On Saturday morning, Jeffrey Epstein—a man accused of trafficking dozens of underage girls into a sex ring—was found unconscious in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, and subsequently pronounced dead. Although the Medical Examiner's office has not yet confirmed the cause, the prevailing theory holds that Epstein hanged himself: Since his arrest in July, he had been awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges pertaining to his alleged "sexual pyramid scheme," wherein he and his associates enlisted minors (some as young as 14 years old) to give him "massages." He pleaded not guilty, but according to prosecutors, those sessions often served as a vehicle for sexual abuse. His death thwarts a trial that, according to Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown—whose reporting revived scrutiny of a previous plea deal that allowed Epstein to go free after little more than a year in country club jail—"likely would have drawn in an array of prominent witnesses," potentially including presidents past and present.
Predator Jeffrey Epstein killed himself. On behalf of the victims I represent, we would have preferred he lived to face justice.
Our civil cases can still proceed against his estate. Victims deserve to be made whole for the lifelong damage he caused. We’re just getting started.
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) August 10, 2019
The day before Epstein's apparent suicide, a vast trove of documents became public, a cache that details damning allegations against the disgraced financier and his right-hand woman, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. The filings stem from a defamation suit one of Epstein's alleged victims—Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says that when she was a teen working at Mar-a-Lago, Maxwell recruited her into the operation—brought against Maxwell in 2015. Their contents implicate a number of Epstein's powerful and wealthy associates (including, but not limited to, Britain's Prince Andrew, whose involvement in Epstein's scheme Buckingham Palace has vigorously denied), and although Maxwell has characterized Giuffre as "an absolute liar," it's possible that—with Epstein gone—authorities could now focus their attention on his second-in-command.
But two days out from Epstein's death, there remain a lot of questions we simply can't answer yet, along with some we can. Below, we've catalogued everything we know—and everything we don't—about the Epstein case as it stands right now.
What we know
Epstein's unresponsive body was found around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons reporting that "responding staff" undertook "life-saving measures ... immediately." Epstein was taken to New York Downtown Hospital "for treatment of life-threatening injuries," but was ultimately pronounced dead the same morning.
Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself at MCC. He was taken to the hospital just after 630 am
— Aaron Katersky (@AaronKatersky) August 10, 2019
Epstein's death was initially reported as a hanging, raising questions as to why he had been left unsupervised to begin with. In late July, Epstein had been found semi-conscious and injured in his cell: Some suggested that he had been attacked by his fellow inmates, while other sources said he may have tried to hang himself. Epstein was placed on suicide watch, but then taken off in late July, reportedly at the request of his attorneys.
Although protocol dictates that Epstein should have been left with a cellmate and subject to regular check-ins from guards every 30 minutes, a law enforcement source tells the NY Times that did not happen.
According to the NY Post, correction officers at MCC had been working overtime for an extended stretch when they found Epstein's body. And because of staffing shortages, one of the workers assigned to Epstein's unit was not a correction officer. Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, told the Washington Post, "If it wasn’t Mr. Epstein, it would have been somebody else, because of the conditions at that institution. It wasn’t a matter of how it happened or it happening, but it was only a matter of time for it to happen. It was inevitable. Our staff is severely overworked."
What we don't know
We don't know why Epstein was taken off suicide watch, nor do we know why staff weren't completing the obligatory inmate check-ins, nor do we know why Epstein was alone at the time of the incident. According to NBC, he should have been outfitted in "a tear-resistant, one-piece smock" and placed in a "special bare-bones cell," absent anything he could potentially use to harm himself. There's no surveillance footage of the inside of Epstein's cell, either, which makes answers even harder to come by.
"Under the circumstances, I would have a staff member sitting there or have a camera on him 24/7 while he was in my custody, purely to cover my butt," Bob Hood, formerly a chief of internal affairs at the federal Bureau of Prisons and an ex-warden at Colorado's ADX Florence prison (a so-called supermax facility), told NBC. "I know that sounds tacky, but this is not your average inmate."
According to the Medical Examiner, the results of Epstein's autopsy were "inconclusive," and the cause of death is now being investigated by both the FBI and a "livid" U.S. Attorney General William Barr. (A Times source, however, says the "medical examiner is confident the cause of death is suicide by hanging, but she wants more information from law enforcement before releasing her determination.")
Citing "serious irregularities" at the MCC, where conditions have been described as nightmarishly close to a gulag's, Barr reportedly vowed: "Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it."
A number of conspiracy theories cropped up in the immediate aftermath of the news, and while some—the idea that Epstein's death was a hit commissioned by one of his former friends, Bill Clinton or Donald Trump, for example—seem obviously outlandish, the many procedural lapses have nonetheless led some to raise the possibility of outside interference.
"Something doesn't smell right," Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams reportedly said of the death, pointing to the powerful people named in Friday's court docs. "Something is really troubling about that and I think it needs to be investigated extremely and very thoroughly to make sure there wasn't any foul play."
What we know
Regardless of how it happened, Epstein's death exploded any possibility that he would have to face the consequences of his alleged actions in court. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman has pledged to continue the investigation outlined in Epstein's indictment, now with particular focus on the sex trafficking conspiracy charge, suggesting that Epstein's associates—particularly Maxwell, who allegedly functioned as his madam, procuring and grooming young girls for her friend and possible employer, and sexually abusing many of them herself—may now become the prosecution's target instead. Maxwell has not yet been charged, and according to the Washington Post, her precise whereabouts remain unknown—even to federal authorities.
Some of Epstein's alleged victims may also pursue civil suits against his estate, and while that may be a difficult path without a defendant, according to NPR, it's still an option. Lisa Bloom, who represents some of those women, has called on "the administrators of Jeffrey Epstein's estate to freeze all his assets and hold them for his victims who are filing civil cases," promising: "We're just getting started."
From one of my Jeffrey Epstein victim clients this morning. pic.twitter.com/8gRozyQPMP
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) August 10, 2019
What we don't know
Whether or not any of Epstein's potential collaborators will be charged, or when; what kind of financial compensation victims might receive.
What we know
Epstein was wildly wealthy, even if he didn't technically achieved his purported billionaire status. His net worth has been estimated at around $559 million, and his estate includes properties in New York City (a $77 million townhouse); Palm Beach; New Mexico (the sprawling ranch Epstein reportedly wanted to turn into a baby farm); Paris; and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Epstein owned Little St. James, dubbed "Pedophile Island" in the press). He also owned a fleet of 15 to 37 vehicles, at least one plane—the "Lolita Express"—and when he was arrested, a search warrant of his NYC mansion led investigators to a safe in which the financier had apparently squirreled away 48 loose diamonds and "piles of cash."
What we don't know
In short, what happens to his fortune: As mentioned, it could be used to pay out civil settlements to Epstein's alleged victims, but as the Miami Herald reports, it will be difficult for the federal government to seize his assets, some of which may still be unaccounted for. Epstein's trial had been tentatively scheduled for June 2020, and criminal forfeiture of his estate would have required a guilty verdict—which his death obviously puts outside the realm of possibility. Still, civil suits (brought by his victims and/or the federal government) could enable forfeiture, which would require federal prosecutors to make a case that each of Epstein's possessions had likely been used in, or come to him as a result of, his crimes. (Civil lawsuits use a preponderance of evidence standard, meaning prosecutors have to prove it's more likely he committed a crime than that he didn't.) That, according to the Herald, would be a long road, but Bloom at least seems to have committed to taking it.
We also don't know where Epstein's will is, or if one even exists, or who the executor might be. The Herald raises the possibility that—based on his previous financial support of scientific research and his interest in eugenics and cryogenics—Epstein may have left significant assets to charities and scientific foundations, which could then repurpose the funds for more positive purposes. That, however, seems extremely hypothetical.
Epstein has few known relations: A niece and a nephew, both residing in New York, and a brother named Mark. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mark Epstein's assets appear to amount to a fraction of his late brother's, but the pair do share one financial connection: An Upper East Side condo building, purportedly owned by Mark (although real estate records complicate the question of ownership) and apparently used by Jeffrey to house some "models," at least for a time. The nature of the brothers' relationship is murky, but in any case, the value of the financier's full estate will be difficult to gauge, and take time to uncover.
Tl;dr: This story is still developing, and will be for some time. Epstein may be dead, but the case remains ongoing.