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Jeffrey Epstein's accusers told their stories in court today. Despite the wealthy financier's death in prison earlier this month, a federal judge on the case made an unusual move to allow Epstein's alleged victims to speak anyway. More than a dozen women came forward to describe what they called his extensive sex trafficking ring, an operation that targeted young girls in particular. At a news conference afterward, one accuser called it a day of power and strength. NPR's Colin Dwyer is here to tell us more.
Hey there, Colin.
COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: Can you describe the scene at the courthouse?
DWYER: Well, it was a bit of a chaotic scene outside. Members of the media couldn't bring recording equipment into the courtroom, but that didn't stop them from turning out en masse to cover the story. Inside the courtroom, it was teeming with accusers. Now, not all of them spoke. But all told, they filled more than three rows of seating in the courtroom.
Judge Berman set the tone from the very beginning. He said that the hearing was intended to promote transparency and that victims should be included before and not after the fact. Now, as you mentioned, that decision was pretty unusual.
Gloria Allred, who was an attorney for some of the victims, said that she'd seen nothing like it in all of her years in legal practice. She also said that, often, judges are distracted during victims' statements, but...
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GLORIA ALLRED: That did not occur this morning. I was watching this judge. He listened carefully. He looked at the victims who were testifying and/or their attorneys who were testifying on behalf of their clients. He was showing respect.
CORNISH: I want to hear a little more about this testimony. Were there any themes that emerged?
DWYER: Well, their stories varied, obviously, but the similarities were striking. Many of them depicted their childhoods having been stolen. They also spoke of their futures being stolen because of the enduring trauma related to these experiences. They also described Epstein as a deft manipulator. They said that he wielded his power and influence to intimidate them, and he often worked pretty smoothly. One woman said that he was so strategic in his manipulation that it was almost like being a frog that was being boiled in a pot of water without realizing it - a pretty stirring metaphor.
And in general, there was just a lot of disappointment. Many of the women found that his death was just a whole new trauma for them and that while this day was nice - to be able to speak their stories - they are deeply disappointed that they won't get to face him in court.
CORNISH: So let's talk more about that 'cause this is complicated. What comes next for the victims here and for the prosecutors on the case?
DWYER: So both prosecutors and defense attorneys have asked for these charges to be dropped. The judge didn't issue a decision today. But as you can imagine, that - this is likely the end of that criminal case.
But this isn't the only case that involves Epstein at this point. Several women have also come forward, suing his estate, accusing him of crimes against them. And also, the authorities themselves have said that they aren't done either. One of the themes of this hearing today, at least from the authorities' side, was that they plan to pursue his alleged co-conspirators, wherever they may be.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Colin Dwyer. He spoke to us from New York.
Colin, thank you.
DWYER: Thank you, Audie.
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