NYPD let registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein skip court-ordered check-ins 34 times
The New York Police Department (NYPD) was left in a quagmire after reports emerged that it let investor billionaire and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein go scot-free as the ex-convict failed to check in with the city police in eight-plus years since a Manhattan judge ordered him to do so every 90 days. Epstein was arrested by federal agents July 6 in New Jersey after his return from a Paris trip and was charged with child sex-trafficking in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591.
He is suspected of sex trafficking minors in Florida and New York. The new charges against the billionaire suggest the Department of Justice's attempt to redeem its 2008 decision where a top federal prosecutor cut a questionable plea deal — 13 months part-time custody — with the investor accused of engaging in sex with dozens of underage girls.
Epstein, after being labeled a Level 3 sex offender, the worst kind, in 2011, was asked to report in person to the authorities to verify his address every 90 days. He reportedly missed the check-ins 34 times before his arrest earlier this month, violating the requirements of New York's 1996 Sex Offender Registration Act.
Violation of this law is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison for a first offense and seven years for a repeated offense, however, the NYPD did not arrest Epstein. The periodical check is required by a serious sex offender to verify their address and have their photo renewed for the online database of the department.
The NYPD, however, has reportedly shirked responsibility for the grave negligence, stating Epstein was not required to check in with New York police because he claims his primary residence is a private island, Little St. James Island, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and that region is not within their jurisdiction.
The chief of detectives of the NYPD, Dermot Shea, while talking to Fox News, said: "Before his legally mandated first check-in, he [Epstein] changed his residence to the Virgin Islands, requiring monitoring to take place in that jurisdiction, not in New York."
However, state Supreme Court Justice Ruth Pickholz, during her 2011 ruling, had considered the same argument from Epstein's lawyer and had rejected it. His lawyer, Sandra Musumeci, during the January 18, 2011, hearing insisted Epstein was not a "resident of New York" and his $77 million townhouse in the region was just a "vacation home" where he did not plan to stay "longer than a period of 10 days," according to the New York Post.
The judge, however, insisted Epstein would have to abide by the mandatory reporting requirements for Level 3 offenders, saying: "I am sorry he may have to come here every 90 days,” she said, according to an official transcript. “He can give up his New York home if he does not want to come every 90 days."
Despite Pickholz's ruling, Epstein failed to attend even one of his periodic check-ins for years and no action was taken against him. When the outlet asked several current and former officials of the NYPD about the neglect, the officials were reportedly shocked, with one saying: "It makes no sense." While another told the outlet: "The NYPD can’t modify a court order. If the judge says he has to report here, he has to report here."
Another official said Epstein was "supposed to go to SOMU,” an acronym for the NYPD’s Sex Offender Monitoring Unit, located in the Manhattan criminal courthouse. "If he didn’t, then he’s in violation and they could have arrested him."
NYPD-Prosecutor blame game
The NYPD officer assigned to monitor the New York financier's movements and check-ins reportedly complained to the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's Sex Crimes Unit that Epstein was not being compliant. However, prosecutors allegedly told the officer to just send a letter to the ex-convict reminding him he was required to report.
The DA's spokesperson, Danny Frost, however, has denied the allegations, saying: "The NYPD — which is the agency responsible for monitoring SORA compliance — has repeatedly told us that Mr. Epstein was in full compliance with the law. Our office vigorously prosecutes all failure-to-verify cases. Our prosecutors did not and would not discourage the NYPD from making an arrest."
Meanwhile, NYPD spokesperson Phillip Walzak stated the SOMU “monitored Epstein while his reporting address was in New York City," adding that this incident occurred years ago before a majority of the current leadership of the police department was in place.
“The NYPD is proud of its hard work alongside our federal partners to make the case against Epstein that led to his arrest for his vile crimes, and that will ultimately bring justice for his victims," Walzak said.
Despite the DA office washing its hands off complicit neglect, a highly controversial move has emerged, stating the Manhattan DA office attempted to argue on Epstein's behalf that he should be branded a low-risk Level 1 offender, which would exempt him from requiring to report every 90 days. Vance's office, however, has released a statement explaining that the prosecutor in that case, Jennifer Gaffney, "made a mistake and the current DA was not aware of this incident." Gaffney quit the DA office last year.
Mayor Bill De Blasio's response
Shortly after the news of NYPD's neglect broke, City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement expressing outrage at the system, saying: "Something’s very broken. He gamed the system and used a legal loophole to get away with it. It’s ridiculous."
"He should have had to report in all the time, he’s a danger to society," De Blasio told MSNBC, referring to Epstein. The mayor added that he would instruct the city police to see "if we can fight back legally."
Epstein, last week, pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him and faces at least 45 years of imprisonment if convicted. His attorneys have proposed a whopping $77 million bail for the billionaire along with house arrest. A Manhattan judge Monday postponed Epstein's bail hearing till Thursday, saying he needed more time to think about it in light of fresh accounts of new victims.