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Death of Jeffrey Epstein

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On August 10, 2019, American financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his prison cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center while awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges. He had recently been denied bail. The events surrounding his death have been subject to numerous conspiracy theories.

Arrest and imprisonment

The Metropolitan Correctional Center

Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on multiple charges, including sex trafficking, to which he pleaded not guilty.[1] He had once faced similar charges in 2008, but escaped federal charges in a plea deal. He was convicted of state charges of engaging in sex acts with a minor and was a registered sex offender in both the state of Florida and the state of New York, in the latter state he had the highest level of sex offender status as possible. On July 18, Epstein was denied bail after offering US$600,000 to be able to wear an ankle tracker at his New York City townhouse. He was viewed as a potential flight risk due to his 20 international flights in the prior 18 months.[2]

Epstein was found semiconscious in his cell with injuries to his neck on July 23. He reported that he had been assaulted by his cellmate, multiple murder and drug conspiracy suspect Nicholas Tartaglione, which is common with inmates accused of the crimes he was facing.[3][4][5] As a result of the incident, Epstein was placed on suicide watch rather than being placed in protective custody.[6] He was placed in an observation cell, surrounded by windows, where lights were left on and any devices that could be used by the prisoner to take his own life were not permitted to be retained.[7] Following a psychiatric examination, Epstein was removed from suicide watch after six days. Epstein was then moved to a special housing unit, where he was kept in a cell by himself.[8]


Epstein was found unresponsive in cardiac arrest in his cell around 6:30 AM on August 10, 2019, in what was initially reported as an apparent suicide. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The news of the death was posted on 4chan about 38 minutes before ABC News broke the news. If it was posted by a first responder, as it seems to have been, it would likely be a violation of privacy law, but the poster is so far unidentified, and the "review" is ongoing.[9][10]

An autopsy on Epstein's body was conducted on August 11 by New York City's Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson. Epstein's lawyers sent pathologist Michael Baden to personally observe the city's autopsy.[11] Following the autopsy, the medical examiner's office reported that Epstein had hung himself with a sheet from his bed.[12] On August 14, unofficial sources reported that broken bones were found in Epstein's neck; this can occur in the suicide of the elderly. They are said to be "more common in victims of homicide by strangulation"[13] though multiple studies have found different percentages for both manners of death.[14] Epstein's lawyers released a joint statement following the report of the medical examiner, expressing that they are not satisfied and challenging the conclusions and that a more complete response was forthcoming. They also indicated that the defense team fully intends to continue its own independent and complete investigation into the circumstances and cause of their client's death.[15] On August 14, Manhattan federal court judge Richard Berman, who was overseeing Epstein's criminal case, wrote to the Metropolitan Correctional Centre warden Lamine N'Diaye inquiring as to whether an investigation into the millionaire’s apparent suicide would include a probe into his prior (July 23rd) injuries. Judge Berman wrote that to his knowledge it has never been definitely explained what they concluded about the incident in which Epstein reported that he had been assaulted by his cellmate.[16]


U.S. President Donald Trump responded to Epstein's death by retweeting a conspiracy theory linking his death to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Angel Ureña, a spokesperson for the Clintons tweeted: "Ridiculous, and of course not true — and Donald Trump knows it. Has he triggered the 25th Amendment yet?"[17] White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s retweet, saying on "Fox News Sunday" that he "wants everything to be investigated".[18] CNN host Jake Tapper later called out Trump for the retweet, "The state of our union is appalled", Tapper complained on his show State of the Union. "We begin this morning with a retweet from the president of the United States. Not a message about healing or uniting the country one week after two horrifying massacres, not about the victims of those tragedies. Instead President Trump using his massive Twitter platform to spread a deranged conspiracy theory tying the death of pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in prison to the president's former political rivals, the Clintons. I'm not going to show you the tweets", Tapper added, before later noting that Trump could "use his megaphone for anything. But the president often uses it to amplify that which is the worst of us: personal attacks, bigotry and insane conspiracy theories."[19]

Attorney General William Barr decried Epstein's death while in federal custody, "I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody. Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death", Barr added.[20] Ben Sasse later wrote a letter to Barr and said that "heads must roll" regarding Epstein's suicide. "The Department of Justice failed, and today Jeffrey Epstein’s co-conspirators think they might have just gotten one last sweetheart deal", the letter went on: “Every single person in the Justice Department — from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer — knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn't be allowed to die with him", he added. "Given Epstein’s previous attempted suicide, he should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance. Obviously, heads must roll", he wrote.[21]

New York Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform, tweeted "We need answers. Lots of them." MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted "He reportedly tried to kill himself two weeks ago. And is allowed to finish the job now? Bullshit." Rep. Matt Gaetz, who sits on the United States House Judiciary Committee, called on chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler to prioritize investigating the circumstances around Epstein’s death over other probes being carried out by the committee.[22] Rep. Lois Frankel called for a congressional investigation into a 2008 plea deal for Epstein. "The death of Jeffrey #Epstein does not end the need for justice for his victims or the right of the public to know why a prolific child molester got a slap on the wrist instead of a long prison sentence", Frankel tweeted. "With the obvious end to criminal proceedings against Epstein, it is important that the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform begin its investigation", she added. Sen. Ben Sasse, chairman of the United States Senate Judiciary oversight subcommittee, said in a statement that "as a matter of public policy, the government has failed" Epstein's victims, who will no longer be able to face their alleged abuser in court. "It is inexcusable that this rapist was not under constant suicide watch", Sasse wrote. "These victims deserved to face their serial abuser in court." Florida Senator Rick Scott echoed Sasse's statement, saying Epstein's death had robbed his victims of an "opportunity for justice. The Federal Bureau of Prisons must provide answers on what systemic failures of the MCC Manhattan or criminal acts allowed this coward to deny justice to his victims", Scott said in a statement.[23] Attorney Lisa Bloom wrote: "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."[24]

"For them to pull him off suicide watch is shocking", Cameron Lindsay, a former warden with experience working at three federal facilities, told NBC News. “For someone this high-profile, with these allegations and this many victims, who has had a suicide attempt in the last few weeks, you can take absolutely no chances. You leave him on suicide watch until he’s out of there.” Preet Bharara tweeted that he was "dumbfounded" by the incident. Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, questioned the “motives” behind Epstein's death. “What does the word watch mean in the phrase suicide Watch? Who was watching?” he tweeted. “The death of Jeffrey Epstein does not end the need for justice for his victims or the right of the public to know why a prolific child molester got a slap on the wrist instead of a long prison sentence,” said Rep. Lois Frankel. Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the Oversight panel, echoed Frankel’s call, saying the committee “has a duty to ensure all those who played a role in this travesty of justice answer to those crimes.” For their part, federal prosecutors in the case called Epstein's death “disturbing” and emphasized that they would continue to seek justice for his accusers even after the financier's death. “To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment – which included a conspiracy count – remains ongoing,” Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “I am angry Jeffrey Epstein won't have to face his survivors of his abuse in court,” Jennifer Araoz told CNN in a statement. “Epstein is gone, but justice must still be served. I hope the authorities will pursue and prosecute his accomplices and enablers, and ensure redress for his victims.”[25]

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand reiterated her call for a “full investigation” into Epstein's death, “These survivors deserved justice, they deserved a day in court, they deserved to speak out against this perpetrator, and it is a shame,” Gillibrand said on CBS News' “Face the Nation.” She went on: “I do think there needs to be a full investigation about why he was taken off the suicide watch list; I think it’s a strange decision, given that he attempted suicide once already. I want to know why he was left in a circumstance where suicide was even possible,” she added. “I think it needs a full investigation.”[26] New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a "full investigation" into Epstein's death. "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but something's way too convenient here, and we need to get down to the bottom of what happened," the Des Moines Register reported that De Blasio said. He also called for the investigation of Epstein's alleged sex-trafficking ring: "Because we're talking about many, many people — likely dozens or more who were involved. His death should not mean that that investigation is dropped," de Blasio told reporters.[27]

On August 12, 2019, the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee sent 23 questions to the Federal Bureau of Prisons about Epstein's death. “The apparent suicide of this high-profile and — if allegations are proven to be accurate — particularly reprehensible individual while in the federal government’s custody demonstrates severe miscarriages of or deficiencies in inmate protocol and has allowed the deceased to ultimately evade facing justice,” Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and ranking member Doug Collins wrote in a letter to acting Bureau of Prisons director Hugh Hurwitz. “Any victims of Mr. Epstein’s actions will forever be denied proper recourse and the scintilla of recompense our justice system can provide in the face of such alleged atrocities; the competency and rigor of our criminal justice system has been marred by this apparent oversight,” the letter adds.[28] “There needs to be a question of what happened specifically inside MCC,” said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. “But there also needs to be a broader organizational examination — what did William Barr and others within the Justice Department do?” “Did he take any steps to ensure that Epstein would be protected?” Honig continued. “The MCC is Bill Barr’s responsibility.”


On August 16, 2019, Barbara Sampson, the New York City Medical Examiner, announced that Epstein's death had been ruled a suicide by hanging.[29] Conflicting reports stated that the injuries Epstein sustained were as consistent, if not more, with strangulation or homicide as with suicide.[30][31] However, Sampson's report found that there was no foul play in Epstein's death.[32][33][34] Three of Epstein's lawyers expressed their dissatisfaction with Sampson's conclusion of suicide, having hired renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to observe the autopsy, and reported that they would be initiating their own investigation and will be providing a more detailed statement in the coming time.[35][36][37] Further, it has been acknowledged that Baden observed Sampson's autopsy when it was conducted and that upon being contacted for comment indicated that he unable to speak to comment due to gag orders filed by not only Sampson's office but Epstein's estate, as well.[29] On August 14, 2019, Manhattan federal court judge Richard Berman, who was overseeing Epstein's criminal case, wrote to the Metropolitan Correctional Centre warden Lamine N'Diaye inquiring as to whether an investigation into the millionaire’s apparent suicide would include a probe into his prior (July 23rd) injuries. Judge Berman wrote that to his knowledge it has never been definitely explained what they concluded about the incident in which Epstein reported that he had been assaulted by his cellmate.[38]


The Federal Bureau of Investigation subsequently launched an investigation of the circumstances surrounding Epstein's death.[39] With Attorney General Barr saying that Justice Department officials will thoroughly investigate “serious irregularities” at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) where Epstein was found dead from suicide. Barr also warned that any of Epstein’s alleged co-conspirators "should not rest easy," noting that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively pursue the case to ensure anyone who worked alongside Epstein will be held accountable. “We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Barr said during remarks at a law enforcement conference in New Orleans. “The FBI and the Office of Inspector General are doing just that.” Barr said he was “appalled” and “angry” by the developments; he insisted that the Justice Department would “get to the bottom” of what happened and promised accountability. “Let me assure you this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” Barr said. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it.”[40] On August 12, 2019, federal agents searched Epstein's home on his private island, Little Saint James.[41]

Two French Cabinet officials Marlène Schiappa and Adrien Taquet subsequently called for an investigation into the “many unanswered questions” about Epstein's ties to France, calling for the French government to launch its own probe. “The US investigation has highlighted links with France,” Schiappa and Taquet said in the statement, according to ABC. “It thus seems to us fundamental for the victims that an investigation be opened in France so that all is brought to light.” “The elements received at the Paris prosecutor’s office are being analyzed and cross-referenced,” a spokesperson for the office told ABC News. “The first audits are currently underway to determine whether an investigation should be opened in France.”[42]

On August 13, 2019, the New York City Fire Department said it reviewed a 4chan post purporting to be from a first responder detailing Epstein's death more than 30 minutes before it was made public, BuzzFeed News reported. "The FDNY reviewed the alleged information and determined it did not come from the Department," FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer told The Hill on Tuesday. Dwyer emphasized that "at no time was there an investigation" into the information and called BuzzFeed's initial story "inaccurate." BuzzFeed subsequently issued a correction noting that the department conducted a "review" instead of a more formal "investigation" into the information.[43]

That same day, Attorney General Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons to temporarily reassign the warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Shirley Skipper-Scott, to the bureau’s Northeast Regional Office while the FBI and Justice Department inspector general investigate the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death. Two staff members assigned to Epstein’s unit have also been placed on administrative leave, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. James Petrucci has been named acting warden of the MCC, the Justice Department added. “The Bureau of Prisons also placed on administrative leave two MCC staff assigned to Mr. Epstein’s unit pending the outcome of the investigations. Additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant," Kupec said.[44]

Later that same day, Nebraska senator Ben Sasse urged Attorney General Barr to "rip up" a 2008 nonprosecution deal for Epstein, arguing that the Justice Department must bring his co-conspirators to justice in the wake of his death. "The victims of Epstein’s international sex trafficking ring deserve justice," Sasse, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary oversight subcommittee, wrote in a letter to Barr. "In order to bring Epstein’s co-conspirators to justice, the Department of Justice should rip up the non-prosecution, non-investigation agreement entered into by Epstein and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in 2008," he continued. "This agreement should shock the conscience of anyone familiar with its details," Sasse said in the letter. "This crooked deal cannot stand."[45] Steve Gomez, a former FBI special agent, said the Justice Department must publicly air the findings of the investigation. “The optics of what happened with Epstein will need to be addressed,” Gomez said. “Those conspiracy theories are going to have to be addressed, and so, because of that, I believe the public will get some information on what happened as opposed to a low-profile person who is in jail and committed suicide.” “Barr is so high up the food chain that it’s very unrealistic to expect him to be down in the weeds of procedures that just should be standard with regards to a suspect like this who is in custody,” he said.[46]

Conspiracy theories

Bob Fitrakis

On July 27, 2019, progressive political activist and author Bob Fitrakis—a long time investigator into Epstein and his ties to businessman Les Wexner[47]—in a July 2019 AMA interview on Reddit's Chapo Trap House subreddit, stated that he thought it was "likely" that Epstein would be "killed in prison."[48][49] Fitrakis reported that in the late 1990s, during his initial investigations into Epstein, that he received two written letters in the mail from a man only known as "Sky Hawk". The letter allegedly stated that "Jeff Epstein = toe tag"—a saying that he interpreted as a death threat to stop investigating.[50] In an article column published after Epstein's death, Fitrakis stated he doubted that his death was suicide.[51]

Spencer Kuvin

Spencer Kuvin — a lawyer who represented three alleged victims of Epstein — stated in a July 2019 interview with the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, after Epstein's first apparent suicide attempt, that he believed it was an attack on his life, and stated there was a high probability that he would be murdered in prison. Kuvin suggested that powerful people wanted Epstein killed.[52][53]

In a statement after his death, Kuvin wrote that: "There were people out there who didn't want information coming out, information that Epstein could use to negotiate a light prison sentence...I would be looking at banking records of any guards who work at that jail to see if they quit the job and bought a million dollar home."[52]

Connections to public figures

Epstein, as a billionaire financier, often managed the wealth of elite people and socialized with many powerful figures, including Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Alan Dershowitz, Ghislaine Maxwell, Leslie Wexner and others.[54][55] Epstein's accusers claimed they were "handed off" to some of these same elites.[56] Epstein reportedly told lawyer James B. Stewart that he had dirt on many of the rich and powerful.[57]

Bill Clinton

After Epstein was arrested in 2019, Bill Clinton's connections to Epstein became an issue. Clinton responded with the statement: "President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York." Clinton said that he only met Epstein on six occasions: four multiple-stop trips on Epstein's private jet (nicknamed the "Lolita Express" by the tabloid press[58]), a trip to Epstein's Harlem office, and a single visit to Epstein's New York apartment.[59]

According to the flight manifests, Clinton flew with Epstein six times, twice without Secret Service personnel. On one trip, Clinton flew to Asia with Epstein and his then-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, who allegedly recruited under-age girls for Epstein. Chauntae Davies, Epstein's former personal masseuse, was present on many of Epstein's flights, including some with Clinton.[60]

In documents unsealed the day before Epstein's suicide, the deposition of alleged sex slave Virginia Giuffre included her claim that Bill Clinton visited Epstein's "Little Saint James" island, that underage girls were present, and that Epstein threw a dinner party for the former president. However, the unsealed court documents also showed Giuffre later acknowledged that her claim Clinton visited the island was false.[61] Giuffre claims Maxwell told her she flew Clinton to the island on her helicopter, although she conceded, “I heard a lot of things from Ghislaine that sounded too true — too outrageous to be true, but you never knew what to believe.” Clinton has previously denied being on the island.[62][63] Soon after Epstein's death, #ClintonBodyCount was trending on Twitter.[64]

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump had a personal friendship with Epstein from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. In 2002, Trump said, "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."[65] Flight logs for Epstein's private jet show that Trump was a passenger on a flight in January 1997 from Palm Beach, Florida, to Newark, New Jersey.[66]

In a 2016 "Jane Doe" anonymous lawsuit naming Trump and Epstein as co-defendants, Trump was accused of violently raping a 13-year-old girl at Epstein's New York home during a 1994 orgy. Epstein was also accused of separately raping the girl. That case was dropped shortly before the 2016 election, after the plaintiff stated she had received multiple death threats. The only journalist who has actually interviewed the accuser, Emily Shugerman at Revelist, came away confused and even doubting whether she really exists.[67]

In the hours after the death, #TrumpBodyCount was trending on Twitter, partly as a response to #ClintonBodyCount.[64]

Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz

Sarah, Duchess of York disclosed in March 2011 that Prince Andrew, Duke of York helped arrange for Epstein to pay off some of her personal debts, in a "private arrangement between the two men".[68][69] In July 2011, the Duke was reported to have cut all ties with Epstein.[70]

Virginia Roberts Giuffre has made allegations of sexual impropriety against the Duke in court papers related to a civil action in Florida claiming that he and several other men, including "a former prime minister" and Alan Dershowitz, had sex with her while she was a teenager.[71] The allegations have not been tested in any court.[72] Buckingham Palace stated that "any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue".[73][74] On 7 April 2015, Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that the "sex allegations made against Prince Andrew in court papers filed in Florida must be struck from the public record".[75][76]

Dershowitz said, "she's lied about me ... she should not be believed about anyone else ... it must be presumed all her allegations against Prince Andrew were false as well."[77] Dershowitz initiated legal proceedings contesting the allegations, and he and Epstein filed suit against the lawyers representing Roberts.[78][79]

Possible co-conspirators

The day before his death, hundreds of pages of court documents were released detailing allegations against Epstein and several associates.[80] Because of his connections to many wealthy and powerful people, there was speculation that some co-conspirator in his sex crimes might have arranged for him to be silenced.[52] He reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to co-conspirators during the 2008 investigation to influence them.[81]

The Florida plea deal, whose existence was kept secret until after it was sealed, was highly controversial. It came to national attention in November 2018 via an investigative report in the Miami Herald.[82] One term of that plea deal purports to immunize not only Epstein but also four specified but unnamed co-conspirators and "any potential co-conspirators" who might in future be identified.[83] This apparent bid to protect Epstein’s co-conspirators from federal charges has not been tested in court, nor has it been determined whether the grant of immunity would be binding on other jurisdictions.[84] A judge had already ruled that prosecutors broke the law with Epstein’s plea deal because they did not notify victims that it was under discussion, as required by the federal Crime Victims' Rights Act.[85] Lawyers for two of the victims have asked the judge to invalidate the agreement.[86]

On August 12, Barr said that despite his death, "this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein," that the victims deserved justice, and that any co-conspirators "should not rest easy."[87]


Several hours after Epstein was found dead, and in reply to online theories suggesting potential involvement of President Donald Trump due to his decades-long links to Epstein, Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory suggesting that there was instead a connection between Bill and Hillary Clinton and Epstein's death — furthering a perennial conspiracy theory dating to the early 1990s that the Clintons have had numerous people killed to silence them.[88][89] The retweet was immediately showcased worldwide.[90][91]

Lynne Patton, regional administrator at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in charge of New York, hinted that Epstein had been killed by Hillary Clinton by tweeting "Hillary'd!!" and using the hashtag #VinceFosterPartTwo on an Instagram post, referring to debunked conspiracy theories surrounding the suicide of Vince Foster.[64]

Director of admissions at Jackson Institute for Global Affairs[92] and CNN commentator Asha Rangappa suggested, without providing any evidence, that Epstein was able to bribe guards to "look the other way", thus allowing him to commit suicide.[93]

Cable news host Joe Scarborough implied Russians killed Epstein to protect Trump, as part of the larger Trump-Russia connection. He commented, "A guy who had information that would have destroyed rich and powerful men’s lives ends up dead in his jail cell. How predictably...Russian."[94] American actor Ron Perlman tweeted: "Vlad!!!" and Dave Bautista wrote "Is that the same thing as Putin’d?".[95] Actor and comedian Alec Baldwin tweeted: "The Russians killed Epstein. They’re in charge of everything now."[96]

Florida Senator Marco Rubio alleged that Russian bots were spreading Epstein conspiracy theories to create their own narrative and divide Americans. A spokesperson for Virginia Senator Mark Warner claimed that spreading conspiracy theories was "doing Russia's dirty work for them."[97]

Mark Foster of the rock band Foster The People tweeted that Epstein is still alive, and that the government (particularly Barr) was behind false death reports and photographs of a different corpse. He guessed Epstein was headed to the Middle East for plastic surgery and used the hashtag #EpsteinBodyDouble.[98]

Filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted: "I guess they think a country dumb enough to elect Trump is stupid enough to believe Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide."[99][95] Actor George Takei tweeted about Epstein′s "many secrets about other powerful men going with him to the grave. This sounds like something that would happen in Russia, no?"[95] Actress Patricia Arquette wrote: "Bill Barr’s DOJ took him off suicide watch. The same Barr who works for Trump."[95]


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