"He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."
-- Donald Trump on Jeffrey Epstein in 2002
"Beginning as far back as 2001, Epstein lured a steady stream of underage girls to his Palm Beach mansion to engage in nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and intercourse, court and police records show. The girls--mostly from disadvantaged, troubled families--were recruited from middle and high schools around Palm Beach County. Epstein would pay the girls for massages and offer them further money to bring him new girls every time he was at his home in Palm Beach, according to police reports."
-- Julie K. Brown, The Miami Herald, Nov. 18, 2018
The very rich have their prerogatives; their whims command the world. Check-writing can be a superpower; contrary to the protestations of certain philosophers, there's not all that much that money can't buy. We have witnessed it buy the abetting silence and dignity of pompous men. We have seen it buy the votes of people sworn to represent the common interests of their fellow citizens.
Jeffrey Epstein was very rich, at least by the way most of us measure things. Maybe it is emerging that he was not so rich as advertised, that there was an element of bluff and bluster in his performance, but he was rich enough to attract interesting friends, none of whom, they tell us, were close to him at the end.
He was rich enough that those friends could roll (or close) their eyes at his peccadilloes. He liked young girls. Who (guffaw, back slap) doesn't?
He was rich enough to warrant outrageously lenient special treatment when he was convicted of soliciting underage prostitutes in 2008; a charge for which he served 13 months in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Stockade reserved for police informants and others perceived to be at risk in the general population. After three and a half months, he was allowed to leave the jail on "work release" for up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. After 13 months, he was released on house arrest to his Palm Beach mansion.
That Jeffrey, his ways are strange. He likes his women young and economically vulnerable. What a card.
And we don't know that Jeffrey Epstein's friends ever did anything more wrong than accept his favors. Fly on his Lolita Express, frolic on his island. Visit his houses. Bask in his glow. Listen politely to his nutty ideas about improving the world through the judicious spreading of his DNA. Take his checks.
And we may never know, because Jeffrey Epstein was allowed to do away with himself last week. He was granted one final courtesy; he was allowed to commit suicide while awaiting trial for sex-trafficking offenses that could have put him away for the rest of his life.
It's not difficult to imagine that a disgraced 66-year-old man with no prospect of ever drawing a free breath again might want to spare himself the crucible of the courtroom. He might not want to be bothered with facing his accusers, with subjecting himself to being humbled by women for whom he had no regard, who merely accessorized his orbit. Those damaged children have been cheated by his exit.
I'm one of the lucky people who can say I didn't know Jeffrey Epstein, but my guess is that he was a soulless man who believed in nothing but the exaltation available in the moment. He didn't think there would be much fun in his future. Turn out the lights, the party's over. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that.
But maybe you don't believe he committed suicide. Under the circumstances, that's not such a crazy thing to think.
As specified by the federal Bureau of Prisons, suicide watch at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan where Epstein was being held is supposed to mean constant 24-hour surveillance of a prisoner. It's supposed to mean the removal of anything--shoelaces, sheets, pillowcases--that could be used to fashion a noose. Had Epstein been on suicide watch--as most of us who are paying attention to his case assumed he was, especially since he'd been found unconscious in his cell with bruises on his neck last month--would have made it practically impossible for Epstein to kill himself.
Were there people who desperately hoped he'd commit suicide? Probably so. There were a lot of people with power and means who stood to be embarrassed at what might have come out at Epstein's trial.
Could some of them have had some influence with members of the staff at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan where Epstein was being held? Well, yeah--given that influence is one of those things that money can most assuredly buy.
Or maybe it doesn't even rise to that. Could someone who understood what these people hoped for figured that under the circumstances it might be best to give Epstein a little more privacy than the suicide watch protocol allowed? There are those who might have considered Epstein a turbulent priest. Why not offer him the gentleman's way out?
Even if incompetence is the likeliest explanation (but is it?) for Epstein receiving this final grace, it's fair to wonder who benefits from Epstein's silencing. It's fair to expect a thorough investigation. Was Epstein on suicide watch (as I'm writing this, there are reports that he was but had been taken off, but no official confirmation of that)? If not, why not? Who made the decision, and what was the rationale? Was the act caught on video? How did Epstein manage it?
I am OK with mystery; there are limits to what we can know and sometimes our motives are obscure even to ourselves. We will probably never discover the entire truth about l'affaire Epstein. I'm sure he moved through the circles of people who never expected he was a pedophile.
He was just another swaggering, self-made monster. Tanned and smiley. With a checkbook.
Philip Martin is a columnist and critic for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his blog at blooddirtandangels.com.
Editorial on 08/13/2019
Print Headline: PHILIP MARTIN: Death of a Bond villain