Two federal corrections officers whose apparent laziness made Jeffrey Epstein’s death behind bars possible last summer have had their trial pushed back to next summer.
Indicted last November, 31-year-old Tova Noel was charged with five counts of making false entries in official records, while 46-year-old Michael Thomas was charged with three counts of falsifying records. Each guard was also charged with one count of conspiracy.
Originally slated for January 4, 2021, their trial is now scheduled to begin on June 14, 2021 (which is coincidentally President Donald Trump’s 75th birthday).
Both Noel and Thomas turned down a plea bargain last November–essentially guaranteeing that they would be prosecuted over the prisoner’s death, which was widely criticized as an unkempt miscarriage of justice that occurred on their watch. The infamous death of the notorious, wealthy and well-connected accused child sex-trafficker for the global and political elite immediately sparked conspiracies that “Epstein didn’t kill himself.”
Noel, officially employed as a guard, and Thomas, officially employed as a “materials handler,” were working an overtime shift the night Epstein died. Their prisoner had reportedly attempted suicide weeks before and had recently been taken off suicide watch by prison officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan.
According to the indictment, Noel, Thomas and at least two other guards, failed to perform numerous jail-wide checks on the night of August 9 and early morning of August 10, 2019.
In addition to that failure, prosecutors allege, Noel falsified records on over 75 separate occasions that claimed she and Thomas had completed their rounds in the jail’s Special Housing Unit (SHU) between midnight and 6:30 AM.
As Law&Crime previously reported, in excess of 20 other corrections officers were subpoenaed by the grand jury investigating the well-connected financier’s death. It is currently unknown whether any additional guards will be charged or if the unnamed guards referenced in the Noel-Thomas indictment cooperated with the prosecution in exchange for leniency.
During the night, instead of completing the required counts and rounds, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, the defendants, were seated at the correctional officers’ desk in the SHU common area ([which the indictment notes is] approximately 15 feet from Epstein’s cell), used the computers, and moved around the SHU common area. For a period of approximately two hours, Noel and Thomas sat at the their desks without moving, and appeared to have been asleep.
The indictment goes on to accuse Noel of using the computer “periodically through the night” not for official duties–but to search the internet for “furniture sales and benefit websites.” Thomas allegedly used the computer “briefly” on three separate occasions to check for “motorcycle sales and sports news.”
Public interest in the Epstein case had reached a fever pitch in the weeks leading up to his death after he was indicted and imprisoned for allegedly running a global sex-trafficking scheme that implicated numerous elites in politics, business and the arts.
Survivors of Epstein’s years-long underage sex enterprise had finally held out hope that they would get their long-denied day in court after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Miami seemingly intentionally botched their own prosecution of Epstein in 2008.
Those hopes were dashed when the high-profile prisoner was found with a “noose” around his neck on the morning of August 10.
“As alleged, the defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center,” said then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman in a press release. “Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction.”
Attorneys for the defendants have argued that their clients are being scapegoated for what was allegedly an institutional failure.
“There’s only two people charged, but for this to happen, the whole system had to fail,” Montel Figgins, Thomas’s lawyer, previously argued.
“Based on our view of the case, I believe there are outside circumstances that are impacting this prosecution,” Noel’s attorney, Jason Foy, said.
[image via U.S. Marshals Service]
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