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How Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims can still seek justice after his death

What Epstein death means for alleged victims
Jeffrey Epstein is dead. What does that mean for his alleged victims? 03:34

The women who accuse Jeffrey Epstein of sexually abusing them when they were underage say they still plan to seek justice despite his apparent suicide in a New York City jail over the weekend. The Justice Department is investigating how the disgraced financier, who was charged with sex trafficking, died, and why no one prevented it.

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman told "CBS This Morning" that Epstein's accusers still have a "great deal of recourse" despite his death.

Civil lawsuits

One of the simplest ways for Epstein's accusers to get justice is to file civil suits for damages – and many already have, according to Klieman. Epstein died with more than $500 million in assets.

"So what the first move is by many of these very, very good and assertive lawyers or aggressive lawyers is that they will then freeze the assets in the estate so that they cannot be dispersed by the executor to the heirs or to charities, whatever Jeffrey Epstein may have left them to in a will if he left a will," Klieman said.

Target his alleged co-conspirators

A number of high-profile figures in Epstein's orbit have come under scrutiny for allegedly acting as accomplices, procurers and enablers. Epstein's apparent suicide happened just hours after the release of some 2,000 pages of documents from a prior lawsuit, including testimony from alleged victim Virginia Giuffre. Giuffre claimed Epstein's former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell directed her to have sex with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Maine Senator George Mitchell, and Britain's Prince Andrew, among others. They've all denied the allegations, and none of them has been arrested or charged with any crime.

"The big target is a woman named Ghislaine Maxwell," Klieman said. "She is someone who was Jeffrey Epstein's girlfriend, but many of the victims have accused her of actually being a procurer who has been someone who was in the thick of it, who managed all of these properties, so she really has a bull's eye on her."

Child Victims Act

A new law goes into effect this Wednesday that would allow those who say they were abused as minors in New York one year to bring a case against their abusers – effectively throwing out the statute of limitations.

"No matter how old you are now and no matter how long ago sexual abuse occurred while you were a child … they have one year to bring a case, no matter when it occurred, and that starts Wednesday, August 14. The timing is amazing," Klieman said.

"Heads are going to roll" 

Epstein was being held at the Metropolitan Correction Center at the time of his death, considered one of the most secure jails on earth, and where the notorious drug kingpin "El Chapo" was held during his trial and where Paul Manafort is currently in custody.

"I think the MCC is in real trouble and, really, heads are going to roll on this one. The idea that he was supposed to be watched every 30 minutes and wasn't, but more important the idea that he was taken off of suicide watch, to me and to many experts, is inexplicable," Klieman said. 

Victims "treated like they were prostitutes"

How Jeffrey Epstein's accusers are reacting to his apparent suicide 05:18

Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie Brown spent more than two years looking into the Jeffrey Epstein case. She published a series of articles on his secret plea deal, identified 80 of Epstein's alleged victims, and spoke with about a dozen of them. She's stayed in touch with many of those victims since then and told "CBS This Morning" they were "in shock" when they learned of his death.

"They think it's another example of how our criminal justice system is not only broken, but it seems to favor wealthy people who somehow seem to always be able to get away with things that regular people don't have those advantages," Brown said. "They have been fighting this for a decade. Remember, when this happened back in 2006, 2007 - now they're women - but they were teenagers and they were treated like they were prostitutes. They were treated like they were not credible."  

Legal experts say federal prosecutors will dismiss the criminal case against Epstein, but they'll likely continue to investigate any co-conspirators who may have helped operate his alleged sex trafficking ring.

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