Two federal prison guards were charged Tuesday with falsely claiming to have checked on inmates, including Jeffrey Epstein, in the hours before the notorious pedophile hanged himself in a Lower Manhattan lockup this past summer.
The dozy guards are the first to be charged with a crime related to Epstein's mysterious death in his cell at Manhattan Correctional Center, amid an unprecedented amount of camera malfunctions and apparent human incompetence on the morning of August 10. "Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction", U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a forensic pathologist hired by the executors of Epstein's estate has questioned the NY medical examiner's findings in Epstein's death, pointing to several fractures that indicate a more sinister chain of events. "After arriving in the SHU, Supervisor-1 spoke with Thomas and Noel".
Tova Noel and Michael Thomas are both facing charges of falsifying the logs of exactly when they performed checks on Epstein's jail cell.
The cell where he died was in a high-security unit, famous for having held terrorists and drug cartel kingpins. Epstein's death, though, revealed the jail was suffering from problems including chronic staffing shortages that lead to mandatory overtime for guards day after day and other staff being pressed into service as correctional officers.
In the wake of his death, Attorney General William Barr said there were "serious irregularities" at the prison, and he removed Hugh Hurwitz, the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons at the time.
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Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found July 23 on the floor of his cell with a strip of bedsheet around his neck.
The indictment said he was on that watch for 24 hours before he was moved to psychological observation until July 30, several days before his death.
On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the Department of Justice is reportedly considering criminal charges against the two guards, offering them a plea deal. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to publicly discuss the investigation. "While the Indictment indicates these staff did not conduct 30 minute round, it is a fact that even had they conducted the 30 minute rounds, Mr. Epstein still would've had 29 minutes to take his own life". He had pleaded not guilty.
Bureau of Prisons Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer testified Tuesday the FBI is continuing to investigate the circumstances around his death, including the possibility that a "criminal enterprise" was involved.
© Uma Sanghvi Image: Jeffrey Epstein appears in court in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 2008.
One prison union official described the memo as "hypocritical", and said that it will have a chilling effect on senior officers working in the Special Housing Unit.