Guards on Jeffrey Epstein’s unit were working extreme overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages the morning of his apparent suicide, a person familiar with the jail’s operations has said.
The mystery surrounding how the prominent US billionaire was able to kill himself in jail comes as investigators have been digging into allegations of sexual abuse and conspiracy against Epstein.
His abrupt death cuts short a criminal prosecution that could have pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of the high-flying financier with connections to celebrities and presidents, though prosecutors have vowed to continue investigating.
An additional federal investigation was launched on Saturday after the Federal Bureau of Prison said Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at a high-security jail in Manhattan. He was later pronounced dead from an apparent suicide, the BOP said.
Epstein’s guard working fifth day of overtime
Epstein’s death raises questions about how the Bureau of Prisons ensures the welfare of such high-profile inmates.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center’s Special Housing Unit was staffed with one guard working a fifth straight day of overtime and another who was working mandatory overtime, according to the source who spoke Sunday on the condition of anonymity.
The jail staff failed to follow protocols leading up to Epstein’s death, according to a report from The New York Times, deepening the fallout from what led to the highly connected financier’s apparent suicide.
Epstein should have been checked on by guards in his cell every 30 minutes, but that didn’t happen the night before his apparent suicide, a law enforcement official told the Times.
A law enforcement source also told the Times he was alone in his cell Saturday night after his cellmate was transferred.
Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found a little over two weeks ago with bruising on his neck, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorised to discuss it publicly. 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.
Death in custody ‘appalling’
Attorney General William Barr, calling for an investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, said he was “appalled” to learn of Epstein’s death while in federal custody.
“Mr Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Mr Barr said in a statement.
Epstein, 66, had been denied bail and 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 federal investigation into the allegations remains ongoing, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. He noted in a statement on Saturday that the indictment against Epstein includes a conspiracy charge, suggesting others could face charges in the case.
Before his legal troubles, Epstein led a life of extraordinary luxury that drew powerful people into his orbit. He socialised with princes and presidents and lived on a 100-acre private Caribbean island and one of the biggest mansions in New York.
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