Two federal Bureau of Prisons employees were charged Tuesday with failing to provide regular checks on Jeffrey Epstein on the night he died and then falsifying their watch records.
Tova Noel and Michael Thomas were federal employees tasked with checking Epstein every half hour on the night he died. According to the New York Times, the two Bureau of Prisons employees are the first to be charged with wrongdoing following a criminal investigation of Epstein’s death while in federal custody on Aug. 10.
Epstein was being held in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan at the time of his death. He had previously been convicted on sex-offender charges and faced new allegations Epstein engaged in a sex-trafficking scheme. Epstein, 66, may have faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Noel, 31, and Thomas, 41, are alleged to have sat at their desks still at their desks for a nearly two hour period, leading investigators to suspect they had fallen asleep and later falsely signed “count sheets” used to record checks on inmates. Further allegations suggest the two guards also spent time browsing the internet or walking around the common area, instead of carrying out their checks.
According to the indictment, the two guards reportedly found Epstein had hung himself only after they got up to bring him his breakfast at 6:30 a.m. that morning. Epstein’s cell was a mere 15 feet from the guard desk.
“The defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center,” Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for Manhattan, said in a statement regarding the charges. “Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction.”
Epstein had been held in federal custody for more than a month when he was found dead. He had previously raised concerns about his pretrial safety after he was found in a semiconscious and with marks on his neck in July. At the time, authorities believed his injuries may have been a suicide attempt and he was placed on suicide watch but was reportedly removed from that suicide watch before his death.
New York City’s chief medical examiner has ruled Epstein’s death as a suicide but a separate set of findings by a private medical examiner hired by Epstein’s family suggest signs of homicidal strangulation.
Investigators looking into Epstein’s death provided arrived on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to provide testimony about their investigations, Fox News reported. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, the director for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, confirmed FBI investigators are examining whether a “criminal enterprise” played a role in Epstein’s death.
When asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, to elaborate on how Epstein may have died under federal custody, Sawyer said the investigation is still ongoing and that she is not at liberty to discuss the findings. When asked if she would refute the New York City medical examiner’s findings of suicidal strangulation, Sawyer said she had no evidence to counter the findings but said she was limited in what she could disclose about the investigation.