Atlanta defense attorney David Schoen said he got word last week that Jeffrey Epstein wanted to meet with him at the Manhattan jail where he was being held on sex trafficking charges.
The two had already met on Aug. 1 to talk about Schoen joining the 66-year-old’s legal defense team, Schoen told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Schoen said Epstein wanted to meet again on Friday but that he couldn’t make it. He said he planned to see Epstein again this week.
Instead, Epstein was found dead in his cell Saturday in an apparent suicide.
That’s left Schoen wishing he had made it to see Epstein, who he said he has known for years and considers a friend.
“If it was suicide, I like to think I could’ve made a difference,” the attorney said.
Questions are rampant about why Epstein wasn’t on suicide watch and the Justice Department's inspector general has opened an investigation into the death. Officials have also vowed that the investigation into Epstein’s alleged activities running a underage sex-trafficking ring will continue in earnest.
Schoen, who lives in Atlanta and has practices in Alabama and New York, was caught off guard by news of the death. Epstein hadn’t seemed distressed to the point of suicide when he saw him on Aug. 1, he said.
In the days since they met, they’d exchanged messages through intermediaries. At no point, did Epstein say anything to make Schoen think he was suicidal, though it was clear jail was stressful, the attorney said.
Schoen said a worker interrupted their meeting on Aug. 1 to talk about suicide watch protocol.
“The place was taking its toll on him,” Schoen said. “They had him locked up originally with a former cop who was accused of four murders—that was his cell mate (until a recent move).”
Epstein, whose list of prominent friends over the years has included former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump, has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of girls during “massages” at his various properties around the country.
Since 2018, Epstein had been the subject of widespread ire after the Miami Herald published reports about a deal U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta gave the financier a decade earlier when Acosta was a Miami federal prosecutor.
Under the arrangement, Epstein had to register as a sex offender but only pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting prostitution. Some of Epstein’s alleged victims were angered by the punishment, which they saw as a slap on the wrist.
Acosta resigned from his post in the Trump administration in July after Epstein was arrested on federal sex trafficking charges in New York.
Schoen, who declined to name the mutual friend who had introduced him to Epstein, said he believed Epstein was also distressed by the fact that so many people believed he was guilty.
“Everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence under our constitution, and that’s been abandoned with Jeffrey Epstein,” the attorney said. “I was getting into the case to fight the case and to win the case, quit frankly.”
“There were many defenses to this case,” he said.
“I told him from the day I met him and certainly last week that I intended to stand up for him. I intended to see that he got a fair trial,” said the attorney.
Martin Weinberg, Epstein’s attorney, did not return phone calls inquiring about Schoen’s possible role in the disgraced financier’s defense.
There’s no word on what effect Epstein’s death will have on a suit filed by two of his accusers against the U.S. Justice Department, demanding, among other things, the government turn over records related to Epstein’s case. Atlanta’s U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak’s office was assigned to defend the government against a lawsuit because counterparts in Miami recused themselves.
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