Jeffrey Epstein could face trial as early as June on sex-trafficking charges

Wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein could face trial as early as June on sex-trafficking charges, although his defense team argued Wednesday that it needed at least until September 2020 to examine more than a million pages in the case.

Epstein, 66, appeared subdued with his hands folded during the brief pretrial hearing but showed no signs of any injuries after a jail-cell incident last week in which he was found on the floor with a bruised neck.

Prosecutors argued for a June trial date, while the defense sought a September date.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said a trial projected to last four to six weeks could tentatively begin June 8, but he’ll likely defer to defense lawyers’ needs if they are not ready.

"Let's see where everybody is at as the months go by," he said.

Martin Weinberg, Epstein's lawyer, said during the 20-minute hearing that there were more than a million pages of documents that the defense had not yet reviewed.

“Thirteen months sounds like the appropriate amount of time it takes to prepare a case of this magnitude,” he told the judge, CNBC reported.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe argued that there was a need to bring the case to trial sooner.

“We don’t think any delay, in this case, is in the public interest,” Moe said.

Weinberg also said that the defense team wanted access to documents, currently sealed, in a related lawsuit brought by one of Epstein's accusers.

Epstein is accused of sexually abusing "dozens of minor girls" in his lavish Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, homes from 2002 to 2005. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Epstein, who appeared at court in blue prison garb but not in handcuffs, was arrested July 6 when he arrived at a New Jersey airport on a private jet from Paris, where he has a home.

Wednesday's pretrial hearing before Berman was scheduled before Epstein was found last week on the floor of his cell with neck bruises. It wasn’t clear how the injury occurred.

Epstein, who was deemed a danger to the community, particularly to some witnesses in the case, had been denied bail and must remain behind bars until trial.

Berman, in the bail hearing, noted that items federal investigators found in a safe in the financier's Manhattan mansion – more than $71,000 in cash, 48 diamonds and an expired Austrian passport with a fake name and Epstein's photo on it – also played a role in the bail denial because they showed the defendant is a flight risk.

Epstein had counted President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton, as well as Britain's Prince Andrew, among his acquaintances on the New York and Florida social circuit before he was convicted in Florida in 2008 on state prostitution-related charges.

Under an agreement at the time, federal prosecutors agreed not to press federal charges against him. Afterward, Epstein was required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to many of the victims.

While serving a 13-month jail term, he was permitted to leave the jail to work for 12 hours a day, six days a week.

His lawyers have argued that the agreement reached with federal prosecutors disallows the charges, and they say he has committed no new crimes.

That 2008 deal drew intense scrutiny and led then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, who had approved the agreement, to resign in July as Trump's Labor secretary.

In a related development, NBC News, quoting from court documents, reported Wednesday that a day or two before his jail-cell incident, Epstein was served with legal papers in a lawsuit to be brought by a woman who has accused him of raping her when she was 15.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jeffrey Epstein could fact trial in June on sex-trafficking charges