Chapter One: The Beginning of the End ONE THE BEGINNING OF THE END
IT WAS SATURDAY, JULY 6, 2019. I was in Naples, Florida, with my wife, Terry, and our three sons, Blake, Cashton, and Austin, enjoying the Fourth of July holiday weekend with several other families from our hometown of Fort Lauderdale. We spent the day hanging out at the hotel pool and throwing a football around until suddenly black clouds came out of nowhere and filled the sky. Within minutes, a lightning bolt shot down and thunder drowned out the lifeguard whistles as everyone was asked to evacuate the pool area. We corralled the children and ushered them inside.
Cooped up in a hotel room, the kids were bouncing off the walls, and the adults wanted a break. One of the other dads and I volunteered to take all the kids somewhere to let them run off their energy. We loaded up two cars with ten children ranging from four to fourteen years old and went to the local bowling alley.
As soon as I parked, my phone rang. It was my law partner Stan Pottinger. Making a concerted effort not to let anything disrupt my family time, I didn’t answer and shoved my phone back in my pocket. It was still raining so hard you could barely see. The kids and I opened the car doors and made a run for it. We quickly realized we were not the only ones in town with this idea. The alley was packed. And loud. The kids immediately dashed to the counter. While I was trying to pay for the shoes and lanes, my phone kept ringing. Stan again. I thought to myself, This is strange. He never does that. Still, I couldn’t answer at that moment.
“What size shoes do you need?” asked the clerk. Most of the kids, excited to get bowling, just started yelling out shoe sizes simultaneously.
“I don’t know what my shoe size is,” shouted my friend’s four-year-old daughter, Callie. I placed my phone faceup on the counter while lifting Callie in the air to show the clerk her foot so that he could take his best guess at her size.
“Your phone is ringing,” Callie said. I looked down. It was Stan again. This had to be important. After I helped Callie get her shoes on and find a lightweight bowling ball, I asked the other dad to watch the kids while I made a quick call.
Before I could dial, Stan called again. I ducked into the quieter bar area to answer. “Are you okay?” I asked as I pulled the phone to my ear.
Stan, in his typical very calm voice, said, “I just got a call from the FBI. He’s in handcuffs. They arrested him an hour ago coming off his jet from Paris.”
Jeffrey Epstein, infamous billionaire and my longtime archenemy, who until now had gotten away with international sexual abuse against hundreds of young women and girls, was in custody.
At that moment, a million thoughts shot through my mind. I didn’t say anything for a good five seconds, unable to figure out which one I wanted to turn into a question. “No kidding,” I finally replied. “Who arrested him? What did they charge him with? Have you seen the indictment? Has it been reported?”
Stan continued with what little information he had. “The indictment is sealed,” he explained. “I don’t know who the victims are, but he’s charged with sex trafficking. His first appearance hearing is Monday. Because some of our clients are known victims and may be witnesses, the FBI is trying to alert them to the arrest before it leaks to the press. Hopefully that won’t happen before we get to them, but you should call them as soon as you can.” He was right—bowling would have to wait. Our clients should get the news from us, and as soon as possible. I hung up with Stan and immediately called my associate attorney, Brittany Henderson, so that she could help me begin sharing the news with all of our clients.
The first client I called was Courtney Wild. “No way. I don’t believe you,” she said. After that, all I heard was crying, years of emotions pouring out. “I have to see him in handcuffs. I won’t believe it until I do. I want to be at the hearing on Monday. If I have to drive to New York, I will! We need to be there,” she exclaimed.
“One way or the other, we will be,” I assured her.
Before I could reach out to anyone else, I received an incoming call from another client and victim, Olivia. Her voice was shaking, “Jeffrey Epstein was arrested. The FBI just called me. I can’t believe this day has finally come.”
When the next call came, I figured it was a client, but it was a reporter from the New York Times, and within seconds, I discovered that he knew more than I did. “Why did they raid his New York mansion?” he asked. I didn’t know they had. I wasn’t interested in wasting time on the phone speculating, so I let all the other unidentified calls go to voice mail.
I spent the rest of the night talking with clients, one after another. For more than ten years, we had been through so much together. I was more than just their lawyer. By this point, I served in the role of trusted friend and oftentimes therapist. After hours of trying to answer as many questions as possible, I finished the last client call and sat on the hotel balcony, staring at the water and reflecting.
The day has finally come. Jeffrey Epstein is in custody. But this is not over. This is a world-class heavyweight fight and Jeffrey Epstein is not someone you can just sucker-punch and think you’ve won. The government has to keep swinging until they finish him off, because if he gets a second to recover, he will. And if he does, he will make them pay. He will make everyone who took this shot at him pay. Those thoughts made sleep impossible that night.
The next day, Sunday July 7, Courtney got on a plane from West Palm Beach, Florida, to New York City. I drove back from Naples to Fort Lauderdale and flew to New York Monday morning. We knew the courthouse would be crawling with reporters, which made Courtney nervous. As an Epstein victim, she’d been unfairly labeled and mischaracterized by certain members of the press, which meant that, unable to tell the good ones from the bad, she distrusted them all.
While we hoped to avoid the press altogether—at least until everyone got their bearings—we knew that was not going to be possible. Courtney rode in one car with Michelle Licata, another Epstein child sex abuse victim, whom Courtney had never met before that day. I went separately in another. We thought if we didn’t show up together, we could probably get into the courthouse without a media siege. To some extent, the strategy worked.
As I approached the lawyer’s entrance to the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street, I could see the sidewalk lined with cameras. It was raining, so I used my umbrella to shield my face as I scooted behind the reporters, who were waving their microphones while frantically scanning the perimeter of the building in search of victims or their attorneys.
I made it all the way to the courthouse steps unnoticed before a member of the crew working on an Epstein-related Netflix series recognized me and asked, “Brad, where are your clients?” I ignored the question and made my way up the courthouse steps. Just then, at least twenty reporters who had covered the Epstein saga over the years started shouting my name, all following with different questions. When I didn’t answer, one called out, “Come on, Brad, give us something. Are you relieved that he is in custody?” I turned to the crowd and responded to the calls for comment with one line: “Better late than never.”
Once inside the federal courthouse, I called Courtney and told her where to enter to avoid reporters. With most of the press standing guard at the front, Courtney and Michelle were able to enter through a side door. Both were smiling from ear to ear as they waited in the security line, which I could see through a glass-plated window inside.
After moving through security, Courtney walked up to me and gave me a hug. Reporters noticed us and approached, although they were respectful when I waved them off and walked with Courtney and Michelle toward the elevator.
We got off on the seventeenth floor. The hall was filled with people. It was standing room only in the courtroom, and a long line had formed outside where the bailiff was deciding who was going to get in and who was not. “Will we be able to get in?” Courtney asked.
“Yes,” I told her, “because of you, we will get in. You won’t be denied your right to be at this hearing.” She smiled, realizing the truth in that statement. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), a federal law Courtney and I had litigated for years to enforce, explicitly gave her that right.
We walked to the courtroom door and the bailiff asked that we go to the end of the line that extended the length of the hall. I told him, “I represent these two victims.” The bailiff responded, “Right this way,” and escorted us into the courtroom, where he sat us in the special row designated for victims and their attorneys.
Members of the press comprised most of the gallery; they turned around, staring at us. Some of the reporters were friendly, familiar faces, like investigative journalists Julie Brown of the Miami Herald and Vicky Ward. Others, I had never met. Regardless, any reporter who was able to make eye contact asked if we would stick around afterward for an interview. We ignored all of the inquiries. The thought of Jeffrey Epstein walking into the room in handcuffs was so unbelievable that none of us could think past that.
Courtney, nervous, looked around the courtroom, trying to take it in. While a first appearance hearing is not usually terribly exciting, she had been waiting for this scene for almost fifteen years. Her abuser was in custody. Even though his arrest was not directly for crimes he had committed against her, this day was evidence that her voice, long disregarded, finally mattered.
After a half-hour wait, Judge Henry Pitman entered, and everyone stood. The tension in the room thickened. As the court came to order, the surreal nature of the moment set in. It was like no other feeling I had ever experienced, in or out of a courtroom, and I could tell Courtney felt the same way. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.
After the judge took the bench and we all sat, Courtney whispered to ask who everyone was. At the table for the United States were prosecutors Alex Rossmiller and Alison Moe, along with two FBI case agents, all of whom Courtney had previously met. At the defense table sat nationally renowned white-collar criminal defense lawyers Marty Weinberg, Reid Weingarten, and Marc Fernich. The gallery was full, and the jury box was packed with additional press members and courtroom artists (no cameras are allowed in federal court, so artistic sketches are the only images released to the public). Everyone was in position, motionless. There was complete silence as the United States marshals walked to the side door of the courtroom that connected to the inmate holding cell.
All eyes were fixed on the door. Federal officers opened it and walked in first. Then came the moment everyone had been waiting for. Dressed in a navy blue federal prison uniform, Jeffrey Epstein entered the courtroom.
He looked reasonably fresh, considering that he had spent the last forty-eight hours in a jail cell. As he approached his table, he still had his typical confident air, although his normal strut was slightly less arrogant than usual. But still, something about him, even in a jail uniform, made him seem more important than everyone else in the room.
As he sat down at the table with his attorneys, he scanned the courtroom. Based on what had led up to this moment, I had to wonder if he was looking for me, suspecting that I was the person behind his arrest. In any event, given our long history, he no doubt knew I would not have missed this hearing for anything. But at the moment, he had more important problems. He never looked back again.
Within seconds of sitting down, Epstein turned to Marty Weinberg, his counsel, and appeared to whisper one of his typical wisecracks. I’d seen that facial expression too many times to miss its nature—it was the one he made just before unleashing a perfectly executed one-liner that reset the mood of everyone in the room. I could only guess at this one, probably something about how his prison cook did not quite measure up to the five-star traveling chef he employed.
The hearing was short. It was only an arraignment—a reading of the government’s charges to the defendant, which is a right the Constitution affords all people charged with a crime. As it ended, Judge Pitman informed the attentive audience that the next hearing would be held immediately in Judge Richard M. Berman’s nearby courtroom. Eager to learn whether Epstein would be let out on bail, our small group left the courtroom and stayed together, steering clear of reporters who were trying to corner us.
I ran into Marty in the hallway. “Brad, why are you here?” he asked.
“Why do you think?” I replied. We exchanged respectful smiles and walked in opposite directions.
A row near the back of the gallery in Judge Berman’s courtroom had been cleared for the victims and their lawyers, so we took our seats. Soon, the U.S. marshals turned toward the side door, and all eyes followed. So did utter silence. As in the other courtroom, Epstein, unshackled, walked in seeming as though he was still on top of the world. But knowing him as well as I did, I could sense his irritation.
Jeffrey Epstein, accustomed to sitting on his throne, hated nothing more than having a room filled with people whom he considered to be insignificant staring at him like some type of caged animal at the zoo. He was a lion who, when free, would be king of his jungle, with a hit list including all of those people in the audience who now dared to look at him. But he was also an actor on his best behavior, with one objective: to impress the federal judge who would determine his fate and consequently the fates of many others.
Judge Berman heard from the prosecution first. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller revealed that hundreds, if not over a thousand, photographs of nude young women had been confiscated from a secret vault in Epstein’s mansion—a vault that had been sawed open by the FBI after its court-approved search. This was the first indication I had gotten that Epstein had no idea his arrest was coming. When a search warrant had been executed on his Florida mansion fourteen years earlier, he had been tipped off and had sanitized his house before the FBI could find much of value. There was no way he would have left behind those photos for the FBI to snag if he knew they were coming for him.
Rather than proceed with the bail hearing, Epstein’s attorneys requested a postponement so that they could more thoroughly prepare their argument for why their client deserved to be released. The court agreed to a few days’ delay, and with that, Mr. Epstein was escorted out the side door of the courtroom, back to his cell.
Courtney had seen what she thought she would never see—Jeffrey Epstein in a prison uniform. “It still doesn’t feel real,” she kept saying as we moved from the courtroom to the courthouse lobby.
When Courtney, Michelle, and I tried to leave the building, we realized that there was no way to get to our car without encountering the press. As soon as we exited, cameras were put in our faces and questions started flying fast, at all three of us: “How do you feel now that he’s in custody? Do you think he’ll stay? Will the government let him off again this time? Don’t you think he’ll buy his way out of this? Brad, how did you finally get him arrested?”
We had a plan to get to our car, which was parked around the corner. Courtney and Michelle walked ahead of me while I stayed back answering as many questions as I could while walking. The reporters and cameramen, moving backward in front of me, occasionally tripping, were frustrated that I didn’t hold a press conference and brief everyone. Some, of course, were downright mad. Reporters continued stacking up in front of me, still walking backward while I walked faster, trying to make it to our getaway driver. One reporter backed into a light pole and fell down, and like dominos, two cameramen fell on top of him, cameras and mics flying. Once I saw that no one was hurt, I used the pileup as my chance to get to our SUV, now waiting at the corner.
In the ensuing hours after getting away, we got constant media calls and emails demanding our reaction. Rightfully so. The public had a legitimate interest in the case. It was crucial to us that everyone understood the importance of the event. At the same time, Courtney and Michelle did not want their privacy invaded. We decided to do a brief interview with ABC News, to be aired on Good Morning America and World News Tonight. It was the right idea because it gave Courtney and Michelle a long-awaited chance to share their feelings with the public on their own terms.
Courtney was happy with the day’s events, and seeing her finally feel some satisfaction made me happy, too. On somewhat of a high, she agreed to do one live interview the next day, this one with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, a show she loved watching.
After the ABC taping, Courtney and I got into the SUV and went back to the hotel. The day was a whirlwind, so this was the first time we really got to talk. I explained that, in reality, nothing eventful had actually happened. Epstein appeared in court, but the issue of whether he would get bail and be released was yet to be resolved. There would be another hearing where the court would make that determination, and I thought the likelihood of bail was a close call.
“Does it matter whether he gets out on bail?” she asked. “They’re putting the case together anyway. And he had so many victims—the government can’t lose.” As the words were coming out of her mouth, I could see the wheels turning in another direction. She was, rightfully, second-guessing that thought.
I finished it for her: “Bail is a make-or-break decision for the case. His ability to do what he has done for so long is contingent on his ability to control everyone around him. He has this immense, nearly absolute control over his victims, his employees, his co-conspirators, and his friends, many of whom are rich and powerful. Everyone is afraid of him. If he stays in jail, he loses his control. He’ll be as powerless as you or me. More victims will come forward and the case will get stronger. His employees and co-conspirators will turn on him so they can stay out of jail. His friends will distance themselves and likely help the prosecution. Stripping him of his freedom deprives him of his greatest asset: his total control of everyone. Plus, if he gets out and sees that things aren’t going his way, he’ll escape from New York one way or the other. One thing I can tell you for sure: he will never go to trial.”
She was concerned. As she thought more, for some reason she had second thoughts about doing the Gayle King show. “Do I have to do it? I thought it was a good idea, but I really don’t want to now,” she said.
I told her, “It’s your choice. If an interview helps get something done you want to accomplish and you feel comfortable with it, then do it. Otherwise, don’t.”
Despite her affinity for Gayle, she decided not to go on, so I canceled. The producer was not happy with this, to say the least, and asked if I would go on alone.
I thought it through. Epstein is in jail, but maybe not for much longer. Once he’s out, everyone is going to hide. We need the case to get stronger, and fast. More victims need to come forward. I need to invite them to call the FBI. I called the producer back and said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
The next morning, I was live on CBS This Morning with Gayle King, Anthony Mason, and Tony Dokoupil. It was the right show for the task at hand. I got four minutes on air to lay the case out generally and call for other victims to come forward, which resulted in many more victims almost immediately contacting the FBI.
When I got back to Florida that night, Courtney called and said, “I want to go to the bail hearing. When is it?”
“It’s Monday, July fifteenth. Brittany and I will fly back up to New York with you,” I told her. Brittany Henderson had been working with me on Epstein cases for five years.
The scene at the courthouse in Manhattan on the fifteenth was similar to the scene a week earlier. The media presence was maybe even greater. I sat between Courtney and Annie Farmer, a victim who was represented by David Boies. During the hearing, the government revealed that another safe they had opened inside Epstein’s New York mansion contained loose diamonds, stacks of cash, and an expired Austrian passport with Mr. Epstein’s photo but a false name and Saudi Arabian address. This was a bombshell. When that was announced, I happened to look over to the reporters in the jury box and saw one of them mouth, Holy shit, recognizing that this was evidence that Epstein had a decades-long, premeditated getaway plan.
Epstein was offering to put up $500 million as collateral, which he claimed was his entire net worth, although those of us who knew him believed that amount was grossly understated. Regardless, it was a lot of money and a sign that he desperately wanted out. There was only one known circumstance in life he couldn’t cope with, and this was it. Extended time in prison for him was impossible. He knew that this bail decision by the court was a matter of life or death.
The hearing was coming to an end and Judge Berman asked if any victims were in the courtroom and wanted to speak. Courtney and Annie, who had never met before that moment, briefly conferred across me, only a few feet behind the chair where Epstein sat. They both decided this was their time to speak. In fact, each saw it as her duty. Neither had come to the hearing to say something, but they both stood up. Epstein didn’t turn around. He had effectively silenced his victims for decades. And now, when he had no control over them, and no warning, they were about to give the court their opinions on whether he should be released.
Annie spoke first. She leaned in and explained that she “had the misfortune” of meeting Jeffrey Epstein when she was very young, alluding to his assault on her at his New Mexico ranch. Her message was clear and powerful. She told the judge that Epstein needed to stay in jail because his wealth, privilege, and notoriety would make it difficult for other victims to come forward if he was free.
Then I introduced Courtney. As I stepped up to the podium, I glanced at Epstein. He stared straight ahead.
Courtney came forward next and was even more direct: “I was sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein starting at the age of fourteen. It’s a public case, and he’s a scary person to have walking the streets.” She urged the judge to keep him in prison “for the safety of any other girls.”
Judge Berman did not rule on bail that day, which indicated to us that he needed to carefully deliberate on the decision.
We walked out of the courthouse and were mobbed by reporters. David Boies and I approached the microphones staged on the steps of the courthouse. We answered questions while Courtney, Annie, Brittany, and Stan stood behind us. One of the photographs that would be most widely circulated in the days to come was one of all six of us at that short press conference. Brittany, who was roughly the same age as Courtney, was even mislabeled as an Epstein victim rather than a lawyer for the victims.
After a few minutes, we walked down the steps, hoping our impromptu press availability would stave off a swarm. It didn’t. Courtney had not come to New York to appear before a distrusted media. She was there to see that justice was served, and in that respect, she had already done her part. She and Brittany pushed through the crowd of reporters and Brittany hailed a cab. We all essentially dove inside. Because we had just dodged a huge crowd of paparazzi who were still calling out to us and surrounding the car, the taxi driver just assumed that we had to be important, maybe even famous. He spent the entire drive back to the hotel asking questions and trying to take selfies with us to text to his family and friends.
By the time we got back, my email inbox was full. Each television network was pushing for us to appear. Going on one would mean the others would get offended. After all, that’s what had happened the week before, when Courtney only spoke with ABC.
Stan said, “You guys have been fighting this thing for ten years and nobody in the press wanted to listen. These events have turned that around. You can’t complain that they don’t get the facts right when you are the team who has the facts, but you don’t want to make the media rounds. I understand your philosophy about not wanting unnecessary publicity, but we are at a crossroads here. The case either gets stronger now or it weakens. The press is key. If you hold a press conference and invite the media in general, you can satisfy everyone at once.” His words were convincing—now that Jeffrey Epstein was behind bars, we had a real shot at getting victims to contact the government and help them win their case. It finally felt like the right time for the world to be told about the journey we had taken over the past decade.
I agreed to a one-hour press conference the next day at the Andaz 5th Avenue hotel in midtown Manhattan. The room was wall-to-wall reporters. “Just be careful what you say, Brad,” Stan warned. “Talk about what you know. The press can be tricky.”
I said, “I’m just going to try and answer their questions.”
There was no script. Brittany, Stan, Courtney, and I sat at a table. I then spent more than an hour laying out the summary of the history of the case, dispelling false rumors, setting the record straight on certain commonly reported mistakes regarding the current case, and making a plea to the public to call the FBI with any information. The press, accustomed to lawyers speaking in meaningless sound bites and avoiding answering real questions at all costs, seemed pleasantly surprised by our candid and thorough presentation. Before we left, Courtney read a letter she had written to other victims, again urging them to call the FBI. It could not have gone better. We, as a team, did our part.
In the same way people remember where they were when JFK was shot or when the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, I will never forget my exact location when the court ruled on Jeffrey Epstein’s bail. On July 18, two days after our press conference, Brittany and I were sitting at the Starbucks on Glades Road in Boca Raton, where on more than one occasion I had secretly met with Jeffrey Epstein. Knowing that the judge would be making his ruling any second, we were anxiously going back and forth with predictions until finally the first article popped up on our phones. Epstein’s bail had been denied. It was a surreal moment. Throughout the years, we had become conditioned to the wrong decisions being made, in favor of Epstein.
In making his ruling, the judge cited, among other things, the heartfelt testimony given a week earlier by Courtney and Annie. Epstein would be in jail until trial, which would be at least a year away. But I knew he’d be in jail much longer—and, more important, I knew he knew that, too. Epstein was never getting out.
When the hearing ended, we were still sitting at the table when Stan called to debrief us on the reaction from the courtroom. I put him on speaker, and he asked us, “What do you think?”
In that moment, I reflected on what many victims had told us about the importance of sex to Epstein’s survival. As one of those victims, Johanna, had said, “He needed to have three orgasms a day. It was biological, like eating.”
I knew the answer immediately: “He’s dead.”
Three weeks later, he actually was.