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Monday 26 August 2019

One of Jeffrey Epstein’s guards on night of death was a ‘fill-in’, reports claim

The abrupt death of the 66-year-old on Saturday cut short a criminal prosecution.

Financier Jeffrey Epstein (AP)
Financier Jeffrey Epstein (AP)

By Jim Mustian, Michael R Sisak and Michael Balsamo, Associated Press

One of the guards assigned to the unit housing financier Jeffery Epstein on the night he died was a “fill-in”, it is reported.

The abrupt death of the 66-year-old on Saturday cut short a criminal prosecution that 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 had been denied bail and was held at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre (MCC) in New York, facing up to 45 years behind bars on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

He had pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial.

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United States Attorney General William Barr (David Grunfield/AP)

Attorney General William Barr said: “I was appalled, and indeed the whole department was, and frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.

“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation. The FBI and the office of inspector general are doing just that.”

“We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”

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Officials say the FBI and US Inspector General’s office will investigate how Epstein died in an apparent suicide (Elizabeth Williams/AP)

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 was not on it at the time of his death.

He was supposed to have been checked on by a guard about every 30 minutes, but investigators have learned those checks were not done for several hours before Epstein was found unresponsive, according to a person familiar with the episode.

Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, told The Washington Post that one of the people assigned to Epstein’s unit wasn’t a correctional officer, but a fill-in who had been pressed into service because of staffing shortfalls.

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Epstein was found on Saturday morning (Uma Sanghvi/AP)

It was not clear what the substitute’s regular job was, but federal prisons facing shortages of fully trained guards have resorted to having other types of support staff fill in for correctional officers, including clerical workers and teachers.

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 national attention, particularly focusing on a deal that allowed him to plead guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida and avoid more serious federal charges.

His lawyers maintained that the new charges in New York were covered by the 2008 plea deal and that Epstein had not had any illicit contact with underage girls since serving his 13-month sentence in Florida.

The federal investigation into the allegations remains ongoing, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. He noted that the indictment against Epstein includes a conspiracy charge, suggesting others could face charges in the case.

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