Jail guards on duty the night Jeffrey Epstein apparently killed himself in a federal prison cell in Manhattan are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they were checking on inmates every half-hour as required, according to a person familiar with the investigation into the financier’s death.
Surveillance video shows guards never made some of the checks noted in the log, said the person, who was not authorized to disclose information about the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
Epstein, 66, is believed to have killed himself early Saturday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he was awaiting trial in a sex-trafficking case. The cause of the death has not been announced, but a person familiar with operations at the federal lockup said the financier was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck.
His death prompted the Justice Department to place two guards on leave and remove the jail’s warden pending the outcome of investigations by the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general. Falsifying log entries can be a federal crime.
The case has thrown a spotlight on chronic understaffing at the jail, which has long been used to house some of the world’s most notorious criminals, including mobsters, drug lords and terrorists.
A person familiar with the jail’s operations told the AP that a guard in Epstein’s unit was working a fifth straight day of overtime and another guard was working mandatory overtime the day Epstein was found. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he lacked authorization to publicly discuss jail operations.
Last month, Epstein had been put on suicide watch, with 24-hour monitoring and daily psychiatric evaluations, after he was found on the floor of his cell with bruises on his neck. But he was taken off suicide watch at the end of July and returned to the jail’s special housing unit, for inmates requiring close supervision.
The federal Bureau of Prisons has sent a suicide reconstruction team to analyze how and why Epstein took his own life, a Justice Department official who spoke to The Associated Press said Tuesday. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said the team of psychologists arrived Tuesday.
Attorney General William Barr has expressed outrage that Epstein was able to take his own life Saturday while under the care of the federal Bureau of Prisons.