U.S. News

Harvard says it accepted gifts from Epstein before 2008 sex-crime conviction

FILE PHOTO: U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Harvard University expressed remorse on Friday for accepting millions of dollars in gifts from Jeffrey Epstein in the years before his 2008 sex crimes conviction and said it regretted its association with the disgraced financier.

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said Esptein donated about $9 million to the university between 1998 and 2007, before Esptein pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in 2008. Harvard said it knowingly rejected a gift from Epstein in 2008 following his conviction, but that its internal review is still ongoing.

“Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes were repulsive and reprehensible,” Bacow said in a letter addressed the university community. “I profoundly regret Harvard’s past association with him.”

The university’s statement came a day after revelations that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had accepted gifts from Epstein after his Florida conviction on prostitution so long as the donations remained anonymous.

MIT’s president acknowledged the donations on Thursday and said he signed a thank-you letter to Epstein in 2012.

Harvard added that it will donate the total unspent balance of $186,000 to organizations that support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.

“This is an unusual step for the university, but we have decided it is the proper course of action under the circumstances of Epstein’s egregiously repugnant crimes,” Bacow said.

Epstein was arrested on July 6 on federal charges for sex trafficking. Prosecutors said he recruited dozens of underage girls to give him massages and then sexually abused them. Epstein pleaded not guilty.

The wealthy 66-year-old money manager was found dead on Aug. 10 in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan. An autopsy concluded that he hanged himself.

Reporting by Matthew Lavietes in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama