Epstein accusers detail sexual abuse claims in emotional court hearing

Most of those who spoke expressed outrage at billionaire's suicide

epa07798190 Some of deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, including Virginia Roberts Giuffre (C) exit the United States Federal Courthouse in New York, New York, USA, 27 August 2019. Epstein's accusers attended a hearing to testify in favor of continuing his trial. Epstein was found dead in his prison cell on 10 August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.  EPA/ALBA VIGARAY
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Jeffrey Epstein's accusers wept in court on Tuesday as they told an extraordinary US hearing held weeks after his death how they were sexually abused by the disgraced financier.

More than a dozen women — some speaking through tears, others with their voices breaking — described how he stole their dreams and robbed them of their innocence.

Epstein, 66, hanged himself in his New York prison cell this month while awaiting trial on charges that he trafficked young women for sex.

Tuesday's hearing was scheduled so they could tell their stories before the case against him was dismissed. It was the first time most of the women had spoken publicly about Epstein.

"Today we stand together. I will not remain a victim and be silent for one more day," said actress Anouska De Georgiou, who said she was sexually abused by Epstein.

The women hugged and consoled each after returning from the podium where they addressed the Manhattan Federal Court, some of them reading from statements.

A few cried as they listened to testimony that sounded all too familiar to their own: vulnerable young women who were recruited, groomed and then coerced into having sex with a multimillionaire.

Chauntae Davies described how she spent two weeks "vomiting myself to death" in a hospital after being raped by Epstein after she was recruited to give him massages.

Ms Davies detailed what she called his "sick abuse of young girls".

"Every public humiliation I have endured, I have suffered, and he has won," she said.

Another victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was "haunted forever" after being raped by Epstein.

She said Epstein had threatened to kill her if she was not a virgin. "I was his slave. I felt powerless and ashamed."

Most of those who spoke expressed their outrage at Epstein's suicide on August 10.

"I feel very angry and sad because justice has never been served in this case," said Courtney Wild, describing Epstein as a "coward".

Jennifer Araoz said that "even in death Jeffrey Epstein is trying to hurt me".

"The fact that I will never have a chance to face my predator in court eats away at my soul," she told the court.

Annie Farmer said she and her sister had tried to tell police about Epstein as far back as 1996 but to no avail.

Several of the accusers said they were recruited by Epstein's former lover, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of late media baron Robert Maxwell.

They urged prosecutors to go after co-conspirators. Ms Maxwell has denied allegations against her.

"Please, please, please finish what you started. Us victims are prepared to tell the truth. He did not act alone," Sarah Ransome, told the court, saying Epstein ran an "international sex trafficking ring".

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says she was abused by Epstein for years and farmed out to his wealthy friends, said: "The reckoning must not end, it must continue".

US government lawyer Maurene Comey assured them that prosecutors would pursue investigations.

Epstein, who befriended many celebrities and politicians over the years, including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, was arrested in July and charged with trafficking girls as young as 14 for sex.

He faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

Epstein was convicted in 2008 in a Florida state court for paying young girls for sexual massages.

He served only 13 months in jail under a plea deal in which his accusers did not testify in court.

Judge Richard Berman described Epstein's suicide as a "stunning turn of events".

Epstein's lawyer Martin Weinberg said the defence team were sceptical that the billionaire had killed himself and called on the judge to open his own investigation.

"We deeply want to know what happened to our client," Mr Weinberg said.

The US government and the FBI are already investigating and Mr Berman was non-committal.

Sixteen women addressed the court while lawyers read out statements on behalf of seven other accusers.

Mr Berman said Tuesday's hearing had been called out of respect for the victims, who he praised for "their courage to come forward".