“Woah,” Haley Levin ’20 said in disbelief when she read the news of financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death Aug. 10.
Epstein had been awaiting prosecution on charges of assaulting minors and sex trafficking while in a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York in the time leading up to his death, according to CNN.
Despite the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determining that Epstein hanged himself, many individuals have developed conspiracies regarding his death. These theories range from assertions that Epstein did not commit suicide to claims that Epstein is still alive and thriving.
Certain events following his death have further fueled the conspiracy theories. On July 23, officials found Epstein injured and unconscious in his cell, leading them to place him onsuicide watch, according to CNN. However, Epstein was taken off suicide watch two weeks before he died and confirmed updates to his will two days in advance of his apparent suicide.
Abraham Gallardo ’20 said that there are several plausible scenarios for Epstein’s death.
“I can see a reality where he did commit suicide, a reality where he was coerced into committing suicide or one where he was killed,” Gallardo said. “We have very powerful people who had very close connections to [Epstein]. A lot of people could have their reputations tarnished [and] careers ended.”
Walker McGinley ’22 said he believes Epstein’s suicide was a coordinated event.
“Someone left a way for him to kill himself,” McGinley said. “He was being watched due to the fact he had already tried to kill himself.”
One popular theory asserts that former President Bill Clinton was involved in Epstein’s death. Clinton had visited to Epstein’s private, heavily-guarded island many times, according to an affidavit published by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims. President Donald Trump demonstrated interest in this theory, retweeting a post from political commentator Terrence Williams with hashtags #Clintonbodycount and #Clintoncrimefamily following the news of Epstein’s death.
Angel Ureña, a spokesman for the Clinton family, condemned these accusations through social media .
“President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes [Epstein] pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York,” Ureña wrote on Twitter. “He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida.”
Levin said she finds it unlikely that Clinton had a role in Epstein’s death.
“I’m not a fan of [this theory], but I am also not a fan of Clinton being involved in Epstein’s personal life,” Levin said. “It’s just much more likely to not be him.”
Gallardo, however, gives the Clinton theory more credibility.
“We do know that some individuals like Bill Clinton don’t have the best record when it comes to sex crimes,” Gallardo said. “I think the Clintons being involved is a legitimate [theory].”
Other important figures connected to Epstein include Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Former Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and comedian Chris Tucker, Business Insider wrote. Trump himself used to consider Epstein a close friend, saying that Epstein is “a lot of fun to be with” and commending his taste in women who were “on the younger side” in 2002, according to New York Magazine.
However, former Trump adviser Roger Stone Jr. tweeted that Trump denied offers to visit Epstein’s island and home in Palm Beach . Additionally, the New York Times wrote that when Epstein’s initial assault allegations surfaced in 2008, Trump publicly announced they were no longer friends and denied Epstein entry to various clubs and facilities.
Gallardo said that Epstein conspiracy theories ought not be defined by partisan motives.
“I think a better take is that it’s not Republicans against Democrats,” Gallardo said. “It’s the entire system itself, which is full of some very nasty problems, which in this case came out to be sex crimes.”
Some theories regarding Epstein’s death are milder in nature, instead asserting that he was able to commit suicide as a result of structural deficits in the American criminal justice system.
“[Attorney general William] Barr has expressed shock at the ‘irregularities’ that led to Epstein’s death,” executive editor of Above the Law Elie Mystal wrote in The Nation. . “Yet again, Barr is misrepresenting reality: Epstein was subjected to entirely regular conditions within our prison system. Suicide is the leading cause of death in American jails.”
Regardless of conspiracy theories, Levin said that the Epstein case is shameful.
“None of those families will ever get justice for what Epstein did,” said Levin. “Whether he killed himself or not, whether he’s alive or not, [this case] is a disgrace to our justice system and to America.”
Gallardo said that, ultimately, individuals should demonstrate skepticism toward information they receive regarding Epstein’s death.
“I think individuals should always keep an open mind, but just because they have an open mind [doesn’t mean] they have to accept everything they’re told,” Gallardo said. “[Analyze] every piece of evidence, every interview and every leak critically.”