Alleged victims of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself this month in his federal jail cell, shared their stories Tuesday in a Manhattan courtroom.
The first accuser to speak, Courtney Wild, said Epstein sexually abused her for years.
His suicide "robbed" his victims of the chance "to confront him one by one" in court, she said. "For that, he is a coward."
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Another woman said Epstein was "strategic in how he approached us."
"Each of us has a different story and different circumstances as to why we stayed in it," the woman, identified in court only as Jane Doe 2, said. "It was like the analogy where the frog is in the pot and the heat goes up over time."
More than 20 women either spoke in court or read statements.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who oversaw the case against Epstein before the financier's death Aug. 10, invited alleged victims and their attorneys to attend the hearing after prosecutors asked that he scrap charges against the defendant since he is dead.
One woman, identified as Jane Doe 3, said she quit modeling after an encounter with Epstein.
Another told the court that she thinks Epstein's victims "will never heal" from what they endured, a view echoed by others.
"He could not begin to fathom what he took from us," one accuser said. "I am every girl that he did this to and they are me. Today, we stand together."
Another woman, identified as Jane Doe 5, read a letter that she wrote to Epstein.
"I will never be able to get over the overwhelming emotions and embarrassment from that drama," she said.
One woman said she almost died following an encounter with Epstein.
"He took me by the wrist. I was searching for words but all I could say was please stop, but that only seemed to excite him more," Chauntae Davies said.
She also agreed with the other alleged victims that his suicide robbed them of justice.
"Every woman who is sitting in this room today, we have all suffered and he is winning in death," she said.
Accuser Jennifer Araoz, who has previously said that she was manipulated to give Epstein massages that ended with him pleasuring himself, spoke through tears at the hearing.
"The fact he felt entitled to take away my innocence .... hurts me so very much," she said.
Araoz's lawyer said what Epstein "could not buy, he forcibly took."
The lawyer asked the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI to bring all of Epstein's "co-conspirators to justice."
Prosecutors said at the start of the hearing that a dismissal of the case against Epstein would not prohibit the government from investigating the alleged conspiracy related to the multimillionaire financier's alleged sex trafficking.
"The investigation into those matters has been ongoing, is ongoing, and will continue," a prosecutor for the Southern District of New York said.
Several accusers who spoke in court Tuesday named Epstein’s former longtime associate, Ghislaine Maxwell.
"We all know he did not act alone,” Sarah Ransome said, asking prosecutors to “finish what you have started.”
Theresa Helm said that Maxwell needs to be “held accountable.”
Another accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, said she was 17 when Maxwell allegedly recruited her. Giuffre said she was told that she could have a career as a massage therapist, but she instead became "a victim of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell and the horrible acts they committed against me."
"I commend the prosecutors for the Southern District of New York for their ongoing pursuit of justice," she said.
Maxwell, a British socialite, has been named in some court filings by women alleging abuse by Epstein.
A cache of court papers relating to a separate 2015 federal defamation lawsuit filed by Giuffre against Maxwell shows that she claimed in a 2016 deposition that Epstein and Maxwell groomed her to become a "sex slave" for high-powered men starting when she was 16.
Maxwell has not been charged with a crime and has not commented publicly since the papers were released earlier this month. Her lawyer also has not previously returned a request for comment upon release of the documents Friday and could not be immediately reached on Tuesday.
Previously, in a motion to dismiss the suit, Maxwell's lawyers said Giuffre "produced no evidence substantiating any of her fantastical claims that she had been trafficked by Epstein, or by Maxwell."
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Epstein's death was "a rather stunning turn of events" and that giving the women a chance to speak was a matter of law and "respect."
"I believe it is the court's responsibility and in its purview that the victims in the case are dealt with, with dignity and with humanity," he said.
Epstein, 66, was arrested July 6 on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors say he sexually abused dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, from at least 2002 through 2005. He was also accused of paying his victims to recruit others, allowing him to build a vast network of girls to exploit.
One accuser who wants to remain anonymous and is represented by lawyer Lisa Bloom, said in a statement prior to the start of Tuesday's hearing that Epstein's suicide "denied everyone justice."
"I cannot say that I am pleased he committed suicide, but I am at peace knowing that he will not be able to hurt anyone else," the woman said in the statement. "I do not want the narrative to be 'those poor girls.' ... I want some sort of closure for those of us who will relive those horrible moments where we were assaulted, abused and taken advantage of by Epstein."
Bloom announced prior to the hearing that none of her clients would be attending as they wish to remain anonymous.
Epstein was charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking. He faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty. He pleaded not guilty and was denied bail.
His death in his jail cell was ruled a suicide.
He had been placed on suicide watch in July after he was found in his cell semiconscious with marks on his neck. He was later taken off suicide watch after being evaluated by a doctoral-level psychologist, the Justice Department said in a letter to Congress.