Photo: New York State Sex Offender Registry (AP)

The wealthy pedophile and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is dead after an apparent suicide at a jail in Manhattan, authorities said on Saturday.

According to several media reports, Epstein hanged himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, in New York, and he was found around 6:30 a.m. He was transferred to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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His death comes just hours after the Miami Herald and other news organizations published a huge cache of graphic court documents that tell the tale of his expansive sex trafficking operation that targeted teenage girls in several cities, including Palm Beach, FL, and New York City. According to the Herald, the documents “raise new questions about whether powerful people pressured federal prosecutors in Florida to give Epstein a secret non-prosecution agreement in 2008 that not only granted him immunity, but allowed an untold number of other people who have never been identified to escape sex trafficking charges.”

Among the high-profile names mentioned in the documents, which were part of a 2015 defamation lawsuit by victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre against Epstein’s alleged accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, are former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, the late MIT scientist Marvin Minsky, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Hyatt hotels’ Tom Pritzker, and hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin, the newspaper reported. Also previously identified are Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew.

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All of the prominent men whose names appear and who are still alive have denied being involved in Epstein’s massive pedophile and sex trafficking ring, which spanned decades.

Late last month, Epstein, 66, had been found injured and semi-conscious in his Manhattan jail cell after an apparent attempted suicide. He was arrested in early July at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, after flying from Paris, and charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He faced 45 years in prison. The arrest was prompted by a Miami Herald investigation of the Epstein case last November called “Perversion of Justice.”

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As CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti noted on Saturday:

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for answers about the death, given that Epstein was supposedly on suicide watch after the alleged July attempt. However, NBC News reported that Epstein was not on suicide watch at the time of his death.

According to the Associated Press, Epstein was being held in the jail’s high-security Special Housing Unit apart from the general population. That is the same unit where Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán recently had been held.

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In a rare display of bipartisanship, some Republicans also are joining those calls for an investigation, although with a slightly different spin:

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Attorney General William Barr said he was “appalled” at the news. Barr has consulted with the Department of Justice’s inspector general, which is opening an investigation, according to NBC News. The FBI also is investigating, which is an unusual step for the agency, undertaken out of an “abundance of caution,” according to a senior law enforcement official cited by NBC.

Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents some of Epstein’s accusers, called for administrators of his estate to freeze assets pending the outcome of civil cases filed by his alleged victims. “He knew he was guilty, and all his money would not prevent the inevitable conviction,” Bloom tweeted.

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MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called the entire thing “bullshit.”

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“The rich and powerful get away with raping young girls...again,” he added.

Donald Trump, who had remained publicly quiet about Epstein’s death for most of the day on Saturday, retweeted in the early evening the claim that Bill Clinton was somehow involved:

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This story is developing and was last updated on Saturday at 6:21 p.m. ET.