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Epstein defense offers explanation for foreign passport

By JIM MUSTIAN and ALI SWENSON, AP

NEW YORK — Defense attorneys told a court Tuesday that financier Jeffrey Epstein obtained a foreign passport decades ago out of fear that he might be kidnapped in the Middle East, seeking to allay concerns over the apparently phony travel document.

Prosecutors have said the passport was under an alias. They have pointed to it and dozens of diamonds hidden in a safe — both discovered following Epstein's arrest— as a further warning sign that the convicted sex offender would try to flee the country if granted bail on federal sex trafficking charges.

But defense attorneys said the passport expired 32 years ago, adding prosecutors have offered no evidence Epstein ever used it.

The defense wrote in court papers that Epstein, "as an affluent member of the Jewish faith," acquired the passport in the 1980s "in connection to Middle East travel."

"The passport was for personal protection in the event of travel to dangerous areas, only to be presented to potential kidnapers, hijackers or terrorists should violent episodes occur," they wrote.

Prosecutors have said the passport listed a Saudi address and contained a photograph of Epstein and an alias. Authorities are investigating whether the passport is "genuine or fabricated," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a court filing Tuesday.

Epstein faces federal charges of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls in the early 2000s. His indictment, unsealed last week, shows conspiracy and sex trafficking charges that could result in up to 45 years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

Epstein's defense team wrote that it was not able to meet a Tuesday deadline to provide a breakdown of Epstein's finances to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman.

They described Epstein's finances as "fairly complex" but said they would have an accountant provide a "comprehensive forensic accounting" of Epstein's assets.

In the meantime, they said that Epstein's brother, Mark, is prepared to sign a bond "in the full amount of his own net worth, which exceeds $100 million," to secure Epstein's pre-trial release.

Prosecutors have argued that Epstein's wealth would make it easier for him to flee prosecution. They've pointed to his private planes and international residences, describing him as a man of "nearly infinite means."

The prosecution offered more details in its latest filings about the contents of the safe that contained Epstein's foreign passport. In addition to more than $70,000 cash, it also contained 48 loose diamond stones and a diamond ring.

"Such ready cash and loose diamonds are consistent with the capability to leave the jurisdiction at a moment's notice," prosecutors wrote in their court filing.

The dueling court filings came as one of Epstein's accusers spoke publicly for the second time in as many days, urging other women to come forward with allegations against the wealthy financier.

Courtney Wild told reporters at a news conference in New York that Epstein "will never stop sexually abusing children until he is in jail."

"We will not get justice until you speak out," Wild said, addressing anyone who believes they have been abused by Epstein. "You are not alone, and this was not your fault."

Wild's remarks came a day after she urged Berman to deny Epstein bail. She said Epstein started sexually abusing her when she was 14 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Wild's accusations are not part of the federal indictment unsealed last week in Manhattan.

Epstein's attorneys have argued the new charges should not have been filed because he signed a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami more than a decade ago that they say covers largely the same ground.

That agreement allowed Epstein to plead guilty to lesser state charges and has been criticized as a sweetheart deal.

Wild and others have sued the Department of Justice over the deal, claiming she and other victims were not informed about the status of the case.

On Tuesday, Wild's attorney, Brad Edwards, described Epstein as someone who recruited, manipulated and sexually assaulted women and girls "like it was his full-time job."

"This was not an addiction he turned on and off when he crossed the borders into Florida," Edwards said.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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