About 20 women detail emotional turmoil from interactions with billionaire who killed himself in jail before he could be tried on sex trafficking charges
Jeffrey Epstein was called a coward and a depraved human being in a New York courtroom on Tuesday by women who accused him of sexually abusing them as teens.
They had been expecting their day in court to come as part of the criminal prosecution and trial of Epstein after his arrest in July. But while in life they allege he robbed them of their innocence, with his suicide in a New York jail earlier this month, he robbed them of their chance to confront him in court in person.
At a special hearing in Manhattan, alleged victims of the disgraced and now dead financier whose political and royal connections have come under fresh scrutiny since his arrest in New York were able to give voice to their anguish.
About 20 women spoke in Manhattan federal court early on Tuesday, detailing the emotional turmoil they continue to experience from their interactions with Epstein.
The subject of his former girlfriend and close associate Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late press baron Robert Maxwell, also came up at the hearing on Tuesday.
Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused me for many years, robbing me of my innocence and mental health, said accuser Courtney Wild on Tuesday. She continued: Jeffrey Epstein robbed myself and all the other victims of our day in court to confront him one by one, and for that, he is a coward.
Many Epstein accusers had heralded his 6 July arrest as an opportunity for justice after years of inaction from authorities. But Epstein killed himself in custody in New York on 10 August, bringing an end to the criminal case against him.
However, Manhattan federal judge Richard Berman, who was overseeing the case, last week scheduled this mornings proceeding in light of Epsteins death, giving his accusers the opportunity to speak.
I feel very angry and sad, said Wild. Justice has never been served in this case.
Several women testified in tears. Others choked up as they took their place before the judge to give their accounts of what happened to them and the impact his sudden death has had on his victims.
Some women identified themselves, and others preferred to withhold their names. Their ages were not given, but they described being in their teens when they encountered Epstein in the past.
The suicide felt like a whole new trauma all over again, said one unnamed accuser. I dont know why, because Im trying to defend myself against him at this point in my life, but it still does not feel good. It didnt feel good to wake up that morning and hear that he had allegedly committed suicide.
Another, who chose to remain anonymous, said: Im just angry that hes not alive anymore to have to pay the price for his actions. She claimed Epstein sexually assaulted her several months after she moved to New York for modeling as a teenager.
Another woman who spoke claimed that Maxwell, long accused of procuring victims for Epstein and of sexual misconduct herself, introduced her to Epstein.
The woman alleged that Epstein raped her at his home in the Virgin Islands. I tried to pull away, but he was already unbuttoning my shorts, she said. All I could say was No, please stop, but that just seemed to excite [him] more. I spent two weeks vomiting almost to death in a [Los Angeles, California] hospital after that first encounter.
Others were willing to identify themselves and accused Epstein and Maxwell of wrongdoing.
Im a victim of Jeffey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwells international sex trafficking ring, said accuser Sarah Ransome, who urged prosecutors: Please, please, finish what you have started.
Alleged victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre told the court: I am a victim of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell and the dark and cruel criminal acts they committed against me for years and years and years unstopped.
Epstein, long accused of abusing teen girls, had been charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy counts.
He robbed me of my dreams, said a woman who accused Epstein of raping her when she was a minor. He stole my chance of really feeling love.
The US attorneys office for the Southern District of New York, which prosecuted the case, alleged that the financier sexually abused minors as young as 14 at his Palm Beach, Florida, and New York City homes between 2002 and 2005. He had pleaded not guilty.
Judge Berman said: Mr Epsteins death obviously means that a trial in which he is a defendant cannot take place. It is a rather stunning turn of events.
Federal prosecutors in New York and US attorney general William Barr vowed that the investigation into potential co-conspirators would continue.
Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida a dozen years ago, rather than face more serious federal charges to allegations involving numerous minors, in a controversial legal deal.
He was required to register as a sex offender. He served 13 months in a local jail but then returned to elite society before being arrested last month.