Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was found injured and barely conscious in a Manhattan jail cell on Tuesday after a possible suicide attempt, according to a NBC News report.
Epstein, 66, had marks around his neck and was in a fetal position when he was discovered by guards at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he is being held without bail as he awaits trail on charges of sex trafficking in underage girls.
Epstein, a wealthy financier who was friends with some of the world’s most powerful people, has been accused of exploiting dozens of girls, some of them underage, for sex at his properties in New York and elsewhere. His is facing 45 years in prison if convicted.
Law enforcement sources told NBC that Epstein was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The origin of his injuries was not clear, but the sources said that prison investigators believed it was likely a suicide attempt. Investigators were also exploring other possibilities, including that Epstein was attacked by one of his cellmates or that the wounds were self-inflicted in a bid to be transferred to a medical ward.
According to NBC, Epstein has been put on the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s suicide watch.
The jail and attorneys for Epstein did not respond to requests for comment by US media outlets.
Epstein was convicted in 2009 as a sex felon and served a 13-month prison term. He was arrested in New York on July 8 this year on further charges of sexually exploiting dozens of underage girls.
Last week, a judge denied Epstein’s request to make bail, saying he posed a danger to the public and seemed to still have an uncontrollable urge for sexual conduct with or in the presence of underage girls.
Lawyers for Epstein had argued their client has stayed clean since pleading guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution charges in Florida in 2008 in a deal that allowed him to avoid federal prosecution. They claim that with the current charges, the federal government is reneging on that deal.
The decision by US District Judge Richard M. Berman means Epstein will remain behind bars while he fights charges in New York and Florida.
In court, Berman noted the “compelling testimony” at last Monday’s bail hearing by Epstein accusers Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild, who “testified that they fear for their safety and the safety of others if Mr. Epstein were to be released.”
Wild, who said she was sexually abused by Epstein when she was 14 in Palm Beach, Florida, pleaded with the judge to keep him jailed.
“He’s a scary person to have walking the streets,” Wild said during the hearing.
Last Monday, Assistant US Attorney Alex Rossmiller said the government’s case against Epstein is “getting stronger every single day” as more women contact authorities to say he sexually abused them when they were minors.
Rossmiller said the government learned earlier this week that a raid of Epstein’s mansion following his arrest turned up “piles of cash, dozens of diamonds” and a passport with a picture of the defendant but a name other than his in a locked safe.
In a court filing two days later, prosecutors disputed a claim by defense lawyers that there was no evidence he’d ever used the fake passport, saying the Austrian passport contained stamps reflecting it was used to enter France, Spain, Britain and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.
Prior to the bail hearing, defense lawyers told the judge Epstein was given the passport by a friend after some Jewish Americans were informally advised to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally during a period when hijackings were more common.
They said he never used it and the passport stamps predated his receipt of the document.
Prosecutors have also said they believe Epstein might have tried to influence witnesses after discovering he had paid a total of $350,000 to two people, including a former employee, in the last year. That came after the Miami Herald reported the federal non-prosecution agreement that went with his state court conviction in 2008, which has been derided as a sweetheart deal.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last week after coming under renewed criticism for overseeing the decade-old arrangement as US attorney in Miami.