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Jeffrey Epstein was convicted for counts of sex trafficking and conspiracy.

Dripping with wealth and influence, billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein managed to evade most of the possible legal penalties when he was accused of sexually abusing minors nearly a decade ago, according to The New York Times. But as new disturbing allegations surfaced, Epstein was arrested on July 6 and was charged two days later on counts of sex trafficking and conspiracy, Business Insider reported. He was later found dead after hanging himself in his cell on Aug. 10. The details surrounding his death have caused many to wonder how the prison system could’ve been blindsided by Epstein’s suicide when he was put on suicide watch just shy of three weeks prior. The media, the public and legal professionals question whether Epstein’s death was a result of the prison’s negligence or a part of a larger scheme to protect the wealthy elite. It’s unlikely that his suicide was framed, but the details may suggest that a scheme was set into place to avoid the prevention of Epstein’s suicide.

Epstein started his own money-management firm, J. Epstein and Co., in 1982. The details of his firm and how Epstein acquired his billions are unclear and seemingly secretive. According to Business Insider, the only known client of the firm is Victoria’s Secret head Les Wexner. Epstein was known for making generous philanthropic contributions to a variety of different causes most notably, a $30 million donation to Harvard University. He was also well connected with the rich and elite, boasting relationships with the Clintons, Kevin Spacey, Donald Trump and other celebrities. According to Business Insider, Trump has commented on Epstein’s infatuation with young women and has stated that their friendship has been over for nearly 15 years due to a “falling out.” Epstein’s connections add to the unusual details of his death.

Epstein served a brief 13-month jail sentence in 2007 after pleading guilty to solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution, but his legal issues didn’t seem to affect his reputation among his elite social circle, The New York Times reported. Epstein avoided federal prosecution due to a deal made between his lawyers and Alex Acosta, who went on to become Labor Secretary for President Trump. According to CNBC, when Epstein was taken into custody in July, Acosta resigned due to the controversy surrounding his history with the case. His swift resignation is suspicious, a clue that reveals the power Epstein held.  

On July 23, Epstein was placed on suicide watch after an alleged failed suicide attempt. He was taken off suicide watch a short six days later, The New York Times reported. The day before his suicide, a new slate of documents were released that exposed frightening details of the lives of the young girls inside Epstein’s mansion. According to The New York Times, that night, the two guards who were supposed to check on Epstein every 30 minutes fell asleep and left Epstein unattended for several hours. They discovered that he’d hung himself with a bed sheet. The Washington Post reported that the autopsy confirmed that the cause of death was suicide.

It’s puzzling as to why a man of such high profile was swiftly taken off suicide watch and wasn’t monitored after new details of his case were released. While some believe that the U.S. federal prisons are poorly managed and understaffed, according to NBC News, even former prison workers were shocked that a high-profile prisoner was only on suicide watch for six days. One would think he especially would be paid more attention.

NBC News reported that some extreme conspiracy theorists claim that the Clintons could be linked to or responsible for Epstein’s death. President Trump even retweeted a tweet about the theory. It’s no secret that Epstein had a relationship with the family, paying visits to them in the White House. 

It’s unlikely that Epstein’s life was taken against his will — according to the Washington Post, the autopsy doesn’t support a claim of murder. However, according to The Intelligencer, Epstein’s lawyers are still skeptical of the ruling. Yet, the lawyers are trying to protect the estate that Epstein leaves behind. 

According to Vanity Fair, Epstein insinuated that many of the wealthy and powerful people had confided in him their dirty secrets. Perhaps government officials or wealthy elite could’ve schemed with prisoner workers and psychologists. If they believed he was at risk of suicide, it could’ve been an easy way to get rid of him to protect secrets of the elite. If he already attempted suicide, it doesn’t seem logical to dismiss him after six days, especially considering his vulnerable state. While it still could’ve been a result of prison negligence, the timing seems too suspicious to attribute it to careless guards and unknowing psychologists.

Diana Witt is a sophomore theatre and media arts and design double major. Contact Diana at wittdr@dukes.jmu.edu.