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Jeffrey Epstein wasn't trafficking women — and he didn't kill himself, brother says

Julie K. Brown, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

"We grew up in a close family," Epstein said. But in later years, he said, he and his brother's paths went in different directions.

"He was in the financial world and I was more involved in the artist community," Epstein said.

Mark Epstein refused to talk about his art ties, but he once owned a silk-screening business before going into real estate. Mark's real estate company, Ossa Properties, owns a majority stake in a New York apartment high-rise at 301 E. 66th Street in New York. Court records show that Jeffrey Epstein often housed women in the building, although Mark has previously denied having any business connections to his brother.

Mark acknowledged that he put up his Florida condo as collateral to help with his brother's bail after Jeffrey was arrested in July on sex trafficking charges, months after the Herald published a series of stories, "Perversion of Justice," that highlighted his abuse of underage girls and efforts by Acosta -- then the U.S. attorney, later President Trump's labor secretary -- to keep victims unaware of the pending plea deal. The charges, brought by Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleged that Jeffrey Epstein was operating an illegal sex operation in New York and Florida for decades.

A judge denied Epstein's $77 million bail proposal on July 17, but Jeffrey Epstein and his lawyers were appealing the decision at the time of his death.

"He had a bail hearing in two days. He agreed to be on house arrest. He was going to hire armed guards to keep an eye on him at his own expense ... He was the most recognizable person on the planet. Where is he going to run and hide?" Epstein said.

On Aug. 10 -- the same day Epstein's body was found -- U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that Epstein had died that morning of "an apparent suicide," and called for investigations into his death.

"You never announce the results first," said Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor and frequent Barr critic. "It's very hard to contradict what the most powerful law enforcement officer in our country has announced to the American people. It appears that he just wanted to shut down this and to cover up what Epstein knew about some very rich and influential people."

The Justice Department is probing the death, but Epstein's brother said there's no indication that they are investigating the cause and manner of his death.

FBI investigators, for example, haven't questioned Epstein's former cellmate, Nick Tartaglione, an ex-New York cop awaiting trial for four murders. Mark said that his brother claimed that Tartaglione had assaulted him.

"This is all conspiracy nonsense," said Bruce A. Barket, Tartaglione's attorney.

Tartaglione, awaiting a death penalty trial, was cleared of wrongdoing in the alleged jail attack, Barket said. But the details of the incident have not been made public by the Bureau of Prisons, nor has the report on Epstein's injuries from that incident been given to Baden for review.

Barket adamantly denies there is anything suspicious about Epstein's death, and has no doubt that the disgraced financier committed suicide. But he concedes that it's baffling that his client still hasn't been questioned by the FBI.

"I don't know how they did a thorough investigation when they haven't interviewed my client," Barket said.

Baden and Wecht --professional friends who, at times, have been on opposing sides of a death investigation -- agree that there are too many coincidences surrounding Epstein's death that haven't been examined.

 

"Epstein was accused of crimes of a heinous nature, that anyone -- even the most hardened criminals -- would be repulsed and angry about," Wecht said.

Child predators are usually prime targets in prisons, just by the nature of their crimes, he said.

"So what do they do, they give him a cellmate who happens to be over 200 pounds, a former cop. Then we are led to believe that on July 23 he had a 'suicide attempt,' when he is found unconscious, and so they move him to suicide watch. Then they let him off the watch, then they move his cellmate, then the camera doesn't work, then the guards fall asleep, then they cut him down and they move him before the medical examiner came, and they know full well not to do that.

"Remember this is not a one-cell cockamamie prison, this is a federal prison in downtown New York City that housed John Gotti and El Chapo (the drug Mexico lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman). To accept all these as facts is unbelievable."

Baden said the only piece of evidence they have seen of the death scene is a photograph, presumably taken by prison officials, of the cell after Epstein was removed.

"Everything we have is from two guards, who immediately lawyered up and refused to say anything. We have one photograph that shows the ligature laid out on the ground, which, if that's the way it was found, it looks like it was a planted kind of scene because that's not the way it would have been found if the guards had cut it."

Wecht said the photo also shows that the top bunk was being used to store toiletries, and the items didn't appear to be touched. If Epstein had tied the ligature to the top bunk and leaped or pulled himself with enough strength to break three bones in his neck, then the toiletries on the bunk would have been in disarray.

"I have never seen this kind of hanging scenario, this leaning forward, with three fractures. The bunk was 3 to 4 feet above, and there was not enough velocity there to produce three fractures," Wecht said.

Mark said he is awaiting further documents they've requested from the medical examiner, the paramedics and the Bureau of Prisons.

"It's all very suspicious, too much to be a coincidence."

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