SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
Jeffrey Epstein has died in an apparent suicide. The Federal Bureau of Prisons says he was found unresponsive in his Manhattan jail cell this morning. The billionaire financier was facing sex trafficking and conspiracy charges in New York. Epstein's case is especially noteworthy because for years he's been linked to other prominent men. We're joined now by Michael Gold of The New York Times. Michael, welcome. And what more, if anything, have you been able to learn about how Epstein died?
MICHAEL GOLD: Hi. So at this point, we are told that Mr. Epstein hanged himself. And the - this we have from officials, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons has said that he did - he was found unresponsive in an apparent suicide around 6:30 a.m. this morning. We also heard that, though, Mr. Epstein has been housed in a unit with extra security since he was arrested on July 6, he was not under suicide watch at the time that he was found dead this morning.
PFEIFFER: Now, this is even though, last month, Epstein was found semi-conscious in his cell with marks on his neck, is that right?
GOLD: Right. And in that case, the authorities said that they had been investigating that incident as a possible suicide. But when we spoke to them, they also - officials also told us that they had not ruled out the possibility that he had been attacked or that he had somehow staged the incident. Just recently, the attorney general said that the Department of Justice would open an inquiry into what happened. They just want to know more about the circumstances around Mr. Epstein's death.
PFEIFFER: Right. In fact, in that statement that the Attorney General William Barr put out he said he was appalled by the death. What do you know about the conditions in that prison?
GOLD: We're still sort of working out exactly what happened, but we do know that Mr. Epstein had been in the Special Housing Unit at the facility in Lower Manhattan, which is a federal jail. That unit has extra security. And it's believed that he was put there, in part, for his own protection. Oftentimes when people are involved in - there's allegations that people have committed sexual abuses against minors, they're placed in these units to prevent further injury.
PFEIFFER: There were court filings in Epstein's case unsealed yesterday that suggests that there may have been even wider circle of well-known people who knew about Epstein's alleged crimes. I know, Michael, that you've been reading through those records. What are the highlights so far?
GOLD: Sure. So these are about 2,000 pages of documents that were released in a court case involving a woman named Virginia Giuffre who had accused Mr. Epstein and one of his associates of sexually abusing her as early as she was 16. And in these documents, we have a lot of new and disturbing details about what might have been going on inside Mr. Epstein's homes in the period between 2002 and 2005 that prosecutors say he was running a sex trafficking conspiracy. And in these documents, there are a few names mentioned, some of which are new to us. And there are a number of disturbing details around exactly what it is that Mr. Epstein requested these women do.
PFEIFFER: Of the prominent men named in those unsealed documents, we should emphasize that none of them has been charged or sued in civil court. One person named is former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. NPR did reach out to him and a spokesperson said that, quote, "the charges are completely false."
Michael, these are likely not the final documents related to this case that are going to be released, when might we see more and what could be in them?
GOLD: Well, right now, a court is reviewing the documents to see what information can be released and whether anything needs to be redacted, but we're expecting thousands of more pages in the case that might provide further details, further names and further information about the exact details of the accusations that these women and the prosecutors have made against Mr. Epstein. But it's not entirely clear when we'll get them. They're going through a review process.
PFEIFFER: Epstein's death is, obviously - it, obviously, just happened, but is it clear at all yet how that could affect his case?
GOLD: It's not entirely clear. We did hear from one of the victims in this case who said that she hoped that there would be, you know, further justice. But at this point, I think everyone is still reacting to the news. You know, this was not expected. This was very sudden. Epstein was scheduled to be in court again in September. So I think everyone is still gathering information and seeing where we go from here.
PFEIFFER: That's Michael Gold of The New York Times talking to us about the death of Jeffrey Epstein who was found dead this morning in a Manhattan jail cell. Michael, thank you.
GOLD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.