A new New York law will enable Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims to sue for damages

The Child Victim Act was initially intended to help abuse victims sue the Roman Catholic Church.
Image:
New York Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, center, during a news conference about passing legislation authorizing the Child Victims Act at the state Capitol in Albany, New York, on Jan. 28, 2019.Hans Pennink / AP file

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By Corky Siemaszko

Jeffrey Epstein's estate is likely to be hit with a barrage of lawsuits when a new law in New York state aimed to help child sex abuse victims goes into effect Wednesday.

The Child Victims Act gives people a one-year window to sue for sex abuse damages, regardless of when the alleged acts happened. In addition to that, the law also extends the statute of limitations for criminal charges against child sex abusers.

“While Epstein is dead, the cases against him will live on,” New York state Sen. Brady Hoylman told NBC News on Monday, two days after the wealthy financier and accused sex trafficker was found dead in his jail cell of an apparent suicide. “Hopefully, they will reveal why his crimes were hidden for so long and who enabled him to hide from the law.”

Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, both Manhattan Democrats, were the prime movers behind the new law that was primarily intended to help sex abuse victims sue the Roman Catholic Church and other organizations for monetary damages.

“I think the Epstein case is emblematic of the possibilities that survivors of child sex abuse will have beginning Aug. 14,” Hoylman said. “Abusers currently out of reach because of New York’s archaic statutes of limitations will now be subject to civil suits, as well as their estates.”

Lisa Bloom, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who represents two women who say Epstein sexually abused them, said on social media the financier's death won’t deter them from suing.

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“We would have preferred he lived to face justice,” Bloom tweeted. “Our civil case can still proceed against his estate.”

New York lawyer Roberta Kaplan confirmed an earlier Reuters report that she intends to sue on behalf of a woman who was recruited in 2002 at age 14 to engage in sex acts with Epstein and was paid hundreds of dollars each time.

And those are just two of the lawyers who will be suing Epstein, a moneyman who was friends with President Donald Trump, as well as former President Bill Clinton and other powerful people.

His total assets were listed by his lawyers last month at about $559 million, including two private islands and four homes, a $77 million mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan among them.

Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive Saturday in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center and federal authorities are investigating why he wasn’t being closely monitored. He was supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes, multiple officials have told NBC News.

Awaiting trial for sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking, Epstein faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty. He was arrested July 6 and was denied bail after pleading not guilty to the charges.

His death came the day after a raft of court documents was unsealed, providing new details about Epstein's alleged crimes.

Epstein allegedly sought out minors from at least 2002 through 2005 and paid them hundreds of dollars in cash for sex at either his Manhattan residence or his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, federal prosecutors revealed last month. He pleaded not guilty and was denied bail.

Epstein was already a registered sex offender in Florida after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution. His plea was part of a nonprosecution agreement Epstein signed with the office of the U.S. attorney for Miami which critics have derided as a slap on the wrist. The then-U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida was Alex Acosta, who was Trump's secretary of labor until he was forced to resign following criticism for how he handled the Epstein case.

NBC News has reached out to Epstein's attorney for comment.