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NEW YORK — One by one, 16 of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers stood before a judge amid tears of outrage and words of courage and poured out their anger toward the financier Tuesday, taking advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to
be heard in court after his jailhouse alleged suicide denied them the chance to testify against him at his sex-trafficking trial.
The women would have preferred a trial. But because Epstein, a politically connected multimillionaire, reportedly killed himself in federal custody this month, authorities said, they got only this: a three-hour hearing, convened ostensibly so a judge could weigh prosecutors’ request to drop the sex-trafficking charges brought against the jet-setting financier.
Epstein's victims and their representatives implored prosecutors to go after those who conspired and enabled Epstein's alleged crimes and his defense attorneys urged further investigation of Epstein's "stunning" death in federal custody on Aug. 10.
A tearful Courtney Wild, who said the sexual abuse by Epstein in Florida began when she was just 14, was the first to speak. She called Epstein “a coward” and told the court, “I feel very angry that justice has never been served in this case.”
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who has said she was a 15-year-old when she was recruited to perform sex acts on Epstein, said: "My hopes were quickly dashed and my dreams were stolen."
"Finish what you started...We are survivors and the pursuit of justice should not abate."
Teala Davies, taking deep breaths to steady her voice, said she was 17 when she was victimized. She said she thought Epstein was the most powerful person in the world.
“But the end is here, and here I stand, feeling more powerful than he will ever be,” she said.
Several other victims spoke out, many of whom implicated socialite Ghislaine Maxwell as Epstein's co-conspirator.
Maxwell, 57, allegedly provided Epstein with underage sex slaves. Court documents recently alleged that Maxwell, who is the daughter of the late, disgraced publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, also participated in threesomes with Epstein and underage girls, according to multiple women who have come forward in the case.
She has not been charged and denied any wrongdoing.
The women, many speaking for the first time, talked about how, as teenagers or young women just past their teens, they were preyed upon, recruited and sexually abused by sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who used his social, political and financial connections to lure them in and that would drastically alter and, in some cases, ruin their lives.
Now grown women, some with their own children, the survivors spoke about years of shame, suicidal thoughts,self-loathing, and anger — and how they still suffer trauma and depression to this day. Now, two weeks after Epstein was found dead in his jail cell, where he was awaiting trial on newly filed sex charges, they feel angry that they’ve again been denied justice.
In opening the session, the judge called the 66-year-old Epstein’s suicide a “rather stunning turn of events.” He defended his decision to let the women speak, saying: “Public hearings … promote transparency and provide the court with insights and information that the court might otherwise not be aware of.”
In addition to the women who spoke, statements from over a dozen others were read in court by their lawyers.
During the 2½-hour proceeding, the women sometimes clutched one another to lend support. Most remained composed, but several cried as they described falling into Epstein’s web. His death left some of them angry, others sad. One said she was relieved that he was gone and could abuse no others.
A New York City coroner ruled that Epstein hanged himself. But one of Epstein’s lawyers, Martin Weinberg, challenged that finding during Tuesday’s hearing, saying an expert hired by the defense determined that broken bones in his neck were “more consistent with pressure … with homicide” than suicide.
When a prosecutor said the manner of Epstein’s death was “completely irrelevant to the purpose of today’s proceeding,” the judge responded: “Well, I don’t know. … I think it’s fair game for defense counsel to raise its concerns.”
But the judge took no immediate action on the request, and prosecutors noted that a grand jury is already investigating the death.
At his death, Epstein was being held without bail, accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls in the early 2000s at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida.
Attorney General William Barr has vowed that anyone who aided Epstein in sex trafficking will be pursued. He also removed the jail warden and the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons and placed two guards who were supposed to be watching Epstein the morning he died on leave.
Outside the courtroom, there was gratitude from the accusers for the opportunity to share their pain.
And a hope for further justice from Chauntae Davies: “It makes me sick to my stomach that there’s perpetrators out there that [sic] obviously helped him for a very long time and they’re still out there with no punishment.”