A prosecutor abruptly fired by the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands has revealed that the governor pressured her on behalf of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Denise George, the Virgin Islands attorney general until late 2022, said that Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. personally contacted her to ask that she give Mr. Epstein a waiver from travel restrictions.
Mr. Bryan, a Democrat, was “telling me that you know Jeffrey Epstein wants to have this waiver of the travel requirements, and that he said that his attorneys will be contacting me, and encouraged me to meet with the attorneys to consider it,” Ms. George testified under oath.
Vincent Frazer, the Virgin Islands attorney general from 2007 to 2015, granted Mr. Epstein a waiver from in-person reporting requirements along with a significantly reduced notification requirement.
Mr. Frazer allowed Mr. Epstein to notify authorities just 72 hours before leaving the Virgin Islands, with email notification being accepted, court documents show. The waiver was granted at the request of Mr. Epstein’s attorneys, who argued that he was a businessman who needed to regularly travel to other destinations and that in-person notification would be too onerous.
A Virgin Islands law enacted in 2012 imposed requirements for sex offenders but gave the attorney general the discretion to reduce or waive the requirements for certain reasons, including if a sex offender frequently travels outside of the Virgin Islands for business.
Mr. Frazer later reduced the time from 72 hours to 24 hours after complaints from Mr. Epstein’s attorneys.
Acting Attorney General Carol Thomas-Jacobs revoked the agreement in 2019 after finding no evidence to support it.
Ms. George became attorney general later that year, prompting Mr. Bryan to contact her.
Ms. George said she reviewed the files the Virgin Islands Department of Justice maintained and nothing in there convinced her that Mr. Epstein met the threshold for having waived or relaxed restrictions.
“I realized there was some political maneuvering that [Mr. Epstein] was doing,” Ms. George said, based on how she was approached by the governor.
“That by itself indicated to me that he was flexing his political influence over or with the governor in an effort to get a favorable result in what I considered to be definitely a law enforcement issue by the attorney general,” she said, adding later that she was troubled by the development and found it improper.
As Ms. George considered the request, the governor followed up with a text message saying she needed to make a decision, the former attorney general said.
She rejected the request and believes, looking back, that it affected her standing with the governor.
“I am always determined to stand for what it is that I believe is right based on my position as to having [to] make law enforcement decisions. And I make them irrespective of anything as far as who the people are or whatever political influence or power they may have,” Ms. George said. “And maybe that might have been the first time that he might have been faced with that.”
A spokesperson for Mr. Bryan did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Bryan said in a separate deposition that he did not provide Mr. Epstein special treatment but that it was important to attract high net-worth individuals to the Virgin Islands to provide jobs.
The Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority for about two decades gave Mr. Epstein’s companies tax breaks to be headquartered in the Virgin Islands. Mr. Bryan was head of the authority before becoming governor.
Mr. Bryan acknowledged that Mr. Epstein went to jail for a sex offense. Virgin Islands officials determined the offense was not related to the business and thus it did not impact the tax breaks. “Whatever he settled with Florida was good for us,” Mr. Bryan said.
Mr. Frazer said during another deposition that his staff members researched Mr. Epstein and found evidence that he was “an international financier.” Mr. Epstein’s business required him to travel a lot, Mr. Frazer said, prompting the waiver. Mr. Frazer said he did not think the waiver enabled Mr. Epstein to engage in sex trafficking.
The depositions, released this month, were conducted in July in a case involving the Virgin Islands and JPMorgan Chase Bank. The parties have accused each other of helping facilitate Mr. Epstein’s exploits, which according to federal officials included the sex trafficking of minors.
Mr. Epstein, who owned two islands in the Virgin Islands, died in New York in 2019 while awaiting trial. A medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
Epstein Helped Craft Bill
A 2012 bill was crafted in part by Mr. Epstein, who pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida in 2008.
Emails released in discovery in the litigation show Mr. Epstein, his lawyers, and Virgin Islands First Lady Cecile de Jongh, who worked for him, communicating with Mr. Frazer and other officials on the proposed legislation.
“If you could only change one thing in the bill, what would it be?” Ms. de Jongh messaged Mr. Epstein in one exchange. “I would add that the attorney general can waive the notice requirements,” Mr. Epstein responded.
Maria Hodge, a lawyer representing Mr. Epstein, argued that one draft of the bill would “create many complications and problems” for sex offenders and frequently emailed Mr. Frazer and his representatives.
In one series of messages, Ms. Hodge and Department of Justice lawyers exchanged a proposal and “counterproposal” that incorporated changes Mr. Epstein wanted.
Mr. Frazer, who was appointed by Ms. de Jongh’s husband, Gov. John de Jongh Jr., said that when legislation is pending lawyers offer recommendations for the bills.
“When I speak to Maria … I am extending a courtesy to a member of the Virgin Islands bar in trying to craft a legislation,” Mr. Frazer said during his deposition. “That’s who I’m negotiating with. Epstein, I don’t have anything with Epstein.”
Shani Pinney, another Virgin Islands Department of Justice official, said she was not aware of any other sex offenders receiving similar waivers and said it “would have been a problem, definitely,” if any offenders saw drafts of the law.
One of the proposed amendments that made it into the final bill was the portion giving the attorney general discretion on the requirements.
Virgin Islands Sen. Ronald Russell, the bill’s sponsor, was copied on some of the emails.
Mr. Russell did not respond to a request for comment.
Even after the requirements were reduced, Mr. Epstein did not follow them all the time, according to documents uncovered in discovery. Mr. Epstein “was evasive and clever in avoiding the notifications,” Ms. Jacobs testified.
Ms. George, fired after suing JPMorgan Chase over its ties to Mr. Epstein, said that she received a number of inquiries about Mr. Epstein before and after taking office, prompting her to research him in online searches and court documents.
Ms. George said the allegations against Mr. Epstein, who numerous women have said ran an international sex trafficking ring, were “really horrific.”
After the research, Ms. George said that “It was mind-boggling to me how—if this is all true—that could have been going on for years and no one is doing anything.”
Ms. George indicated that she may have undertaken an investigation but that she came to understand that the U.S. Department of Justice was likely already probing Mr. Epstein, which pre-empted her plans.
Mr. Epstein was arrested by federal authorities in New York on July 6, 2019.
Jean-Pierre Oriol, the commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, said in a deposition that he learned from police officials that there were no local investigations into Mr. Epstein and that no complaints were lodged.
But officials did acknowledge that a person sent a message asking when authorities had last been to Mr. Epstein’s largest island, adding that he was a private chef.
“We private chefs here on the island are tight, and we see and hear everything, specially what goes on in Little St. James Island,” the person wrote. “We have pictures, audio, video of it all going on,” he said.
Ms. Pinney, one of the officials, declined to say whether authorities followed up with the person but said the person did not provide any images or video footage.
From The Epoch Times