Two sisters tried to blow the whistle on alleged pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in a magazine profile nearly two decades ago but their voices were cut from the piece and it would take years before they would truly be heard.
The stories of Maria and Annie Farmer are one of many explored in the new Netflix docuseries “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” which examines the allegations that Epstein groomed and sexually abused young girls, including many underage, over the course of decades, all while rubbing elbows with the world's rich and powerful.
Journalist Vicky Ward had been asked to write a society piece on Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2003, but it soon turned into a potential exposé after a source introduced her to Maria Farmer and her sister Annie.
Maria met Epstein as she was graduating from New York Academy of Art, where she'd earned a master's degree, in 1995. Epstein and his longtime confidante and alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell bought three paintings from her during her graduation exhibit and a few months later, Epstein hired her to manage the door at his Manhattan mansion. Maria told the producers of “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” that while working for Epstein, he inquired about her family and she told him that her teen sister Annie was aspiring to get into an Ivy League school.
Annie said she was 16 when Epstein offered to pay for her to travel to Thailand and Vietnam to enhance her resume and make her stand out to prestigious schools. Before she was to jet off, he invited her to visit his New Mexico ranch, Annie said. But the trip soon became uncomfortable and abusive, Annie said, recounting how Maxwell touched her inappropriately hours before she awoke to Epstein entering her room, telling her he wanted to cuddle. He got into her bed and touched and fondled her, she said.
While Annie initially remained tightlipped about the incident, her sister experienced her own uncomfortable encounter with Epstein and Maxwell soon after. Maria said that Epstein had arranged for her to do an artist's residency in Ohio. She explained in the docuseries that she mainly painted portraits of young girls, often naked but not sexualized. The paintings were based on photographs she took, which happened to be of her younger sisters, including one who was 12. Epstein and Maxwell visited her during that residency, and they both sexually assaulted her, Maria alleged. She recalled being asked to rub Epstein’s feet before he and Maxwell began touching her at the same time. She began to cry and eventually ran out of the room and barricaded herself in another room; the next day, she said she discovered that Epstein and Maxwell had stolen some of the intimate photos of her sisters.
Maria talked about the encounter with Annie, who then revealed her own horror story. Maria detailed in the new docuseries how she filed a complaint with the FBI in 1996, but never heard back from them. Then in 2003, the sisters decided they would speak out in another way, to a Vanity Fair reporter.
Ward interviewed them, and the journalist said she attempted to get their allegations printed. However, there were major hurdles. The docuseries alleges that Vanity Fair took the story to Epstein, who in turn claimed the siblings were merely infatuated with him; he argued the accusations were revenge for unrequited love.
Furthermore, Ward told the docuseries' producers that Epstein told her, “If I don’t like this piece, it’s going to be bad for you and your family.” Ward, who was pregnant with twins at the time, claimed that Epstein said he knew all the doctors and would find out where she was giving birth. He allegedly threatened to have somebody place a curse on her unborn child.
Further still, she said that Graydon Carter, who was then Vanity Fair's editor-in-chief, found a severed cat head in his garden and a bullet on his doorstep. Despite that, Carter told her he believed Epstein and not the Farmer sisters, Ward said. The women were removed from the story, which became a puff piece entitled “The Talented Mr. Epstein.”
The final paragraph of the Vanity Fair piece even starts on this note; “Many people comment there is something innocent, almost childlike about Jeffrey Epstein. They see this as refreshing, given the sophistication of his surroundings.”
Ward said she cried in public when she found out that the Farmers' stories wouldn’t be included.
“So much work, so much bravery and for what?” she said in the docuseries.
Carter has claimed that Ward’s recollection of events is off base.
“Ms. Ward's reporting on this aspect of her story came in as we were going to press and simply did not meet our legal threshold,” he said in a statement included in the docuseries. “Furthermore, her recounting of the facts around the Epstein article is completely inaccurate. If we had three people on the record willing to stand up for us in court if Epstein had chosen to sue, we would have run it.”
In the ensuing years, Epstein would face criminal action over his alleged predation of young girls, though to startlingly varying degrees.
Epstein had admitted to soliciting a prostitute and of procuring an underage girl for prostitution in 2008 in Florida — a generous plea deal considering the 30-plus women that had come forward in the case alleging sexual abuse. He only served 13 months of his 18-month sentence.
He was arrested again in July 2019 on multiple sex-trafficking charges involving underage girls, with prosecutors this time seemingly intent on seeing him do serious time behind bars. Just as it seemed his accusers would have their day in court, Epstein was found hung in a Manhattan jail cell last August. Though his death sparked a rash of conspiracy theories, authorities determined it to have been a suicide.
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