FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein is set to return to court Wednesday, July 31, 2019, to face sex trafficking charges just days after he was found injured in his cell. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP)

Jeffrey Epstein set to return to court in sex abuse case

July 30, 2019 - 10:19 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein is set to return to court Wednesday to face sex trafficking charges just days after he was found injured in his cell.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman had scheduled the pretrial hearing before Epstein was found on the floor of his cell last week with neck bruises. It wasn't immediately clear how the injury occurred.

The bruises weren't so serious that he was unable to remain at the Metropolitan Correction Center, which is adjacent to the downtown Manhattan courthouse.

Epstein, accused of having sex with girls as young as age 14, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges that carry the potential for up to 45 years in prison.

Berman has ordered Epstein to remain behind bars until trial after concluding he is a danger to the community and a flight risk. Prosecutors have said they fear he might try to influence a growing number of witnesses who support charges that he recruited and abused dozens of girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. His lawyers had argued he should be allowed to stay under house arrest in his Manhattan mansion.

His lawyers have argued that an agreement reached with federal prosecutors a dozen years ago disallows the charges and they say he has committed no new crimes. The non-prosecution agreement was reached before he pleaded guilty in state court in Florida to prostitution-related charges involving underage girls. Afterward, he was required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to many victims. While he served a 13-month jail term, he was permitted to leave the jail to work for 12 hours a day, six days a week.

On Monday, Berman ordered lawyers in the case against Epstein to meet prior to Wednesday's hearing and discuss how the case will proceed, including the timing of pretrial written arguments over legal issues and when a trial should be scheduled.

Epstein, 66, was arrested July 6 when he arrived at a New Jersey airport on a private jet from Paris, where he has a home.