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Epstein’s Case Deserves An Investigation, Not Conspiracy Theories

When the news that Jeffrey Epstein had died of suicide arrived on Saturday morning, it was not a question of whether conspiracy theories would quickly take hold, but of which ones. Epstein, the disgraced financier accused of sex trafficking underage girls, was connected to an ungodly number of elite circles: Wall Street, highly-ranked academic institutions, a former and current U.S. president, members of the royal family, foreign political figures, and other assorted and sordid figures.

In other words, there were a great many and powerful people who certainly preferred Epstein never go to trial. The possible revelations from a trial had excited many. That Epstein was close to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak is sure to animate the darkest corners of the internet for decades to come.

In these circumstances, however, it’s important to resist the allure of conspiracies and embrace Occam’s razor until we’re given a concrete reason to reconsider that judgment. Suicide is not an inexplicable choice for a universally loathed 66-year-old man who, in the event of a very likely conviction, was never going to have another free moment in his life.

There are important questions as to how it happened—Epstein should have been under heavier surveillance following a previous suicide attempt, and he was already the highest profile prisoner in the country—but they do not change what the evidence suggests at this moment: Epstein killed himself. By indulging in evidence-free conjecture about a possible murder, we only posthumously continue Epstein’s long-running project of flattering his vanity.

To accept the conspiratorial account is to believe the prospect of Epstein talking genuinely scaring his former associates. But there was never a guarantee Epstein himself would testify or be cross-examined during trial. That conspiracy theorists largely take it for granted that Epstein planned to “name names” is likewise strange: the chances of him receiving a plea deal in exchange for truthful testimony were zero. No prosecutor with an eye toward their career, or even just a quiet pitchfork-less life in the future, would ever broach the topic.

But if they were terrified of Epstein talking, and are as powerful as the conspiracy theorists suggest, the obvious question emerges: Why was he allowed to live free for the past 13 years, after his arrest in Florida led to a highly suspicious plea deal that immunized co-conspirators? Why would people who ostensibly wish to remain in the background draw this much attention to themselves at the most inopportune time? It makes no sense.

This is not to say Epstein’s crimes haven’t exposed the impunity of our elites. They have and will, despite his death. The reason is that Epstein the person wasn’t so remarkable as the system he gamed starting from the moment he convinced the storied Dalton School in Manhattan to hire a college dropout to teach their students physics.

Ever since the Miami Herald revived this scandal in the spring, a trickling of revelations has painted a picture of a man whose talents lay primarily in his ability to cultivate big names and powerful figures, who were in turn undeterred by his ridiculous ideas, including a belief in his uniquely superior genetic makeup.

When not committing monstrous crimes, Epstein was a consummate pseudo-intellectual who chatted up Ivy League scientists, businessmen and politicians. They were more than happy to socialize with an obvious buffoon with a large net worth.

Epstein exchanged time with his lavish lifestyle for ego-strokes. Whether some of his prominent friends also received illegal and sordid benefits in return is something we may or may not learn in the future. It is hard to believe they knew nothing of what Epstein was up to. Documents, including depositions, released on Friday indicate that his crimes were no secret to those around him.

There is still time, and opportunity, for the full truth to emerge. It is incumbent on the FBI to not only investigate Epstein’s death, but also continue the active investigation into his activities and relationships. This won’t end with Epstein’ s death because it is now so much more than Epstein.

In the meantime, we shouldn’t advance conspiracy theories that would have flattered a horrible man who thought himself the center of the universe. His suicide will not end the story and those who are supposedly breathing sighs of relief today are not in a much better position than they were yesterday.

Abe Silberstein is a freelance commentator on Israeli politics and U.S.-Israel relations. His work has previously been published in the New York Times, Haaretz, +972 Magazine and the Forward.

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