Scores of accusers to speak at hearing after Epstein's death

A judge set the hearing after prosecutors asked that he scrap charges against Epstein since the defendant was dead.

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By Associated Press

Up to 30 women are expected to take a judge up on his invitation to speak at a hearing after financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself while in federal custody before facing sex trafficking charges.

The hearing Tuesday morning was scheduled last week by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who presided over the case prosecutors brought against Epstein after the 66-year-old convicted felon was arrested on July 6.

The judge set the hearing after prosecutors asked that he scrap charges against Epstein since the defendant was dead. Berman said he would give prosecutors, Epstein lawyers and any victims a chance to speak.

"The public may still have an informational interest in the process by which the prosecutor seeks dismissal of an indictment," Berman said last week.

Bradley Edwards, a lawyer for some of Epstein’s alleged victims, called the hearing "a historic day for crime victims in the United States."

"This case has ended in the most unfortunate way, marking layers of tragedy,” he told NBC News in a statement on Monday. “However, this hearing has great significance. While it does not provide complete closure, it solidifies the fact that victims are an integral part of the process."

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Another lawyer representing alleged victims, Spencer Kuvin, said in a statement he was glad Judge Berman was allowing some of the alleged victims to "speak their truths in open court."

"Our hope is that the Department of Justice continues its investigation against all of the co-conspirators and that this is merely the beginning, and not the end, of the prosecutions."

Epstein had pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges and was held without bail, accused of sexually abusing women in the early 2000s at mansions in Manhattan and Florida.

His death was ruled a suicide by hanging, the medical examiner's office said earlier this month.

The determination capped days of speculation and conspiracy theories after Epstein was found unresponsive in his federal jail cell in lower Manhattan on Aug. 10.

Since his death, Attorney General William Barr has vowed that anyone who aided Epstein in sex trafficking will be pursued in a continuing investigation.

He also removed the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons from his position, placed two guards who were supposed to be watching Epstein the morning he died on administrative leave and temporarily reassigned the warden to the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Last week it was revealed that Epstein signed a will just two days before his suicide putting over $577 million in assets into a trust fund.

Chelsea Damberg and Diana Dasrath contributed.