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Judge in Civil Epstein Case Died in March

Quick Take

Robert Sweet, a federal judge who was overseeing a civil case against Jeffrey Epstein, was not “killed,” as a headline claims, nor did he die in August, as other recently published stories suggest. Sweet died of natural causes in March at age 96.

Full Story

Misinformation has proliferated online since Jeffrey Epstein — a well-connected financier who was facing sex trafficking charges — hung himself in a Manhattan prison on Aug. 10.

Shortly after his death, a story began circulating online with a false headline that claims a judge overseeing a case involving Epstein was “killed.” And other recently published stories suggest that the judge died this month, which isn’t true either.

U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet was 96 when he died in Ketchum, Idaho, on March 24.

The coroner for Blaine County, Idaho, where Ketchum is located, confirmed to us that the judge died of natural causes. There was no autopsy, coroner Russell Mikel said, explaining that an autopsy isn’t necessary if the deceased was of “advanced age,” had a known medical condition that would contribute to the death, or if there was no forensic reason.

Many of the stories that have been posted in the last week reference a Politico article that reported his death back when it happened five months ago, but those recent stories fail to provide the correct time frame.

Instead, they have headlines like this: “Jeffrey Epstein Judge Dies Suddenly.” And the stories misleadingly say the death occurred “Sunday.”

Although the headline doesn’t make it clear, Sweet wasn’t presiding over the criminal sex-trafficking case that was pending against Epstein. Rather, he was handling a civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that was brought by one of Epstein’s accusers in 2015. That case was reassigned on July 9 to another judge, Loretta Preska, who complied with a mandate from an appellate court that some of the records in the case be unsealed.

The court docket shows the last thing Sweet did in the case was deny a motion from one of Epstein’s co-defendants on Feb. 26.

He died about a month later while on vacation.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


Fried, Joseph. “Robert W. Sweet, Mayor’s Deputy Turned Federal Judge, Is Dead at 96.” New York Times. 25 Mar 2019.

Judge Robert Sweet Killed 2019, His Sealed Documents Unsealed Regarding Israeli Mossad Linked Ghislaine Maxwell & Jeffrey Epstein’s Elite International Pedophile Ring.” Camelotdaily.com. 10 Aug 2019.

Giuffre v. Maxwell. 1:15-cv-07433. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Docket. Accessed 19 Aug 2019.

Mikel, Russell. Coroner, Blaine County, Idaho. Interview with FactCheck.org. 16 Aug 2019.