• Daniel Ethan Finneran

On Richard Epstein

August 2019

The shadowy and, frankly, the dubious circumstances by which Richard Epstein’s death is surrounded reflect the tenebrous nature of his life. Both dark, neither is likely to receive sufficient light as the world dawns. Epstein, a financier and a pedophile of the most profligate kind, was found dead in his maximum-security federal prison cell but a week ago. Putatively the harshest, most attentive, and most punitive of all American prisons, this, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, was the same building in which the notorious Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and a coterie of mafia members were held. Confined there for no more than a few months, Epstein had already attempted, albeit ham-handedly, an effort to take his own life. Falling short of his aim, he was privileged—if only a bit longer—to live.

The second of his two attempts on his own life would prove the better in terms of its execution. Succeeding once with the exertion for every two efforts, Epstein’s suicide-success rate is equivalent to that of a “.500” baseball player—no poor statistic for a hitter, nor an enviable one for a sadist. As said, the cause of so premature and seemingly unnatural an end (availed of his prior physical health, he was a robust, large, and an insidiously virile man in the sixty-sixth year of his age) is alleged to have been an act of self-violence. As he failed to do so initially, he succeeded this time in killing himself. This, bitterly, marks an end not only to his incorrigible life, but to the vital momentum of his case as well.

How is it that he was left vulnerable to the violence for whose infliction we have nothing and no one but his own hand to acknowledge? Away from the unwatchful eyes of the two guards by whom he ought to have been monitored, we’re told that Epstein managed to strangle, asphyxiate, and ultimately to murder himself. He did so, in accordance with the received account, without rousing the attention of those same insensate guards under whom he was supposed to languish until the arrival of his court date. He did so also without startling to cacophonous attention the adjoining inmates by whom he was to be surrounded. The mechanism of his self-injury was, as the coroner’s autopsy revealed, a bedsheet—a fearful cover if ever I’ve seen one. Woven with so durable and fatal a thread, the sheet is said to have been sufficiently strong to remove from Epstein his breath and his life. One end affixed tightly to a knob of requisite height, the other girdled his neck, Epstein used this sheet as the instrument of his death.

In the process of his descent from that constrained altitude, Epstein fractured, among other things, the diminutive but integral hyoid bone—a small semi-circular bone of whose presence the world is now suspiciously aware. Vital but unrecognizable to any but an anatomist’s eye, the hyoid bone is more often than not fractured as a consequence of strangulation from an external source. That is to say, in many instances, the hyoid is broken when another is doing the killing, and the recipient of the abuse, the dying. The hyoid bone, much like Epstein himself, crumbled under the pressure and failed to survive this breathless episode.

Trained neither in anatomy, autopsy, criminology, nor forensics, the layman’s suspicions—at the hearing of these remarkable events—are surely aroused. As modern American philosophers, we’re all by inclination skeptics—perhaps not in the Greek sense, but in that of our own age. So skeptically equipped, then, what are we to make of this?

In consideration of these macabre intuitions and these startling facts, many are jumping to the conclusion that Epstein was killed by another’s hand. His own death, so goes the overwhelmingly tempting argument, was not a feat for which he’s to be declared solely responsible. Not unreasonably, many people think that an assassin, a henchman, a propitiously-placed killer of a political type took it upon him or herself to execute Epstein while he sat alone in his cell. His solitude, it might be added, was a problem in and of itself.

Having failed already, as mentioned in a foregoing line, to take his own life (if we’re to believe that it was indeed his and not another’s intent to do so), he was supposed always to be in the presence of another inmate. In the absence of continuous oversight, the judicious selection and placement of a discerning inmate can be a reliable, even a mutual check against misconduct. Instead, Epstein was left in isolation, completely alone. Not only that, the cameras that ought to have been tuned in to his cell remained dormant, though perhaps not as much so as the guards by whom he was supposed to be watched. Practicing their own form of salutary neglect, the two guards passed three matutinal, fatal hours in sleep when they should have been checking in on him every fifteen to thirty minutes. Fearful of their gross negligence, or perhaps simply continuing a long-standing practice of which federal employees seem disproportionately to take a part, they then forged the time logs from whose entries we better can understand their whereabouts.

Gross incompetence, as opposed to a very real effectuation of malice, certainly could be enough to explain the peculiarity of Epstein’s death. Indeed, if we’re to take the Medieval church leader Ockham as our guide, we should cleave to the position for whose legitimacy the fewest number of suppositions are required. In most cases, you’ll be greatly advantaged for having done so. But here, I think, we must ignore the theologian, silence the pietist, and embrace the conspiracy theorist. A suspension of Ockham is here needed.

Central is the question of why anyone (excluding Epstein) would desire Epstein’s death? At this juncture, the inquiry—however silly it might sound; who, after all, wouldn’t want him dead?—must be raised. Under these circumstances (he was on the verge of spilling into open court records the penetralia of his ribald and obscure past), not even his erstwhile victims likely wanted him so deposed. Probably, in due time and certainly by the government’s decree, they did; nothing short of the death penalty would be sufficiently just for so savage, soulless, and cruel a man. Certainly, restoration and re-introduction into society wouldn’t be an end for which these women, ravished as children and scarred as adults, would hope. But undoubtedly they didn’t want him silenced before he could, through the appropriate proceedings of the law, incriminate those to whom his sex-slavery empire was extended, and those with whose connivance and patronage it was supported and run.

The reasons by which one might be inspired to murder Epstein would be legion. Although he was a man about whom the public knew little, Epstein, as it turns out, was quite widely-known in those circles of the ascendancy to which we ordinary people haven’t the slightest access. He was something of a parvenu at whose feet the privileged groveled.

The eminence of the names by which his “friends” list is filled can’t be understated. His relationship with former President Clinton was both intimate and international. On no fewer than a dozen occasions, they traveled the world together aboard Epstein’s dysphemistically named plane, the Lolita Express—a homage to the titular, teen-aged character in Nabokov’s great work. Lolita, precocious though she might’ve been, was a mere child, one of whom Humbert Humbert—a man of unmitigated sexual perversion—was enamored from the book’s start till its end. Disquieting though the narrative might be, Nabokov’s Lolita is a work of fiction. Epstein’s Lolita, a work of barbarism.

Further, Epstein’s relationship with the current president was likewise disconcerting, though perhaps mercifully more short-lived. The former was a member of the latter’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago Golf Club in the state of Florida. It’s unclear to what extent President Trump was apprised of Epstein’s vile, obnoxiously youthful predilection, but one can assume that Trump—ever eager to play the part of lecherous audience (recall his Access Hollywood remarks)—was game for the slippages and the indiscretions with which we associate boyish banter. He confessed openly to the knowledge that Epstein preferred his women young. More important than mere preferences, however, we know not what Trump knew about his perversions.

Those relationships with the presidents don’t conclude the tale. Dispiritingly, there are many more. That which he enjoyed with Prince Andrew of Great Britain is of concern to everyone from that side of the Atlantic to this; a victim has identified the now inconspicuous prince as having been present during one of their sordid soirées. Surely, this can’t be the “Special Relationship” upon which our Anglo-American allegiance is based. If it is, we must cleanse and rethink it. Princes and presidents aside, Epstein’s reach, it seems, extended not only to the old elite, but also to the new. With varying degrees of intimacy, he had connections with the comedian Chris Rock, the disgraced dramatist Kevin Spacy, the innovatory Elon Musk, and the sanguinary Mohammed bin Salman. How deeply entrenched he was in the lives of the latter is yet unknown.

And, sadly, it may never be. Especially in consideration of a rather shamelessly murderous man like Mohammed bin Salman (at whose direction, you might remember, the death of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey was carried out), one can imagine Epstein being killed by a very interested third party with wealth and with means. One needn’t stretch too thin his imagination to conceive of it. Alas, the imagination grows dim as the flame of this case flickers away. Dubious and tenebrous, dark and unsure, this case drops into the abyss.

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