10 August 2019 19:49
ES News email The latest headlines in your inbox ES News email The latest headlines in your inbox Enter your email address Continue Please enter an email address Email address is invalid Fill out this field Email address is invalid You already have an account. Please log in Register with your social account or click here to log in I would like to receive lunchtime headlines Monday - Friday plus breaking news alerts, by email Update newsletter preferences Billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been found dead in his cell at a prison in the US. The disgraced financier committed suicide overnight in the cell where he was being held in federal custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York. He was due to go on trial on federal sex trafficking charges in June next year. Law enforcement officials confirmed the 66-year-old had taken his own life.
The New York medical examiner's office in Manhattan also confirmed the financier's death. A stretcher carrying Epstein's body was taken out of the Metropolitan Correctional Centre at around 12.30pm UK time today, according to US reports. Epstein had pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14, from at least 2002 to 2005. He had faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted. Epstein was found nearly unconscious in his prison cell with injuries to his neck last month, in what authorities would not rule out was an attempt to take his own life. He was placed on suicide watch, though a source told AP that he had been taken off this ahead of his death. However, the source's suggestion has not been officially corroborated. He had reportedly just been served with court papers accusing him of raping a 15-year-old girl the day he was found semi-conscious. The 66-year-old was served with documents accusing him of raping Jennifer Araoz, now 32, who claims the attack happened in 2002 when she was an aspiring actress. In the lawsuit for damages she said Epstein, over the course of a year, manipulated her into giving him massages and then initiated sexual contact. Ms Araoz claims the affair ended when he "forcibly raped" her. In 2008, he was convicted of soliciting a prostitute and procuring an underage girl for prostitution, leading to a 13-month prison sentence. More than 30 other alleged victims had also been identified by the FBI but Epstein was offered a plea deal which involved accepting just two charges and he was given work-release from prison during his sentence. Fresh allegations emerged this year and Epstein was arrested last month in New Jersey on sex trafficking charges. He asked to be able to stay at his $77 million (£63 million) mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side but US District Judge Richard Berman said there was evidence that Epstein posed a danger to the public if released. "Epstein's alleged excessive attraction to sexual conduct with or in the presence of minor girls appears likely to be uncontrollable," he said in a written ruling. He was instead sent to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, which is famous for stringent security and high-profile prisoners. Epstein denied the charges against him, which date back to between 2002 and 2005. Leading US lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represents women who accused Epstein wrote on Twitter: "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."