The apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein in a Manhattan jail cell this weekend has launched a thousand conspiracy theories. Some on the right believe that somehow the Clintons, eager to silence testimony about former President Bill Clinton, did him in. Some on the left are eyeing Trump’s Justice Department, convinced that the president had secrets to keep that Epstein might speak. The band Foster the People thinks a body double was involved.
This was, of course, inevitable. As one colleague put it to me, the problem with not believing it was a conspiracy is that whole sordid history of Epstein and his powerful friends was a giant conspiracy. That seems about right. For years and years, an open secret floated about underage girls, and private planes, sexual dungeons, and some of the most important men on the planet.
And up until earlier this year, Epstein survived all of that with a slap on the wrist from federal prosecutors in Florida. He must have felt confident after doing his all-too-brief stint in jail that he had gotten away with it again. And perhaps a person whose rolodex boasted enough of the global elite to make Davos look like an Elks Lodge in Normal, Illinois, had good reason to feel secure. But he wasn’t.
When the Southern District of New York indicted Epstein on a bevy of charges, and when a federal judge denied him bail, he must have known it was over. He had no more calls to make, no more chips to cash in, no way off the hook. While it is true that Epstein should have faced trial and a fuller measure of justice, that terror must itself have been a punishment more brutal than any justice system can give out. Finally and for the first time, he could no longer lie to himself.