Last week, the government said that surveillance video from outside of Jeffrey Epstein’s jail cell on the night of his first reported suicide attempt is gone forever. A lawyer for Epstein’s former cellmate Nick Tartaglione is now demanding to know why.
Tartaglione’s lawyer Bruce Barket requested in a Monday letter that U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas conduct an evidentiary hearing to “determine […] how the video was destroyed,” who was responsible, and whether the government has acted in “bad faith”:
I write to request that the Court promptly conduct an evidentiary hearing to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the Government’s failure to preserve the video surveillance footage at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, which captured the hallway outside the cell that Mr. Tartaglione shared with Jeffrey Epstein at the time Mr. Epstein attempted to commit suicide between the late hours of July 22, 2019 and the the early morning hours of July 23, 2019. Since the date of the incident Mr. Tartaglione has firmly and consistently maintained that he acted appropriately in all respects, and footage of the incident, therefore, would have been exculpatory as it would have corroborated Mr. Tartaglione’s account of events.
Accordingly, we ask the Court to conduct a hearing to determine (1) how the video was destroyed, who was responsible for its destruction, and why it was not preserved; 2) where there are any witnesses who reviewed the video prior to its destruction who can describe what they observed, and, in turn, preserve at least some [of] the video’s exculpatory value; and (3) where and to what extent the destruction of the video was deliberate or reckless, and whether there was any bad faith on the part of the Government in connection with the video’s destruction.
The government’s explanation up to now, Barket wrote, is “inadequate as it is non-specific, unsworn, and untested.”
“Respectfully, the Government’s fluid account of the efforts that were made to preserve this critical mitigating evidence are deeply troubling and demand that an explanation be given via sworn testimony,” Barket continued, again emphasizing the “exculpatory value” of the video footage for his client.
In case you missed it, prosecutors in New York City previously announced that they were able to locate lost surveillance footage from outside of the deceased pedophile’s cell on Dec. 19, which was one day after prosecutors told a federal court that video from the night of July 22 and early morning of July 23 in 2019 had not been properly preserved by Manhattan MCC authorities. On Jan. 9, prosecutors once again said that the video was gone.
After the first Epstein jail incident, the microscope quickly shifted to Epstein’s former cellmate, the aforementioned Nick Tartaglione. As Law&Crime previously reported, Tartaglione claims to have saved the elite pedophile’s life on the night in question. The ex-cop, behind bars on quadruple murder charges, reportedly alerted Manhattan MCC officials after Epstein attempted to hang himself.
After that incident, Epstein was transferred to a different section of the MCC, placed on so-called “suicide watch,” promptly taken off and then left alone in his cell before eventually dying under somewhat disputed circumstances during the second week of Aug. 2019. Epstein’s death was officially ruled a suicide by hanging.
Barket told the New York Daily News why the video matters to him and Tartaglione.
“We’re not looking to point fingers at anybody. We’d like to have a record of what took place with the video,” he said.”We want to be able to show that incarcerated, he’s still acting appropriately and doing the right thing.”
Here’s what the government said about the destroyed video last week, emphases ours:
The Government respectfully submits this letter to provide a further update to the Court regarding the defense’s request for video footage from outside the defendant’s cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (“MCC”) on July 22 – July 23, 2019. On or about December 19, 2019, the Government informed the Court and defense counsel that it had confirmed with MCC staff that the requested video had been preserved, and that the Government was working to obtain a copy from MCC. As set forth in greater detail below, the Government has learned that the MCC inadvertently preserved video from the wrong tier within the MCC, and, as a result, video from outside the defendant’s cell on July 22 – 23, 2019 (i.e. the requested video) no longer exists.
On or about July 23, 2019, at approximately 1:27 a.m., MCC corrections officers responded to the cell (“Cell-1”) that the defendant shared with Jeffrey Epstein. On or about July 25, 2019, defense counsel requested that MCC preserve video footage from outside the defendant’s cell from July 22, 2019 at 11:00 p.m. through July 23, 2019 at 4:00 a.m. From speaking with MCC legal counsel, the Government understands that in response to this request, MCC legal counsel looked up the defendant’s cell number in the MCC computer system and thereafter requested that MCC staff preserve video from outside of that cell for the requested time period. An MCC staff member confirmed that the video had been preserved.
On or about January 3, 2020, the MCC provided the Government with a copy of the video that it had preserved, which the Government then converted into a playable format. After reviewing the video, it appeared to the Government that the footage contained on the preserved video was for the correct date and time, but captured a different tier than the one where Cell-1 was located because the preserved video did not show corrections officers responding to any of the cells seen on the video. After speaking with MCC legal counsel, the Government was informed that the MCC computer system listed a different, incorrect cell for Tartaglione (“Cell-2”). Therefore, when MCC legal counsel asked that the video outside of the defendant’s cell be preserved, the MCC preserved video outside of Cell-2 instead of Cell-1.
The Government understands from speaking with MCC legal counsel that there was a backup system in place that housed all video for the Special Housing Unit, including the video requested by defense counsel. The Government further understands from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that it has reviewed that backup system as part of an unrelated investigation and determined that the requested video no longer exists on the backup system and has not since at least August 2019 as a result of technical errors.
The Government will make the video of the tier containing Cell-2 available for defense counsel’s review at the United States Attorney’s Office.
[Metropolitan Correctional Center via David Dee Delgado/Getty Images]