What to Know
- Accused pedophile and financier Jeffrey Epstein was handed a lawsuit the day before he was found injured inside his cell at a NYC jail
- Court documents show a New York Deputy Sheriff personally giving him documents accompanying the suit by accuser Jennifer Araoz
- Araoz says Epstein raped her in 2002 when she was just 15 years old
The day before accused pedophile and wealthy Manhattan financier Jeffrey Epstein was found injured in his jail cell, he was handed a lawsuit from a woman who says he raped her when she was just 15 years old, court documents obtained Monday showed.
A New York Deputy Sheriff, Qin Zhang, last Monday personally handed Epstein documents accompanying Jennifer Araoz's lawsuit against the 66-year-old at the Metropolitan Correctional Center where he has been jailed after he was arrested and charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy.
The day after Epstein received Araoz's lawsuit, he was found inside his cell, semi-conscious in a fetal position with marks on his neck, two sources told News 4.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages alleging that Epstein committed sexual assault, sexual battery and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Araoz, NBC News reported.
Araoz, now 32, has been vocal about how the well-connected businessman allegedly sent a woman to her New York City school to recruit her to perform sexual favors for him.
Speaking to NBC News, Araoz said Epstein showed her his Manhattan townhouse where she told him about her dream of becoming a Broadway actress. He also showed her a room with a massage table and a painting of a nude young woman where she said he described as his "favorite room."
Over the year, he manipulated her into giving him massages that ended with him pleasuring himself sexually and her leaving with $300, now 32-year-old Araoz said. And in 2002, he raped her without a condom in that room, the lawsuit says.
"He raped me, forcefully raped me," Araoz told NBC News in the exclusive interview. "He knew exactly what he was doing."
Araoz, determined never to see Epstein again, then transferred to a different high school, the lawsuit says.
Investigators are still trying to piece together exactly what led to Epstein's injuries, saying details remain murky.
Two sources tell News 4 that Epstein may have tried to hang himself, while a third source cautioned that the injuries were not serious and questioned if Epstein might be using it as a way to get a transfer.
A fourth source said an assault has not been ruled out, and that another inmate was questioned. The inmate who investigators have talked to in Lower Manhattan facility has been identified as Nicholas Tartaglione, according to two sources. Tartaglione is a former police officer in Westchester County who was arrested in December 2016 and accused of killing four men in an alleged cocaine distribution conspiracy, then burying their bodies in his yard in Otisville in Orange County, according to court records.
Epstein and Tartaglione were cellmates, two sources tell NBC 4 New York. Tartaglione's attorney confirmed they shared the same cell block.
Last Thursday, a senior official reiterated that all three theories -- attempted suicide, try for transfer and attack by inmate -- are still in play.
Sources told News 4 investigators questioned Tartaglione, and the former cop claimed not to have seen anything and insisted he did not touch Epstein, sources said. The attorney for Tartaglione denied all the claims that his client attacked the financier, saying his client and Epstein get along well.
Epstein is now on suicide watch inside MCC, according to two sources. Attorneys for Epstein did not immediately return calls for comment.
Most recently in the sex trafficking case against Epstein, the wealthy financier had been denied bail on July 18 following a bombshell search-warrant revelation that Epstein had a fake passport and piles of cash and diamonds stashed in a safe inside his $77 million Manhattan home.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman cited risk of flight and danger to the community in his decision against Epstein, a registered sex offender and private-island owner who faces new federal charges of exploiting dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. That meant Epstein would remain behind bars pending trial (a date for the start of which has yet to be set).
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and sex trafficking charges brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. The financier's next court date is set for July 31.