Federal investigators are probing the death of 66-year-old accused serial sex abuser and trafficker Jeffrey Epstein after he was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell of an apparent suicide by hanging around 6:30 AM. Epstein’s death came less than 24 hours after hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed with testimonies from former employees and new details of sexual abuse committed by Epstein, which also implicated a number of well-known politicians and others in the public eye. Epstein was facing sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which carried jail sentences of up to 45 years.
Others implicated include former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell; Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor; Prince Andrew; and “a well-known Prime Minister.” Many have denied the allegations. Prosecutors say he lured dozens of underage girls into giving him erotic massages and engaging in other sexual acts in the early 2000s at his mansions in New York City and Palm Beach, Fla. The girls were paid hundreds of dollars in cash for the encounters and, once recruited, were asked to return to his homes several times, where they were abused again, the indictment against him said.
Epstein was reportedly unsupervised in his cell despite being put on suicide watch on July 23rd after he was found unconscious with marks on his neck. Six days later, prison officials determined he was no longer a threat to himself and returned him to a cell in a special housing unit known as 9 South. He was supposed to have been housed with a cellmate and to have been monitored every half-hour by the two guards who patrolled the wing.
The night before he was found dead, however, he had been left alone after his cellmate was transferred. The two employees assigned to guard him had not checked on him for about three hours before he was discovered. The two prison guards were suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned from MCC amid widespread reports that 30-minute checks, required within Epstein’s unit, were not carried out properly. Officials said the employees, who have been placed on leave, were sleeping for some or all of that time. One guard was working a fifth straight day of overtime shifts, it was reported, while another was forced to work mandatory overtime that night.
Guards at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center had been forced to work overtime to make up for the staffing shortages, according to the union representing the prison guards. Eric Young, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals said in a statement that a hiring freeze has left thousands of staff vacancies across the Bureau of Prisons, creating “dangerous conditions” for both staff and inmates. The remaining officers are regularly forced to work 70- and 80-hour work weeks, Mr. Young said.
The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into how Epstein was able to die in New York’s highly secure Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC). Attorney General William Barr said officials have uncovered “serious irregularities” at the jail, which has housed other high-profile detainees such as Mexican drug baron El Chapo and fraudster Bernie Madoff. Barr has also promised that Epstein will continue to be investigated in order to bring to justice any other possible conspirators.