2019-08-12 13:31:121 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Jeffrey Epstein (Image source: Public domain)
It was definitely a shock when billionaire and former Trump friend Jeffrey Epstein was found a few weeks back with marks on his neck, making it appear like a suicide attempt. So when he was found hanging in his jail cell on Saturday and was later pronounced dead, this wasn't a shock to most people. However, despite the previous attempt, a person familiar with the case said corrections officers didn't check on him for "several" hours.
Epstein spent a short time in prison a decade ago after making a plea deal with the prosecutor in Florida, Alexander Acosta, who later became the Labor secretary in the Trump administration. He was forced out when the details of the plea deal came to light.
The financier was charged last month with more crimes pertaining to the same events between 2002 and 2005. This time he was charged with sex-trafficking crimes that involved girls as young as 14 in Miami and New York City. He's been in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since he was charged.
He was found on July 23 in his jail cell with marks on his neck and in a fetal position. It was suggested that he may have tried to stage a suicide attempt or an attack.
The FBI, the Justice Department's inspector general, and the New York City medical examiner have all launched investigations into how Epstein could have taken his own life while he was in federal custody.
Because of the questions surrounding what was either another attempt or a staged attempt, he'd been placed on suicide watch. However, he was removed from the watch prior to Saturday.
The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that lifesaving measures "were initiated immediately by responding staff," who then requested additional emergency medical help. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
A person familiar with the matter and union officials representing facility employees have reported that officers should have been checking on Epstein every 30 minutes, and he should have had a cellmate under normal circumstances.
Yet, a person who was assigned to share Epstein's cell with him was transferred on Friday. Investigators are determining why he didn't receive a new cellmate. This left him alone and unmonitored in the hours before his death.
New York City's chief medical examiner, Barbara Sampson, said her office conducted an autopsy on Sunday but that they hadn't reached a decision on a cause of death. Private pathologist Michael Bade observed the autopsy at the request of Epstein's representatives, according to Sampson.
The two corrections officers assigned to Epstein's special until were working overtime. One was forced to do so by management, while the other was on his fourth or fifth consecutive day.
The American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148 president, Serene Gregg, said the Metropolitan Correctional Center currently has less than 70 percent of the correctionsal officers needed, and this has forced many to work mandatory overtime.
One of the people assigned to watch Epstein's unit doesn't even normally work as a correctional officer.
"If it wasn't Mr. Epstein, it would have been somebody else because of the conditions of that institution," explained Gregg. "It wasn't a matter of how it happened or it happening, but it was only a matter of time for it to happen. It was inevitable. Our staff is severely overworked."
She declined to discuss the discussions she had with those working the night before Epstein was found. However, she did admit to complaining to superiors, "It's only a matter of time before we have a loss of life." She believes overworked officers could have played a role in Epstein being allowed to take his life.
"It's daunting — mentally, physically. I would feel confident in saying that some of that contributed to the unfortunate death of inmate Epstein, she said." Later, however, she admitted to not being certain if officer workload played a role.
It's not clear how much of the incident or check-ins by authorities were caught on camera The national president of the Council of Prison Locals C-33, E.O. Young, said that while camera are prevalent at the facility, he doesn't believe they normally capture cells.
Further, Young expressed there often isn't much they can do. "We can't ever stop anyone who is persistent on killing themselves," he said. "The only thing the bureau can do is delay that."
Additionally, he blamed the Trump administration who imposed a hiring freeze and budget cuts on the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Ironically, Donald Trump is a former friend of Epstein's. "All this was caused by the administration," Young said.
Attorney General William Barr admitted in congressional testimony earlier this year that the bureau was "short" about 4,000 or 5,000 employees and sad he had lifted the hiring freeze. "I think this is an area where we have stumbled," he said.
Epstein's death has not ended the investigation into his crimes. The U.S. attorney in Manhattan said they are still trying to determine who may have conspired with him. Of his long list of famous friends, other than Trump, he was also friends with former President Bill Clinton.
Many of his victims and their representatives are said to be outraged. They were looking forward to facing him in his trial next year to get the justice they've been longing for.
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