein story ain’t over, even after he apparently hanged himself in a jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan.
It will continue on several fronts and could be extremely bad news to a lot of people connected to the sordid saga.
There will be a federal Justice Department investigation into how it happened and why a man who tried to kill himself once before was taken off suicide watch – and why corrections officers failed to follow protocols involving inmates considered to be a danger to themselves.
Prosecutors indicated they will pursue criminal charges against several people who helped Epstein procure under-age girls for sexual liaisons for himself and others - including a few boldface names - to give the victims a sense of justice. One of those alleged enablers has been identified as Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late newspaper publisher Robert Maxwell, who briefly owned the Daily News.
And lawyers for some of the victims are promising a slew of civil suits against his vast estate, estimated to be worth more than $500 million.
"People are Going to Lose Their Jobs"
“This is the strangest thing I've ever seen; I can't believe how screwed up this whole thing has become,” said John Connolly, a former NYPD officer and co-author of a 2016 book on Epstein called "Filthy Rich: The shocking true story of Jeffrey Epstein."
“For one thing, his suicide has a lot of serious implications for a lot of people in the federal prison system,” Connolly added. “People are going to lose their jobs. Investigators will be all over this now. They're going to see who his recent visitors were and who he may have talked to on the phone in the days before his death. This is not the end by any means."
Epstein's apparent suicide on Aug. 10 came a day after a judge unsealed some 2,000 court documents in an ongoing civil case against the wealthy financier. The documents are part of a suit brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says Epstein, Maxwell and others directed her to have sex with several prominent men, including Prince Andrew of Great Britain, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Sen. George Mitchell. All have denied the allegations.
In a speech to a law enforcement group in New Orleans on Monday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said there were “serious irregularities” at the jail that “demand a thorough investigation.” In addition to that, Barr said the criminal case will continue. “Let me assure you that case will continue against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. Victims deserve justice and they will get it.”
Paul Callan, a former Brooklyn prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, told Our Town that Barr “was speaking like a very angry attorney general” determined to keep the case going and to “get to the bottom” of what happened at MCC.
“The Southern District [of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan] continues to be very active in this case and I think you’re going to see more criminal cases, despite Epstein’s death,” Callan said.
He added that he expects “an avalanche” of new civil suits, even as ongoing suits make their make through the courts.
Alone in His Cell
One victim, Jennifer Araoz, who was 14 when Epstein’s enablers allegedly recruited her near her Manhattan high school in 2001, said she’s angry that Epstein will not face justice.
“I am angry Jeffrey Epstein won’t have to face his survivors of his abuse in court," she said in a statement. "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. Epstein is gone, but justice must still be served.”
As for the jail, run by the federal Bureau of Prisons, Callan said, “you may see criminal charges, firings or disciplinary proceedings involving allegations that guards abandoned their posts or did not follow the proper procedures.”
Epstein was put on suicide watch on July 23 but taken off that six days later and put in a special housing unit where there are supposed to be two prisoners in a cell to lessen the chances of suicide. Epstein was alone in his cell at the time of his death.
Guards are supposed to check on inmates in that unit every 30 minutes.
“Obviously that didn’t happen,” Connolly said. “Someone will pay for that.”