British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell may be serving a 20-year prison sentence for running an “abuse pyramid scheme” and trafficking girls and young women for sex, but the Jeffrey Epstein saga continues to have an afterlife.
More than four years after the disgraced financier died by suicide in his jail cell, a New York district judge has announced the imminent unsealing of a trove of documents revealing the names of more than 150 of his associates.
The legal filings are part of a long-running defamation lawsuit filed by Epstein's victim Virginia Guiffre against his former director and convicted child trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell in 2015.
The case was settled in 2017, but Judge Loretta Preska later ordered materials related to the case to be released in December 2023. The documents identify individuals whose names had previously been redacted, including “alleged victims, individuals not charged with offences…and absent third parties.”
Since Maxwell's sentencing in December 2021, there have also been developments in a parallel case, another civil action by Ms Giuffre who claimed Prince Andrew had sex with her knowing she was a minor after being trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell .
In January 2022, a federal judge allowed the case, where Prince Andrew denied wrongdoing,to go on the path but the defendant eventually chose to settle with Ms. Guiffre out of court, despite strongly protesting his innocence.
Behind it all, however, appears a shocking event from 2019 that has left few who follow the case closely with closure.
In 2019, Epstein died by suicide in prison before he could stand trial on his own trafficking charges.
As the story continues to unfold, here's what you need to know about the circumstances of his death.
How did Jeffrey Epstein die?
Epstein died Aug. 10 inside New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was being held pending trial for allegedly recruiting dozens of teenage girls to have sex with him and his friends. If convicted, he faced up to 45 years in prison.
Epstein was found with a noose made from a sheet and authorities ruled the death a suicide.
Why is there skepticism about Epstein's death?
Since the 66-year-old's death, speculation has run rampant that Epstein did not commit suicide, although authorities from the medical examiner to former US Attorney General Bill Barr have said publicly that Epstein did.
But rumors that the disgraced billionaire had actually been murdered began almost immediately.
One of his lawyers, Reid Weingarten, said he had met with Epstein shortly before he died and remarked, “We didn't see a desperate, desperate, suicidal person.” The lawyer argued instead that Epstein's body, found with broken bones in his neck, which can also occur during strangulation, showed evidence “much more consistent with assault.”
Then-President Donald Trump also weighed in, retweeting a conspiracy theory linking the death to Bill Clinton. who had flown in Epstein's private jet she was dubbed the ‘Lolita Express', as were many other figures in the worlds of politics and entertainment – including Mr Trump himself.
The death also sparked feverish speculation online, where the story overlaps with the themes of the increasingly influential QAnon conspiracy movement, which believes a group of pedophile Democrats and media elites are conspiring to harm children.
Mr Barr, however, said he personally reviewed security footage from Epstein's cell and said no one else was present during the death.
“I can understand people who immediately, whose mind went to the worst case scenario, because it was a perfect storm of ups and downs” he told the Associated Press in 2019.
There were other factors that raised eyebrows as well, including the recurring Epstein comments to prison psychologists that he was mentally healthy and not considering killing himself.
“Why do you think I would kill myself? I'm not suicidal and I never would be,” Epstein told a correctional officer, adding that as a Jew, it was against his religion.
“I have no interest in killing myself,” Epstein said on another occasion, saying he was a “coward” who “wouldn't do that to myself,” according to Bureau of Prisons documents reviewed by The New York Times.
Moreover, even after an apparent suicide attempt in July and growing concern from prison psychologists that he would try again, the two guards who would be monitoring him admitted that he has faults, includingying to the documents about whether they had checked his cell on the night of his death.
What did the investigation into Epstein's death find?
In June 2023, the Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice released a scathing report of their investigation into Epstein's death.
The report found that several prison staff failed to check on the disgraced financier in the hours before his death – despite him being on suicide watch. According to Bureau of Prison (BOP) policy, staff are required to check on all inmates in solitary confinement at least once every 30 minutes.
In a clear violation of this policy, no checks were made for nearly eight hours from approximately 10.40pm on August 9 to 6.30am. of August 10 – when the prolific sex offender was found dead.
Staff at the Manhattan jail also failed to assign Epstein a cellmate and gave him access to extra bedding that he used to kill himself, the report found.
These setbacks came even as Epstein is believed to have attempted suicide on July 23 – about two weeks before he died.
“OIG's investigation and review identified numerous and serious failures by MCC New York staff, including multiple violations of MCC New York and BOP policies and procedures,” the report states.
“The OIG found that MCC New York staff failed on August 9 to carry out the Department of Psychology's directive to assign Epstein a cellmate and that an MCC New York supervisor allowed Epstein to make an unmonitored phone call the night before since his death.
“Furthermore, we found that staff failed to take required steps to ensure Epstein and other SHU inmates were accounted for and safe, such as conducting 30-minute counts and rounds, searching inmate cells, and ensuring proper SHU supervision . and the functionality of the video camera surveillance system.”
The damning report states that a “combination of negligence, misconduct and a clear failure of job performance” contributed to an environment where “one of the BOP's most notorious inmates had the opportunity to kill himself.”
Despite the damning list of failures, the watchdog concluded that there was no evidence to contradict the FBI's conclusion that there was no crime in his death.
“We found, for example, no evidence that anyone was present in the SHU area where Epstein was housed during the relevant time frame other than inmates locked in their assigned cells,” the report states.
The report adds: “All staff members interviewed by the OIG said they knew of no information suggesting that Epstein's cause of death was anything other than suicide.
Likewise, none of the inmates interviewed provided reliable information that Epstein's cause of death was anything other than suicide.
Autopsy findings were also consistent with suicide, the report said.
It is unclear when Epstein was last checked or when his cell was last searched. The report reveals that prison staff not only violated policy by failing to perform required checks, but also falsified documents to make it appear as if more checks had been carried out.
Two officers were later charged with falsifying BOP records, but the charges were later dropped. A judge later approved a deal that would have seen the two guards who failed to monitor Epstein's cell avoid jail time and instead receive community service.