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Published: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 @ 4:09 PM
OAKWOOD — An Oakwood woman is one of five women who sued Jeffrey Epstein’s estate in US District Court in Manhattan last week, accusing him of rape, battery and false imprisonment and seeking unspecified damages in the civil suit.
Teresa Helm’s attorney said her pursuit of justice against the disgraced financier will not end because of his suicide while in federal custody.
Prosecutors said Epstein sexually exploited and abused dozens of women and girls as young as 14 at his homes in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005.
According to court papers documenting the recent lawsuit, Helm, now 39, was 22 when she was hired as a traveling masseuse by Epstein.
“As Teresa was studying massage at the California Healing Arts College, this seemed like a dream opportunity, but her hopes were dashed when it quickly turned into sexual assault,” the lawsuit states.
Attorney Sigrid McCawley, a partner with the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, which is representing Helm, said Helm is brave for standing up against Epstein and others alleged to have committed the crimes against the women.
“Teresa is an incredibly brave woman for standing up against her abusers,” McCawley said. “The lawsuit was just filed a few days ago. We are now in the process of serving the defendant and then the defendant (Epstein’s estate) will have a period of time within which to file an “Answer” to our complaint.”
In August, the 66-year-old financier hanged himself in his cell at a federal jail as he awaited trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. His death signaled the dismissal of charges in the case, but left open the question of whether or not Epstein’s wealthy estate.
Epstein’s accusers have been filing claims under a law in New York that allows child victims of sexual abuse to sue, even years later.
The law also allows for lawsuits seeking damages within a year after a criminal case ends. A New York federal judge officially closed the sex-trafficking case against Epstein on August 29, setting up a one-year deadline for accusers from that date.
Helm, who declined to grant an interview for this story, is well within her rights to pursue a case against his estate according to McCawley.
“From a legal perspective the estate can be held liable for Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual assault of Teresa,” McCawley said. “We are confident that under New York law, Teresa’s claims are within the statute of limitation allowing a civil suit pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 215(8)(a), which provides that a plaintiff shall have at least one year from the termination of a criminal action against the same defendant to bring a civil action.”
Epstein previously avoided significant jail time in 2008, when he agreed to plead guilty to a pair of lesser charges after he was accused of molesting girls in Palm Beach County, Florida. He served 13 months in jail and agreed to register as a sex offender as part of the deal.
“Jeffrey Epstein perpetrated crimes against a tremendous number of young women and I am very proud of Teresa for having the courage to bring this suit and shed light on this horrific sex trafficking operation,” McCawley said.
According to documents filed in federal court by New York attorney Bennet Moskowitz, who is one of the lawyers representing Epstein’s estate that has a reported net worth of approximately $577 million, there is currently an attempt to set-up a claims resolution program for those who are claiming to have been abused by Epstein.
There is one hurdle that needs to be cleared and it has to do with the fact that Epstein filed his will in the US Virgin Islands, where several women claimed he sexually abused them, so the US Virgin Islands Court will need to approve any type of voluntary claims resolution program in lieu of further litigation.