How the heck could Jeffrey Epstein, a high-profile ultra-wealthy convicted sexual abuser, apparently hang himself in the Metropolitan Correctional Center while facing a new criminal case for allegedly harming dozens of underage girls? It’s the kind of thing that sparked wide-spread, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. It even left law enforcement experts voicing shock that he had been off suicide watch in spite of an previous apparent attempt just days before. A New York Times report, however, brings new details that might explain what the situation was like on the ground when this disgraced defendant took his own life.
Guards were supposed to check in on Epstein every 30 minutes when he was part of a special housing unit, but that practice wasn’t done the night before he was found dead, said a “law enforcement official with knowledge his detention.” It was also mentioned that there were two guards on duty. Both were reportedly working overtime, said the official. One of them was on his fifth straight day of overtime. The other, in the words of the report, “had been forced to work overtime, the official said.”
It was reported on Saturday that Epstein had been taken off suicide watch for unclear reasons. He was no longer officially considered a risk for suicide. The defendant was being held alone in a cell in a special housing unit, a federal prison official told the Times on condition of anonymity because he voiced concern of being fired. In the new report, the outlet cites two officials as saying that Epstein’s cellmate was transferred, and that the ultra-wealthy abuser was left by himself. This violated the federal jail’s normal practices.
Two sources said that it was regular procedure for people who have been on suicide watch to be housed with a cellmate. A “person with knowledge of the investigation” said that when it was decided to take Epstein off suicide watch, the jail told the Department of Justice that he would have a cellmate and that a guard would check on him every half-hour.
This new report comes with a caveat, however:
Officials cautioned that their initial findings about his detention were preliminary and could change.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons declined to comment to Law&Crime, and pointed us toward a statement from Attorney General William Barr.
“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody,” he wrote. “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”
Note: Updated with a response from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
[Mugshot via Florida Department of Law Enforcement by way of Getty Images]