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Jeffrey Epstein Is Dead. Civil Rights Lawyer Says Civil Charges Against His Estate Will Continue

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Charges and civil suits against Jeffrey Epstein are continuing following the death of the serial sex abuser, who was found dead in his jail cell on Saturday. Epstein had been arrested in July for allegedly running a sex trafficking operation by luring underage girls as young as 14 years old to his mansion in Manhattan. While the federal criminal charges against Epstein will likely end, prosecutors can still pursue suits against any of his accomplices, including his friend Ghislaine Maxwell. On Wednesday, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Jennifer Araoz, sued Epstein’s estate, Maxwell and three other unnamed women who worked for Epstein. Araoz accuses Epstein of raping her when she was 15 years old and repeatedly sexually assaulting her. From Los Angeles, we speak with civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom, who is representing two other alleged victims of Jeffrey Epstein.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the growing legal battle being waged following the death of Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his jail cell on Saturday. Epstein had been arrested in July for allegedly running a sex trafficking operation by luring underage girls as young as 14 years old to his mansion in Manhattan. While the federal criminal prosecution of Epstein will likely end, prosecutors can still pursue charges against any of his accomplices, including his friend Ghislaine Maxwell. Civil suits will also continue against Epstein’s multimillion-dollar estate.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Jennifer Araoz, sued Epstein’s estate, Maxwell and three other unnamed women who worked for Epstein. Araoz accuses Epstein of raping her when she was 15 years old, and repeatedly sexually assaulting her. Araoz filed the suit under a new law in New York called the Child Victims Act, which took effect Wednesday. The new law gives all past victims of child sex abuse a year to sue their abusers, irrespective of how much time has elapsed since the crime occurred.

We’re going to talk about that law in our next segment, but right now we go to Los Angeles, where we’re joined by attorney Lisa Bloom, representing two other alleged victims of Jeffrey Epstein. Lisa Bloom is joining us on the phone.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Lisa.

LISA BLOOM: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you tweeted, “Predator Jeffrey Epstein killed himself. On behalf of the victims I represent, we would have preferred he lived to face justice. Our civil cases can still proceed against his estate. Victims deserve to be made whole for the lifelong damage he caused. We’re just getting started,” you tweeted. So, explain how this all works and who you represent, Lisa.

LISA BLOOM: I represent two victims of Jeffrey Epstein. One was 18, one was 20, at the time, 2004, when they were recruited by a young female recruiter to go to his home to give him massages in exchange for a couple hundred dollars. They were promised they would keep their clothes on, there would be nothing improper, and that there would be future economic opportunities, as well. They were young waitresses and models at the time. And so they did it. And on separate occasions, they went to his home, where they were sexually assaulted by him. This dramatically changed their lives, caused them to have failed relationships, derailed careers. They gave up modeling. The trauma of child sex abuse is well known to anyone who’s experienced it, and it continues to this day.

They were in a lot of fear during Jeffrey Epstein’s life. They were afraid to come forward because of him and his powerful friends. But they did, and they reached out to me a couple of months ago. And we decided that the proper thing to do was to cooperate with the criminal authorities first to get him, hopefully, imprisoned for a long period of time.

Once he apparently killed himself, we decided that it was time for the next step, which is civil cases to be filed against his estate so we could seek compensation for them. And I can tell you right now, this is — you’re the first news outlet I am disclosing this on — that we are filing those civil cases today in federal court in New York under the sex trafficking law, which provides remedies on the civil side of things, for money damages, to victims of sex trafficking. And sex trafficking is simply anybody who’s lured or tricked into any kind of sexual act in exchange for money or promise of money. And so I think it very clearly applies to our case.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Lisa Bloom, can you say, do you know, who is in charge of his estate now? And also talk about the way these two clients of yours responded to news of his death.

LISA BLOOM: I don’t know who’s in charge of his estate. We’re filing the case. When that gets revealed, we will serve that person or persons.

You know, when he killed himself, we were all in shock. And my two victims had very different responses. One said, “I’m so angry at the jail officials who allowed this to happen. It took me so many years to find the courage and strength to come forward, and I did. And now I’m going to be deprived of seeing him face justice.” She was hopping mad. The other one said, “You know what? I kind of feel a sense of relief. He’s gone. He’s not going to hurt anyone else ever again, and I don’t have to fear retaliation from him.” You know, even in jail, my client was very afraid of him, what he might do, who he could reach out to, through his attorney or his friends, and come after her. So, at least that fear is lifted.

But I want all victims to know: Now is the time to come forward against Jeffrey Epstein, to reach out and get compensation for what he did. It’s not the kind of justice of seeing him, you know, really get incarcerated and become accountable in that sense. But there’s a lot of money in his estate. And I am a civil attorney. I’m in the middle of a big sexual harassment trial right now in Los Angeles, calling you from my hotel room on that one. I believe in getting compensation for victims. It can make a big difference to be able to afford therapy and your medical bills and career training and pay off your student loans and get out of debt. It can make a big difference. And so I really do urge people to come forward.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Jeffrey Epstein claimed a net worth of more than half a billion dollars when asking to be released on bail, but the lawyers for his accusers say that they suspect his net worth to be much higher. And they’re looking to offshore bank accounts and Epstein’s closest allies, including his brother Mark Epstein, for additional assets. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the brothers are connected financially through investments in a 200-unit condo building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Can you talk about this and how you’re going to find these hidden assets?

LISA BLOOM: Well, I appreciate that there have been a lot of media attention to all of his assets. And in a high-profile case, that’s very helpful. The Wall Street Journal and other financial reporters have really been digging in. Typically, an estate the size of Jeffrey Epstein’s has a lot of legal machinations to try to hide assets, to keep them private, to keep them in trusts, for example, rather than going through probate.

But there is going to be a person or persons who will be the administrator or the executor of his estate, who will be legally charged with marshaling his assets, gathering them all together, being transparent, at least before a judge and attorneys like me who are making civil claims. And so, you know, we may not ever know the full vast extent of it, but I think we will get to know a good chunk of it. And if anybody tries to hide assets or hide information from the court, they’re going to be in a heap of trouble. So, I am somewhat optimistic that we will be able to get full and fair compensation for the victims that I represent.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Lisa Bloom, you mentioned one of your clients was fearful, even while Jeffrey Epstein was jailed. Have other people now, following his death, other victims, contacted you?

LISA BLOOM: Yes, we heard from about five additional victims in the last few days, and we’re in the process of reviewing and vetting their claims. We have an extensive process, because I do a lot of high-profile cases against a lot of predators. And so, we do background checks, and we talk to people repeatedly. We talk to their friends and family, and we check out everything we can. We especially want to talk to witnesses who they may have told contemporaneously 15 years ago. People often tell their mother or their best friend or their therapist. And we like to get all of the corroboration and information in place before we go forward.

As you point out, New York has a new law for victims who were under 18 at the time that they were sexually abused, that they can bring a lawsuit at any age up to age 55. That just went into effect yesterday. But even if they were over 18 at the time, the sex trafficking law has a 10-year statute of limitations. And there are tolling laws, which mean that you can even extend that period, which is what we’re arguing in our case, because the psychological damage was so significant, they were not in a position to bring claims until now. So, there are a lot of ways around those time deadlines. It’s something I’ve really devoted my life to, because if there are any in every case, it’s every predator’s best friend if they can just, you know, run down the clock and run out the statute of limitations. Most people believe that’s wrong, and courts are finding exceptions. So, it’s going to be a very interesting case, the case that we’re filing today.

AMY GOODMAN: Lisa Bloom, I wanted to ask you about a case a few years ago, in 2016. This was a case that you were involved with. It was a 13-year-old girl, I think, at the time of the assault — older, of course, in 2016 — who alleged that Donald Trump raped her when she was 13. And she met him at a Jeffrey Epstein party. Now, this case sort of came up and then was pulled out of the legal system. And I think it was back in November 4th, 2016, that you tweeted, “Jane Doe instructed us to dismiss her lawsuit against Trump and Epstein today. Tough week for her. We wish her well.” Can you explain what happened in that case? And is that case being brought forward again? Is this a real case?

LISA BLOOM: So, I know that case is very disturbing and perplexing to people. And it is to me, as well. I worked with her for months that summer, going through that same background process that I just described to you. I met with her many times. My staff met with her and talked to her witnesses, etc. And as the election was approaching, we thought it was very — she had already filed a lawsuit via another attorney on the East Coast. But we thought, as the election was approaching, it was important for her to speak out, because she had allegations against then-candidate Donald Trump. She was hesitant. And, you know, it was a yes, it was a no. And finally, one day, she said she was going to do it.

She submitted to an interview with CNN, but they never ran it. That was very upsetting to her. And so we decided to have a press conference. Unfortunately, we got a lot of death threats. My law firm website was hacked. My emails were hacked. My staff came in and told us about that, and she got very upset, understandably, and would not go forward with the press conference. She wanted us to drop the case. The attorney who was handling that was instructed to drop the case. I told her to sleep on it, you know, really think about this, which she did. And she stuck to that position. She wanted to drop the case, and she did not want ever to discuss it again. She did not want to do any media interviews. She just wanted to be done.

And that was, as you say, 2016, so coming up on three years ago. I haven’t spoken to her since. She has changed all of her address and contact information, so I don’t have that anymore. And, you know, this kind of thing is very disturbing, but it does happen. I’ve spent 30 years working with sexual assault victims. It’s very common. This was just a high-profile case. But people just want to be done. They want to go away. Her case was not tested in court, so I really can’t comment on it any further, other than I definitely believed her. She passed our background check process. But she doesn’t want to be involved in anything going on.

AMY GOODMAN: And again, she was alleging that it was Donald Trump who raped her when she was 13. She met him at a Jeffrey Epstein party. And what has since come out in Epstein’s case is that he would hire people to intimidate women who had come forward.

LISA BLOOM: That’s right. That’s right.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And so, Lisa, can you talk about what cases can be launched against his co-conspirators?

LISA BLOOM: Well, yes. So, in our case, we are also today naming a female recruiter who came to my client’s place of work, a coffee shop, and recruited them. We’re not naming her. And that’s because we think that she may have been a victim, as well. So, it’s a very tough position. We are putting her in the lawsuit. We intend to serve her with the complaint. But we are inviting her to participate in a restorative justice proceeding with my clients, where she can be transparent and open, where we can get information against her, not only for my victims, but for other victims that, surely, she recruited, as well. So, we want some measure of justice against her, but our primary focus is againt the estate of Jeffrey Epstein. The recruiters can be held responsible under both the sex trafficking law and the child sexual abuse law in New York that you referenced earlier. And I think they should be held responsible.

AMY GOODMAN: And apparently, they have found Ghislaine — if that’s how you pronounce her name, spelled gizlane, but Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of Robert Maxwell, the former owner of the New York Daily News, who died mysteriously at sea in the early ’90s. They found her at — what? — Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts?

LISA BLOOM: Oh, well, that’s news to me. So, the recruiter in our case is not Ghislaine Maxwell. It’s a different young woman. Apparently, he had many of them. But Ms. Maxwell has certainly been named by a lot of other victims as being held responsible. And, you know, what can I say? I think she needs to be brought to justice. She needs to be held accountable for her role in this. You know, surely, she knew what was going on. She’s alleged to have been really an integral part of bringing victims to Jeffrey Epstein to be sexually assaulted.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Lisa Bloom, you’ve been calling for — you’ve suggested that perhaps out of the $500 million that Epstein is allegedly worth, if not much more, that a victims’ compensation fund should be set up. Can you talk about that?

LISA BLOOM: Yes. So, I don’t know who his beneficiaries are. Probably his friends and family. I’m going to assume that they’re better human beings than Jeffrey Epstein was, which is a pretty low bar, and that they may want to voluntarily do something for the victims. So, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt to do the right thing in the first instance and to set up a victim compensation fund of, let’s say, $500 million, where victims can come forward, with their attorneys, like me, and present the evidence that we have put together to show that they’re credible and they’re real claims, they are who they say they are, and they were in the place and time that they say, and let them get compensated out of a fund. We don’t need to have years of litigation over this and to put the victims through that trauma.

The estate has the opportunity in Jeffrey Epstein’s death to do the right thing by his victims, something that he never did in his life. And I would assume that everybody associated with him is mortified and embarrassed what he did and that they know him. So here’s a chance to do right by the victims.

AMY GOODMAN: Lisa Bloom, we want to thank you for being with us, civil rights attorney at The Bloom Firm, represents two of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims.

When we come back, we’ll meet two New York legislators who helped pass the landmark bill this week to allow survivors of childhood sexual abuse in New York to sue their perpetrators, even if the statutes of limitations have run out. They, too, are both survivors of child sexual assault themselves. Stay with us.

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Child Victims Act: Hundreds File Suits as New York Extends Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse Cases

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