Disgraced multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of sex trafficking minors, died from an apparent suicide inside his Manhattan jail cell, officials confirmed Saturday.
Attorney General William Barr said in a statement Saturday that he was “appalled” to learn of the death and the Inspector General would open an investigation into the circumstances of his death. The FBI is also investigating.
“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” he said. “In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”
The 66-year-old Epstein was found unresponsive inside his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City around 6:30 a.m. Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff. He was transported to the New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital and was dead on arrival, officials said.
Law enforcement sources said that the initial call to the jail was cardiac arrest. Multiple reports claimed that he hanged himself. An autopsy is pending.
Marc Fernich, one of Epstein’s attorneys, blamed the government, the judge in the case and the media for this “unthinkable tragedy.”
“All these actors appear to bear some responsibility for this calamity. All seem to have a share of Mr. Epstein’s blood on their hands. All should be ashamed of their behavior,” he said in a personal statement to Fox News. “I call for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Epstein’s death. The public needs to know exactly what happened and why — and how his custodians could have let it occur.”
Epstein’s death comes two weeks after the 66-year-old was placed on suicide watch after he was found nearly unconscious in his cell with injuries to his neck. At the time, it was not clear whether the injuries were self-inflicted or from an assault.
He had been taken off suicide watch before he killed himself, a person familiar with the matter told the AP. It wasn’t immediately clear when he was taken off suicide watch.
Epstein was arrested on July 6 over the alleged sexual abuse of dozens of young girls in his Upper East Side townhouse and his waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005
Epstein allegedly created and maintained a “vast network” and operation from 2002 “up to and including” at least 2005 that enabled him to “sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls” in addition to paying victims to recruit other girls. Prosecutors said that victims would be escorted to a room with a massage table where they would perform massages on Epstein.
At the time of Epstein’s arrest, prosecutors said they found a trove of pictures of nude and seminude young women and girls at his $77 million Manhattan mansion. They also say additional victims have come forward since the arrest.
He had pleaded not guilty and faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
His death also comes a day after thousands of documents were unsealed Friday in connection with a defamation case against his alleged recruiter that revealed dozens of high-profile names including President Clinton, former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, ex-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Prince Andrew, Duke of York.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who has long claimed Epstein forced her to have sex with powerful men, claimed in the lawsuit that Epstein and his associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, kept her as a “sex slave” in the early 2000s when she was underage.
Giuffre claimed in the unsealed May 2016 deposition to have been trafficked to have sex with and provide erotic massages to powerful politicians, foreign leaders, and well-heeled businessmen.
Her attorney, Brad Edwards, reacted to Epstein’s apparent suicide on Saturday, telling Fox News it was “unfortunate and predictable.”
“The fact that Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit the selfish act of taking his own life as his world of abuse, exploitation, and corruption unraveled in both unfortunate and predictable,” he said in a statement. “While we engaged in contentious legal battles for more than a decade, this is not the ending anyone was looking for.”
He continued: “The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused. It is never too late to come forward with information. We will continue to represent his victims and will not stop in their pursuit of finality and justice.”
Given his close ties to former President Bill Clinton many of speculated that Epstein would not live to see the trial, especially after his alleged attempted suicide several weeks ago.
By mid-morning on the East Coast, a hashtag related to a conspiracy about the Clinton family, #EpsteinMURDERED had begun to trend on Twitter. Similar topics are well known by disinformation researchers to receive promotion from foreign influence campaigns that seek to promote misinformation and elevate divisive topics. A Twitter spokesperson told NBC News that the trends were due to organic conversation and that the company is monitoring the situation.