NEW YORK (AP) — A judge denied bail Thursday for jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges after prosecutors argued the jet-setting defendant is a danger to the public and might flee the country.
The federal judge's ruling means Epstein will remain behind bars while he fights charges that he exploited dozens of girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
"I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community," U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said Thursday.
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The defense had argued he should be allowed to await trial under house arrest with electronic monitoring at his $77 million Manhattan mansion. They said he wouldn't run and was willing to pledge a fortune of at least $559 million as collateral.
At a hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. 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.
One of his accusers 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," Courtney Wild said during the Monday hearing.
Rossmiller said the government learned earlier this week that a raid of Epstein's mansion following his July 6 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 Wednesday, prosecutors disputed a claim by defense lawyers that there was no evidence he'd ever used it, saying the Austrian passport contained stamps reflecting it was used to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.
Prior to Thursday's 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.
"He is a life-long American citizen. He has no other citizenship or legal permanent residency," the lawyers wrote.
Defense lawyers told the judge in another court filing earlier this week that Epstein obtained the document out of fear that "as an affluent member of the Jewish faith" he might be kidnapped in the Middle East.
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Prosecutors have also argued Epstein was a risk of trying to influence witnesses after it was discovered 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 circumstances of his state court conviction in 2008, which led to a 13-month jail term and a plea deal that allowed him to avoid a federal prosecution .
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last week after coming under renewed criticism for overseeing the decade-old arrangement as U.S. attorney in Miami.
Lawyers for Epstein said their client has stayed clean since pleading guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution charges in Florida in 2008 and that the federal government is reneging on the plea deal.