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The director of a prestigious research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned Saturday following the uproar over his financial ties with convicted sex-offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The university's president, L. Rafael Reif, wrote a letter to the MIT community. In it, he said Joi Ito has stepped down as director of the Media Lab.
In his resignation letter obtained by WBUR, Ito apologized and said he was stepping down as a director, as a professor, and as an employee, effective immediately.
"I want to apologize again for my errors in judgment. I have spent the last days and weeks listening to all of you and I want to thank you again for sharing your insights and perspectives with me, and allowing me begin to try to make amends," wrote Ito. "As I shared previously, the Media Lab community is strong and while this chapter is truly difficult, I am confident the Lab will persevere."
Ito's resignation comes after The New Yorker reported late Friday night that the Media Lab had a more extensive fundraising relationship with Epstein than it previously acknowledged and tried to conceal the extent of the relationship.
"The New Yorker published an article that contains deeply disturbing allegations about the engagement between individuals at the Media Lab and Jeffrey Epstein," said Reif in his letter.
He said last month that the university took about $800,000 from Epstein over 20 years. He said the school would investigate.
"Because the accusations in the story are extremely serious, they demand an immediate, thorough and independent investigation," wrote Reif. "This morning, I asked MIT’s General Counsel to engage a prominent law firm to design and conduct this process. I expect the firm to conduct this review as swiftly as possible, and to report back to me and to the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation, MIT’s governing board."
His announcement followed the resignation of two prominent researchers from the Media Lab who resigned after they learned about the ties to Epstein.
The New Yorker reports Epstein arranged $7.5 million in donations.
Epstein killed himself in jail Aug. 10 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Federal prosecutors in New York had charged the 66-year-old with sex trafficking and conspiracy, alleging he sexually abusing numerous underage girls over several years in the early 2000s.
Epstein's July 6 arrest drew national attention, particularly focusing on a deal that allowed him to plead guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida and avoid more serious federal charges.
Epstein was a wealth manager who hobnobbed with the rich, famous and influential, including presidents and a prince.
He owned a private island in the Caribbean, homes in Paris and New York City, a New Mexico ranch and a fleet of high-price cars.
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