Women who’ve accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexual abuse say they still plan to seek justice after the disgraced financier apparently killed himself in a federal lockup over the weekend. Epstein faced allegations of running a sex-trafficking operation and sexually abusing dozens of girls.
He was found dead Saturday morning in his New York City jail cell. The Justice Department is investigating, reports CBS News correspondent Mola Lenghi.
The city medical examiner’s office performed an autopsy Sunday, but says it’s waiting for more information before reaching conclusions. A city official told The New York Times Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson is confident the cause of death is suicide by hanging, pending additional information from law enforcement.
Epstein’s death comes weeks after he survived a previous apparent suicide.
A representative for workers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center told CBS News Epstein’s death at the facility is not surprising. She says staffing is “completely inadequate,” with workers putting in more than 60 hours a week, leaving them “overwhelmed” and “not alert.”
It had been just over a month since U.S Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced Epstein’s arrest, saying he “sexually abused young girls by enticing them to engage in sex acts for money.” Epstein died less than three weeks after sources told CBS News he was found semi-conscious inside his cell with bruising around his neck.
The Times reports Epstein “was supposed to have been checked by guards every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed” the night before his death.
In a statement, Attorney General William Barr said Epstein’s death “raises serious questions.” He announced the Justice Department inspector general “is opening an investigation into the circumstances” surrounding it.
The apparent suicide happened just hours after the release of some 2,000 pages of documents from a prior lawsuit, including testimony from alleged victim Virginia Giuffre.
In a Miami Herald interview, she said, “You’re screaming on the inside and you don’t know how to let it come out. And you just become this numb figure.”
She claimed Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, directed her to have sex with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former Maine Sen. George Mitchell and Britain’s Prince Andrew, among others. They’ve all denied the allegations, and none have been arrested or charged with any crime.
Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents several women who claim they were abused by Epstein, says “it’s going to take a long time” for all his victims “to really get their minds around this.”
She says it’s important for others to come forward so everyone involved can be brought to justice.
“Let’s get to the bottom of this,” Bloom says. “You have nothing to fear anymore because Jeffrey Epstein is gone.”
Bloom says she’ll file civil litigation against Epstein’s estate. Legal experts say federal prosecutors will dismiss the criminal case against Epstein but will likely continue to investigate any co-conspirators who may have helped operate his alleged sex trafficking ring.