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Unsealed court documents reveal names of men allegedly linked to Jeffrey Epstein

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A federal judge in Manhattan released a trove of documents yesterday, naming, for the first time, dozens of powerful men who allegedly had ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein before his death by suicide in 2019.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

They include politicians such as Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, the actor Kevin Spacey and magician David Copperfield, among many others. Now, to be clear, the fact that these men are named doesn't mean they did anything wrong or face criminal allegations. These documents also include testimony and eyewitness accounts that claim to paint a more detailed portrait of Epstein's secretive world - a world where women were allegedly exploited, sexually assaulted and raped.

FADEL: For more, we're joined by NPR's Brian Mann. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: OK, so you've been digging through these documents with a team of our reporters. What have you found?

MANN: So these documents, compiled as part of a civil case, show that Epstein, a registered sex offender, continued to move for years in elite circles, associating with people like Prince Andrew, you know, the prominent attorney Alan Dershowitz. The musician Michael Jackson is named here, a former U.S. senator from Maine believed to be George Mitchell, also former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and, as you mentioned, Donald Trump and also former Vice President Al Gore. Former President Bill Clinton's name comes up frequently in these documents. And, again, being named here doesn't reflect wrongdoing. Most of these people, including Clinton, have said they had no awareness of Epstein's alleged crimes. But the documents also include repeated claims that these social gatherings of powerful men included young women, some of them minors, arranged by Epstein and by his accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell, of course, is now serving a 20-year prison sentence on federal sex trafficking charges linked to her work for Epstein.

FADEL: And what do the documents tell us about what was happening at these gatherings?

MANN: So Epstein hosted people for these really lavish gatherings at his homes in New York City and Palm Springs, and at his mansion on a private island in the Virgin Islands. There are hundreds of pages here, Leila, of previously redacted depositions from Ghislaine Maxwell and others employed by Epstein that offer really salacious details of conversations where powerful men allegedly express interest in young women. One witness claims Britain's Prince Andrew groped her breast. There are also police records here in these documents detailing investigations into Epstein after young women claimed he coerced them into sexual acts and prostitution. Over the years, dozens of women have come forward claiming Epstein sexually assaulted and exploited and raped them. Some say they were minors when these alleged crimes happened. Epstein took his own life in prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

FADEL: Wow. I mean, you mentioned he took his life. That was four years ago. Why are we just learning of these details and these names now?

MANN: Yeah. One thing these documents show is it took a really long time to hold Epstein accountable. He was first investigated in 2006 but was allowed to plead to relatively minor state prostitution charges. At that time, after lengthy negotiations with Epstein's powerful team of attorneys, federal investigators decided not to prosecute him, and the DOJ has since acknowledged that decision reflected poor judgment. Epstein then went on leading this lifestyle, hanging out with the rich and powerful, often with young women in tow, for years and years. And he might very well have gotten away with all of this, and the public would never have learned of his alleged crimes, except that the Miami Herald published an expose that finally led to federal charges. The newspaper also fought for five years in court to have these documents made public. One of his victims said on social media this week that this moment and the release of these names finally bring some transparency and accountability.

FADEL: NPR's Brian Mann talking about new court disclosures in the Jeffrey Epstein case. Thanks, Brian.

MANN: Sure. Glad to.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.