NEW YORK — Jeffrey Epstein’s estate was sued by a woman who says he raped her when she was a teenager, the first case against his estate under a New York law taking effect Wednesday that gives victims of sexual abuse a year to file lawsuits over older claims.
The case was filed in state court in Manhattan by Jennifer Araoz, who says Epstein targeted her when she was a New York City high school student. The same law is behind dozens of suits that were also filed against the Archdiocese of New York in the same court Wednesday morning.
With Epstein dead from an apparent suicide and the criminal charges against him certain to be dismissed, the complaint is a key step in having sex trafficking allegations aired in a public forum. And while it doesn’t name the administrator of Epstein’s estate, the suit may force a representative to respond in order to protect assets from being seized. The suit seeks unspecified money damages.
The 66-year-old Epstein died Saturday in his Manhattan jail cell. The women who say he sexually abused them have vowed to pursue his estate and help prosecutions of his enablers, and Araoz’s filing could trigger a wave of similar complaints that will set the stage for a long battle over assets he valued at more than $500 million.
Araoz says she was approached when she was 14 by an unnamed woman, identified as “the Recruiter,” on the sidewalk outside her Upper East Side high school, where she was studying musical theater, and lured to Epstein’s mansion on the promise that he would help her with her career. There, the lawsuit alleges in sordid detail, Epstein sexually assaulted her over a period of more than a year before eventually raping her.
The damage Epstein caused her has been “severe and lasting,” Araoz said in the suit, which also names Epstein’s longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, as a defendant for maintaining and protecting his ring, along with three unidentified women who helped — the recruiter, along with a secretary and a maid.
“Epstein’s monstrous conduct cannot be understated,” Araoz said in the suit.
Epstein’s defense attorneys and lawyers for Araoz didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The case was filed under the Child Victims Act, which was signed into law by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February. It gives victims of child sexual assaults, who were previously prevented from filing lawsuits over older claims due to statutes of limitations, 12 months to sue. Previously, the law had required them to file such suits within one to five years of their 18th birthday.
Dozens of women claim that Epstein lured them to his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion, where he coerced them into sex, paid them, and asked them to bring him other girls. At least one other woman claims that Epstein trafficked her to his rich and powerful friends. The abuse allegedly also took place at his Manhattan mansion, his island in the Caribbean and his New Mexico ranch property.
The case is Araoz v The Estate of Jeffrey Edward Epstein, New York State Supreme Court, New York County.
(With assistance from Kaye Wiggins.)
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