By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - Prosecutors have singled out Jeffrey Epstein for harsher treatment than other defendants because he is rich, lawyers for the American financier claimed on Tuesday in arguing that Epstein should be freed while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Federal prosecutors say Epstein, 66, should be denied bail because there are no conditions under which a man with his money and international connections could be prevented from fleeing the country if he was released.
"To be sure, wealthy defendants do not deserve preferential treatment. But they certainly shouldn't be singled out for worse treatment - in effect, categorically disqualified from bail ... on the basis of their net worth," Epstein's attorneys wrote in papers filed in federal court in New York on Tuesday.
Both prosecutors and defence lawyers filed additional documents on Tuesday as U.S. District Judge Richard Berman weighs whether Epstein should be granted bail, and if so, under what conditions. Berman said he would issue his ruling on Thursday.
Epstein was indicted in federal court in New York earlier this month on charges of trafficking underage girls for sex in at least two states. He was arrested on July 6 at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, where he had returned from Paris on his private plane.
Epstein, who is a registered as a sex offender under a 2008 plea agreement in Florida that has been sharply criticized for its leniency, has pleaded not guilty to the indictment.
Alexander Acosta, who handled the 2008 case as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, resigned as secretary of labour under President Donald Trump amid fresh outrage over that plea deal.
The defence team has asked that Epstein be allowed to surrender his passport and live under house arrest at his $77 million mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, guarded by private security at his own expense.
A document filed by his lawyers and made public this week lists his total assets at $559,120,954, including four homes and two private islands.
Prosecutors say that they found more than $70,000 in cash in a safe at Epstein's multi-story Manhattan mansion, along with jewellery, loose diamonds and a passport that was apparently issued by a foreign country containing Epstein’s photo but someone else’s name.
Defence attorneys said in the court filing that their client, who is Jewish, acquired the passport in the 1980s for "personal protection" while travelling in the Middle East and that it had expired 32 years ago.
Epstein was known for socializing with politicians and royalty, with friends who have included Trump, former President Bill Clinton and according to court papers, Britain’s Prince Andrew. None of those people were mentioned in the indictment.
Epstein faces up to 45 years in federal prison if convicted.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)