‘Negligence, misconduct’ led to Epstein jail suicide: Watchdog

DOJ inspector general releases report on death of well-connected financier as he awaited sex trafficking charges.

A new Department of Justice watchdog report details failings that allowed Jeffrey Epstein's suicide death [John Minchillo/The Associated Press]

A “combination of negligence and misconduct” allowed US financier Jeffrey Epstein to die by suicide in a federal jail as he awaited sex trafficking charges, according to a watchdog report.

The scathing report, released by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Tuesday, detailed a laundry list of institutional and individual failings that allowed Epstein to take his own life.

The suicide death abruptly halted Epstein’s upcoming trial, in which he was accused of luring dozens of girls, some as young as 14, to his homes in New York and Florida and coercing them into sex acts. His death also made less likely any revelations related to allegations that some members of his well-connected social circle were in on the abuse.

“The combination of negligence, misconduct, and outright job performance failures documented in this report all contributed to an environment in which arguably one of the most notorious inmates in BOP’s [The Federal Bureau of Prisons] custody was provided with the opportunity to take his own life,” the report said.

Horowitz identified 13 BOP employees he said committed “misconduct and dereliction of their duties” leading up to Epstein’s death. Their actions, he said, allowed Epstein to be alone and unmonitored in his solitary cell inside Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center from 10:40pm (02:40 GMT) on August 9, 2019, until he was discovered the next day at 6:30am (10:30 GMT) hanging from what appeared to be linen or a piece of clothing.

Beyond two jail guards who had already been charged for falsifying records to make it appear as though they had conducted routine checks on Epstein, the report identified at least two other unnamed employees who may have committed criminal conduct by falsely certifying inmate counts and rounds. Prosecutors declined to file charges against the newly identified employees in the report.

Charges against the original duo of guards were later dropped after both entered into deferred prosecution agreements and successfully completed mandatory community service.

The report said the federal jail further failed to assign Epstein a new cellmate. The report also said that Epstein was left in his cell with too many bed linens, which are a security issue and were used in his suicide.

Other operational flaws included failing to properly upgrade the Metropolitan Correction Center’s camera surveillance system and understaffing its facilities.

Still, the report reiterated the findings of other investigations that there was no indication of foul play. The findings further rebut conspiracy theories that Epstein was murdered to prevent him from implicating others.

In response to the report, BOP director Colette Peters said the findings “reflect a failure to follow BOP’s longstanding policies”. She added that the BOP concurred with a list of recommended reforms, which “will be applied to the broader BOP correctional landscape”.

Epstein’s arrest in New York came years after he was charged in Florida in a controversial 2008 deal that saw him plead guilty to lesser Florida state charges to avoid federal charges. He served only 13 months for unlawfully paying a teenage girl for sex. He was allowed to leave the facility during the day for parts of his sentence, prompting allegations of preferential treatment.

Dozens of women have said they were lured into Epstein’s orbit as teenagers and forced to perform massages and sex acts. Many have pursued lawsuits against Epstein, his associates and associated entities.

On Monday, A US judge approved a $290m settlement between JPMorgan Chase and Epstein’s alleged victims. They accused the bank of missing red flags as they maintained a relationship with the financier despite the sex abuse charges.

His former girlfriend, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was later charged with helping Epstein abuse young girls.

She was convicted in December 2021 on five charges, including sex trafficking a minor, for recruiting and grooming four girls to have sexual encounters with Epstein.

In January 2022, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies