Sexual Misconduct Epstein Early Accuser

Alicia Arden arrives on the red carpet at the 2012 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Arden, one of Jeffrey Epstein’s first known accusers, says police didn’t take her complaint seriously in 1997. [ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE]

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — More than two decades before Jeffrey Epstein took his own life, a woman went into a California police station and filed one of the earliest sex-crime complaints against him: that he groped her during what she thought was a modeling interview for the Victoria's Secret catalog.

Alicia Arden said she never heard back from investigators about her complaint. No charges ever came of it. And to this day she sees it as a glaring missed opportunity to bring the financier to justice long before he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls and women.

"If they would have taken me more seriously than they did, it could have helped all these girls," said Arden, an actress and model. "It could have been stopped."

With recent scrutiny focused on Epstein's life, wealth and connections to powerful people, his early brush with the law has been something of a mystery. After Arden's 1997 complaint to Santa Monica police first came to light several years ago, the department said little about it and Epstein's lawyers said only that police discounted her allegations.

In response to Associated Press inquiries and a public records request, Santa Monica police agreed last week to summarize parts of the detective's notes to a reporter. The notes showed that Epstein was questioned soon after Arden's complaint and gave a conflicting statement. Most notably, the detective wrote that Arden did not want to press charges against Epstein but wanted him warned about his behavior, an assertion that she strongly denies.

In a follow-up statement, police spokeswoman Lt. Candice Cobarrubias declined to say anything more about how Epstein's account differed from Arden's and stressed that the case was closed because the victim was not "desirous of prosecution."

"If the victim tells the detective they do not wish to prosecute, then the detective will close the case," the statement said. "In this case, the victim advised the detective she did not wish to prosecute so there was no point in presenting it to the city attorney for review."

When asked to provide documentary evidence of Arden's stated wishes, Cobarrubias refused to provide any more details from the detective's notes.

Contacted this past week, Arden was adamant that she did not, in any way, communicate to the police that she did not want to press charges. 

"The fact that they didn't do anything, and they discredited me, is just a stab to my heart," Arden said.

At the time of Arden's May 12, 1997, encounter with Epstein, she was 27 and had credits including TV's "Baywatch" and "Red Shoe Diaries." She says she sent modeling portfolio shots to Epstein's New York office after hearing from a mutual friend that he could help get her into the Victoria's Secret catalog. He followed up by asking to meet her, and his secretary booked an appointment for the two at a beachfront hotel.

"I never thought that it would be bad to go and meet him," Arden said.

When she showed up, she found Epstein barefoot and clad in sweat pants and a T-shirt with USA on the front. He started criticizing her figure and asked her to come close to him so he could evaluate it, according to accounts Arden gave in interviews with the AP and in her police report.

Epstein then asked her to undress and assisted in pulling her top off and skirt up, saying, "Let me manhandle you for a second" as he began groping her buttocks.

Arden said she pushed his hands away and left.

"He was bigger than me," she said. "I felt like it could have been bad if I didn't leave."

One detail she told the AP that was not in her original complaint was what happened as she left the hotel room. She said Epstein spontaneously pulled out $100 and tried to give it to her, an offer she refused because she felt he was treating her like a prostitute. But after he followed her out to her car, she took it because she needed gas.

Arden went to police the next day, and she says she got an off-putting reception. A male detective noted that she had willingly gone to Epstein's room — though she emphasized the purpose was business, she said. She remembered the detective suggesting she think about whether she really wanted to file a report.

She left, crying on the phone to a friend that she wished she could talk to a female police officer.

"I felt like I was being blamed," she said.

Nevertheless, she went back to police a week later and filed the report with the same detective.

"I wanted to be taken seriously," she said.
Get Unlimited Access
$3 for 3 Months
Subscribe Now

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.