(JTA) — Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire financier facing sex trafficking charges for allegedly abusing dozens of minor girls, hanged himself in his New York City jail cell, law enforcement officials said.
Epstein, 66, was found in his jail cell early Saturday morning at the Metropolitan Correction Center in Manhattan.
He was set to face trial next year for his alleged offenses in New York and Florida, which include paying and coercing girls as young as 14 into performing sexual acts.
Epstein, whose high-powered circle of friends included politicians such as Bill Clinton and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (who was frequently spotted leaving Epstein’s New York apartment), reached a plea deal with prosecutors in 2007 that was widely criticized as overly lenient. Epstein served 13 months in prison, during which he was allowed to leave for 12 hours a day, six days a week, and Epstein’s alleged victims were not told the terms of the deal.
Epstein had been back in the public spotlight for months over new charges. Former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned his position over his role in the plea deal.
One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, says Epstein and his then-partner Ghislaine Maxwell turned her into a sex slave when she was 17. Giuffre has also accused Epstein and Maxwell of directing her to have sex with the well-known Jewish lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who helped Epstein secure his controversial 2007 plea deal.
Dershowitz has denied being involved in the sex crimes. He wrote in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he will continue to defend clients like Epstein.
Besides Dershowitz, several other prominent Jews were connected to Epstein, including Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of the L Brands clothing conglomerate (formerly Limited Brands) who trusted Epstein to manage his money.
“I am embarrassed that, like so many others, I was deceived by Mr. Epstein. I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced, and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path,” Wexner said in a letter to his foundation.
Epstein also donated to Jewish institutions, including $500,000 to the New York City Orthodox prep school Ramaz and $50,000 to the UJA Federation of New York.