The death of convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein sparked a tidal wave of outrage on social media on Saturday, with many calling for further investigation into the alleged trafficking of young girls by the well-connected money manager.
Numerous law enforcement officials and legislators called for existing probes to continue amid scrutiny of Epstein’s previous prosecution and the level to which his money and political connections helped him receive a lighter sentence in 2008.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was among the members of Congress to weigh in on Epstein, who was found dead by apparent hanging in his lower Manhattan jail cell early Saturday. Epstein’s death also raises questions about how he was able to commit suicide even as he had reportedly been on suicide watch after a suspected previous attempt that sent him to the hospital on July 23.
“We need answers. Lots of them,” Ocasio-Cortez said via Twitter in a retweet of the New York Times story on Epstein’s death.
The jailhouse suicide is the latest twist in a sordid saga that has captured attention for its toxic mix of wealth, privilege and claims of sexual deviance.
Epstein was arrested July 6 in New Jersey on charges of sex trafficking of minors at his lavish Manhattan apartment. Epstein previously was convicted in Florida of two counts of soliciting prostitution, one of them with a minor. The specifics of that prosecution have been under the microscope in recent months after the Miami Herald published a series by investigative journalist Julie K. Brown questioning the light plea bargain reached despite the severity of charges and number of alleged victims.
Epstein was accused of recruiting and paying dozens of teenage girls for sexual acts, including lurid allegations that Epstein hosted sex parties for his boldface name associates. President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton are among the prominent figures with ties to Epstein.
The Justice Department is reviewing the process that led to Epstein’s 2008 plea bargain. The heat from the scandal already forced the resignation of Alexander Acosta as Trump’s Labor Secretary. Acosta was the U.S. Attorney in charge of South Florida at the time of Epstein’s prosecution. According to numerous published reports, Epstein’s death will not end the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Epstein’s crimes. A number of pending lawsuits against the one-time high-flying financier will also proceed.
Epstein’s alleged victims expressed anger and frustration that he will no longer face a reckoning before the law.
“I am angry Jeffrey Epstein won’t have to face his survivors of his abuse in court,” said Jennifer Araoz in a statement. “Epstein is gone but justice must still be served.”
Entertainment industry figures also expressed outrage. Epstein is rumored to have had ties to notable Hollywood figures but to date no damaging information has surfaced connecting the disgraced sex offender with major heavy hitters in media and entertainment.