Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide overnight Friday-Saturday in the federal prison in Manhattan where he had been held pending trial, US media reported.
ABC news, which first reported the story, cited three law enforcement officials confirming his death. He hanged himself, and his body was found Saturday morning, The New York Times and other media said.
The medical examiner’s office in Manhattan later confirmed the financier’s death but said it was still investigating the cause.
Epstein, 66, reportedly tried to kill himself last month when he was discovered by guards at the Metropolitan Correctional Center with marks around his neck and was in a fetal position.
He was then said to have been put on a suicide watch.
Epstein, a wealthy financier who was friends with some of the world’s most powerful people, was accused of exploiting dozens of girls, some of them underage, for sex at his properties in New York and elsewhere. He was facing 45 years in prison if convicted.
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 month, 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 claimed that with the current charges, the federal government is reneging on that deal.
Before his legal troubles, Epstein led a life of extraordinary luxury that drew powerful people into his orbit.
He socialized with princes and presidents and lived on a 100-acre private island in the Caribbean and one of the biggest mansions in New York. A college dropout, he became a sought-after benefactor of professors and scientists, donating millions of dollars in donations to Harvard University and other causes.
Still, it was never entirely clear how the middle-class Brooklyn math whiz became a Wall Street master of high finance.
Some Epstein accusers and their lawyers reacted to the news of his death with frustration that the financier won’t have to face them in court.
“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed the pain and trauma he caused so many people,” accuser Jennifer Araoz said in a statement.
Brad Edwards, a Florida lawyer for nearly two dozen other accusers, said that “this is not the ending anyone was looking for.”
“The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused,” Edwards said in a statement.
Epstein became an unexpected hot-button issue in the election campaign in Israel after his long-standing ties to former prime minister Ehud Barak were revealed.
Barak, who entered a business deal with Epstein in 2015, years after the American financier served time for solicitation, called long-rumored allegations of sex trafficking by Epstein “abhorrent” and announced that he had officially cut off all business ties with him.
The Daily Mail’s online news site rejected an ultimatum by Barak to retract a “libelous” article insinuating he socialized with young women at the home of Epstein.
The US-based DailyMail.com said it stood by the story “100 percent,” and denied as “absurd” Barak’s claim that the decision to re-publish the three-year-old photos of him entering the New York mansion of the disgraced billionaire was a bid to help his political rivals ahead of the elections. (The article did not appear in the main Daily Mail tabloid newspaper in Britain.)
The tabloid noted in its article that the women photographed also entering Epstein’s home did so “on the same day” as Barak and “within hours.” However, the Mail did not provide a clear timeline of the photos, and it was not clear whether they were taken before Barak entered, during his time there, or after he left.
Barak confirmed it was him in the photos, and has admitted to visiting Epstein’s mansions and private Caribbean island, but insists he never attended parties of a sexual nature there.
Barak has also said that he was looking into dissolving his limited partnership with Epstein after it emerged that the US financier was a major investor in the Reporty startup headed by Barak in 2015, seven years after Epstein served time for solicitation.