Thursday 22 August 2019

Epstein 'was taken off suicide watch' before his death in prison cell

Jeffrey Epstein had pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking. Photo: AP
Jeffrey Epstein had pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking. Photo: AP

Jim Mustian

The details of how Jeffrey Epstein died in his Manhattan jail cell over the weekend have yet to be released, but medical officials have performed a post-mortem on the high-profile inmate accused of sexually abusing under-age girls.

Epstein's sudden death on Saturday cut short a criminal prosecution which could have pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of a high-flying financier with connections to celebrities and presidents, though prosecutors have vowed to continue investigating.

Epstein (66) had been denied bail and could have faced up to 45 years behind bars on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month. He had pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial.

The manner in which he died remains a mystery, but guards on Epstein's unit were working extreme overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages on the morning of his apparent suicide, a person familiar with the jail's operations said.

The person said the Metropolitan Correctional Centre's special housing unit was staffed with one guard working a fifth straight day of overtime and another who was working mandatory overtime.

The person wasn't authorised to discuss jail operations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found a little over two weeks ago with bruising on his neck, according to the person familiar with the matter. But he was taken off the watch at the end of July and therefore wasn't on it at the time of his death, the person said.

Epstein's removal from suicide watch would have been approved by both the warden of the jail and the facility's chief psychologist, said Jack Donson, a former prison official who worked for the Bureau of Prisons for more than two decades.

Last week, more than 2,000 pages of documents were released, related to a since-settled lawsuit against Epstein's ex-girlfriend by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's accusers.

The records contain graphic allegations against Epstein, as well as the transcript of a 2016 deposition of Epstein in which he repeatedly refused to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself.

Epstein's July 6 arrest drew international attention, particularly focusing on a deal which allowed him to plead guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida and avoid more serious federal charges.

Irish Independent

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