Attorney General William P. Barr said Monday there were “serious irregularities” at the Manhattan jail where wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead over the weekend, and he vowed to get to the bottom of the situation.
Mr. Barr said he was “appalled … and frankly angry” that Mr. Epstein won’t stand trial for accusations of sex trafficking and conspiracy.
“Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” Mr. Barr said, addressing the Fraternal Order of Police in New Orleans. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and we will ensure they get it.”
Mr. Epstein, 66, was found dead early Saturday in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Authorities there said it was a suicide. An autopsy was performed Sunday, but New York City’s chief medical examiner has not yet listed an official cause of death.
Mr. Epstein previously had been on suicide watch, raising questions about how he was able to succeed in his attempt. The New York Times reported that while the suicide watch had been lifted, he was supposed to have been checked every 30 minutes. The newspaper said that protocol had not been followed in Mr. Epstein’s case.
“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and that demand a thorough investigation,” Mr. Barr said Monday. “The FBI and the Office of Inspector General are already doing just that.”
“We will get to the bottom of what happened at the MCC and we will hold people accountable for this failure,” the attorney general said.
The doubts spread to Capitol Hill on Monday, as the top-ranking members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the Federal Bureau Prisons raising several questions about the death.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, and the top Republican, Doug Collins of Georgia, asked the BOP for details on its assessment on Mr. Epstein’s possible risk of suicide and whether the facility he was in has rooms specifically for inmates on suicide watch. They also requested information on Mr. Epstein’s confinement and the nature and frequency of his check-ins.
Mr. Epstein’s death came a day after a judge unsealed thousands of pages of court records from a lawsuit alleging that Mr. Epstein had recruited and prostituted her to wealthy friends for sex. She was 17 at the time.
Mr. Epstein served time in Florida for a guilty plea on charges of soliciting prostitution, under an agreement he struck with federal prosecutors. That deal is being investigated by the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan brought new charges of his own, saying he wasn’t bound by the agreement the Florida prosecutor made a decade ago. The new charges include the allegation that Mr. Epstein recruited and maintained a network of young girls to perform sex acts.
Mr. Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found in his cell a little over two weeks ago with bruises on his neck, a person familiar with the jail’s operations told The Associated Press. But he had been taken off the suicide watch at the end of July, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to discuss jail operations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Inmates on suicide watch are subjected to 24 hours per day of “direct, continuous observation,” according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons policy. They are also issued tear-resistant clothing to thwart attempts to fashion nooses and are placed in cells that are stripped of furniture or fixtures they could use to kill themselves.
After being returned to the jail’s special housing unit, Mr. Epstein was supposed to have been checked on by a guard every 30 minutes, but that was not done the night before his death, the person familiar with the matter told the AP.
On the morning of Mr. Epstein’s apparent suicide, guards on his unit were working overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages, the person said. The person said one guard was working a fifth straight day of overtime and another was working mandatory overtime.
⦁ Jeff Mordock contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.
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