After officials said disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell on Saturday morning, his accusers and their lawyers are calling for authorities to continue to fight for justice.
"The fact that Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit the selfish act of taking his own life as his world of abuse, exploitation, and corruption unraveled is unfortunate yet predictable," said Brad Edwards, who represents many of Epstein's accusers, in an email to BuzzFeed News.
"While we engaged in contentious legal battles for more than a decade, this is not the ending anyone was looking for," he added. "The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused."
Epstein was facing a maximum of 45 years in prison after being charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He had pleaded not guilty.
The financier was accused of paying dozens of underage girls to give him nude "massages" in which he then sexually abused them in the early 2000s. He then allegedly paid some of his victims to recruit other girls to be abused.
Jennifer Araoz, one of the women who said Epstein raped her, when she was 15 years old, told NBC news she's "angry Jeffrey Epstein won't have to face his survivors of his abuse in court."
"Epstein is gone but justice must still be served," she said. "I hope the authorities will pursue and prosecute his accomplices and enablers, to ensure redress for his victims."
Lisa Bloom, another attorney who represented Epstein's alleged victims, said on Twitter that she would have preferred Epstein "lived to face justice."
"I am calling today for the administrators of Jeffrey Epstein’s estate to freeze all his assets and hold them for his victims who are filing civil cases. Their lives have been shattered by his sexual assaults, their careers derailed. They deserve full and fair compensation NOW," Bloom tweeted.
In 2008, Epstein had faced similar allegations in Florida, but ended up receiving a lenient "sweetheart" deal thanks to the federal prosecutor there at the time, Alex Acosta. Instead, he pleaded guilty only to a charge of soliciting prostitution and served 13 months in jail. That deal received renewed attention following his 2019 arrest and led to Acosta leaving his position in President Trump's cabinet as labor secretary.
After Epstein was arrested on July 6, the judge over the case denied him bail, considering him a flight risk.
US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman told reporters at the time that bringing charges against Epstein was “profoundly important to the many alleged victims who are now young women.”
“They deserve their day in court,” he had said.
The FBI is now investigating the circumstances around Epstein's death and Attorney General Bill Barr said a separate investigation will be opened with the Department of Justice Inspector General. "Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered," said Barr.
Edwards called on anyone else who has information about Epstein's activities to speak out.
"We will continue to represent his victims and will not stop in their pursuit of finality and justice. It is never too late to come forward with information," he said. "In fact, his many co-conspirators who may have been fearful to speak out against him have been relieved of that excuse; this is their last chance to speak up."