EDITORIAL: Pump The Brakes, Conspiracy Theorists. Jeffrey Epstein Was Not Murdered

ABOVE: Photo by OpenStreetMap.org on Wikimedia (edited)

Editorial written by Ben Szioli
Copy edited by CMTV Editor-in-Chief (the non-criminal, non-billionaire, non-dead) Jeff Epstein

Editor’s note from Jeff: This article reflects the opinion of the author, Ben, only. I edited the piece for style and consistency. I did not evaluate the facts of the argument.

Edited 8/18/19 to clarify authorship and remove graphic information relating to Epstein’s death.

Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein finally couldn’t get himself out of this one.

The convicted sex offender was best known over the past ten years for the questionable plea deal that got him out of jail within a year of being found guilty of soliciting an underage girl for sex in 2008. Accusations piled up against him during that time, but they remained mere accusations as he walked free.

What Actually Happened

When federal investigators, operating on a tip, raided his home on July 6th, 2019, they found pornographic material. He was re-arrested and charged with sex trafficking.

Epstein wriggled and squirmed to get out of it, but prosecutors revealed that he had made hush payments to potential witnesses. For that, Epstein earned himself a flight risk designation and was denied bail. He unsuccessfully attempted suicide thereafter and was placed on suicide watch.

After undergoing daily psych evaluations throughout late July, Epstein and his lawyers petitioned for his removal from suicide watch. Suicide watches are intended to be short, and American jails are understaffed, so the request was granted and Epstein returned to normal observation in a protective housing unit.

On August 9th, humiliating evidence from a related lawsuit was published. Epstein was dead to rights. His payoffs didn’t work. The feds had his fake passport. He was both civilly and criminally liable. There would be no plea deal to hide the dirty details of what he did this time. The next day, Epstein was found hanged to death in his cell.

The first details to emerge from the prison confirmed this account. Video of the outside of Epstein’s cell is available, sources told the New York Post, so authorities would have known if anyone came in or out. The prison has been swamped recently, and the guards observing Epstein had worked hours of overtime that day. His cellmate had been discharged the day before, so he was alone for the first time since his suicide watch ended at his own request.

There is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about an accused pedophile committing suicide in an understaffed jail on the day that his chance of freedom finally disappeared. The evidence we see matches the evidence we would see if Epstein committed suicide. There is no unexplained evidence that warrants a more complex explanation.

What the Conspiracy Theory Says Happened

Nevertheless, contrived conspiracy theories spread forcefully in the hours after Epstein’s death. Political talking heads pushed the questions half-seriously. Trapped by their own need for clicks and viewers, media outlets took the bait and amplified the conspiracy theory on TV, radio, and social media. Democrats wanted Epstein to incriminate President Donald Trump, Republicans wanted Epstein to incriminate the Clinton family, and the media was glad to offer a conspiracy theory just vague enough to satisfy both sides.

The theorists initially alleged that Epstein somehow died on suicide watch; he didn’t. They alleged that footage was deleted from inside the cell; it wasn’t. They alleged that Epstein’s injuries weren’t explainable; they were1.

Most perplexingly, they alleged that Epstein was assassinated because, they said, he was about to incriminate some as-yet-unknown co-conspirators, and even that allegation fails to hold up under scrutiny.

Epstein Was Not Going To Accuse Anyone New

Epstein was charged with specific crimes against specific victims. Specific evidence was recovered from his house to incriminate him and specific co-conspirators. The idea is totally specious that there would be some other famous conspirator, unaccused by the victims, unmentioned in the court filings, and unincriminated by the evidence. Sure, that person might exist, but so might a Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sky. There’s no earthly evidence of either, and that wasn’t going to change whether Epstein survived or not.

As much as we all wish Trump or Clinton or Prince Andrew or whoever would have been incriminated (because news and entertainment are now indistinguishable), none of the victims named them, and none of the evidence implicated them. And if the existing allegations didn’t name those people, then Epstein had no reason to bring up new allegations against them/himself. In other words, he could only incriminate new people by confessing to crimes that he wasn’t accused of yet, and he had no incentive to do that.

Sure, Epstein could have flipped and tried to serve as a witness against the other known conspirators in his case, but that isn’t how witness flipping works. You flip the small fish to secure your case against the big fish. Epstein was the big fish; the money leads back to him. There was no one else for him to finger and no chance of a useful plea deal. He had no reason to talk.

And since these known conspirators were already named in court filings and evidence had been taken from Epstein’s house, they stood to gain almost nothing from his death. They are every bit as trapped by the evidence now as he was, if not more. Any hope they had of informing on Epstein (big fish) in exchange for leniency is now dashed, whereas Epstein’s accusers are still here to testify. Quite simply, no one who has yet been accused would have benefited from Epstein dying. The investigation isn’t disappearing. If anything, Epstein’s death has increased public scrutiny and will make the legal system treat his conspirators far more harshly.

On the other hand, the unaccused would have gone unharmed if Epstein survived, since again, he had no incentive to accuse them (and thus himself) of a crime that the authorities didn’t know about. Even if these conspirators existed and Epstein survived, we would have never found out. [See “Flying Spaghetti Monster” above and “the best of human knowledge” below.] It didn’t benefit Epstein to mention it. So why would a conspirator kill him and risk getting caught for both the murder and the still-unreported sex crime?

How to Investigate Properly

In the perspective of Karl Popper, these conspiracy theories were unfalsifiable when formulated, and therefore (because they were asserted without evidence) they can be rejected without evidence. Similarly, Occam’s razor leaves behind only the likeliest scenario: an ordinary suicide, the single most common cause of death in jails.

When investigating scientifically, we begin by observing evidence. Then we develop a hypothesis to explain that initial evidence. Then we try to disprove our hypothesis through an investigation.

Taken this way, our likeliest initial hypothesis is suicide, and the authorities should begin an inquiry into the death (and they already have). If somehow the investigation turns up evidence of a conspiracy, we will need to adjust our first hypothesis.

If, however, we fail to reject the first hypothesis, then to the best of human knowledge, that hypothesis stands true.

The alternate hypothesis, that Epstein was murdered, was formulated before any evidence had been reported. People were pushing this idea from the moment they heard about his death. It isn’t derived from an assessment of all the evidence. It is invalid to begin an investigation by assuming a hypothesis that is not the likeliest scenario based on the initial evidence. Picking whichever hypothesis you like and then looking for evidence to prove it leads to confirmation bias.

Trends in modern policing validate this idea. In order to fight false convictions, cops are learning to make the explanation fit the facts rather than vice versa.

The Bottom Line

In this case, every fact points to Epstein having extensive incentives for suicide. Every fact points to Epstein having been alone at the time of his death. Every fact points to Epstein himself fighting to get off suicide watch so that he could die voluntarily. Every fact points to a second suicide attempt being not just common after a first attempt, but actually likely.

It’s unclear what conspiracy theorists even believe happened to Epstein in the cell. If there is a conspiracy, then it was only a conspiracy to allow a jail suicide to happen. No reasonable person can claim that Epstein was actually murdered by someone else.

And since Epstein was so motivated, it’s unclear why anyone would bother to kill a suicidal person. His death by suicide, while not a guarantee, was the likeliest outcome: a person dies by suicide almost every day in a US detention center.

If the jail was already understaffed, Epstein was already suicidal, and Epstein got himself off suicide watch to tie his own noose, what actions did the conspirators supposedly take? Why should we suspect that they took these actions? How could anyone meaningfully facilitate a suicide that Epstein was almost finished committing on his own? Where is the evidence that anyone besides Epstein himself interceded at all? Further, what obligation do we have to assess a conspiracy theory that was initially baseless and was only later backed up with cherry-picked evidence?

This Epstein conspiracy theory needs to die. Pedophilia conspiracy memes are all fun and games until somebody shoots up Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria. All of you spreading this are playing into the next Pizzagate. I hope dearly that this conspiracy theory goes differently than the last one.


1 After information leaked from Epstein’s autopsy indicating that his neck bones had been broken, the media was baited into a frenzy. Media outlets reached out to crime experts, who argued that the injuries are consistent with a hanging suicide, but not exclusively so. Some of these outlets nevertheless speculated that such a result “raises questions,” because a broken neck is the exception rather than the rule in suicides by hanging.

Without getting into too much detail, this is faulty logic because Epstein’s suicide was likely not typical. A retirement-age man would have had brittle bones, to start. Epstein also likely had access to resources on how to commit suicide by hanging; this was a man who kept multiple fake identities and therefore clearly had an exit plan in place.

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