AP obtains documents that shed new light on Jeffrey Epstein’s prison suicide and its rampant aftermath

NEW YORK (AP) — Two weeks before he ended his life, Jeffrey Epstein sat in the corner of his Manhattan jail cell, hands over his ears, desperate to drown out the noise of the non-stop toilet result.

Epstein was restless and unable to sleep, prison officials observed in records recently obtained by The Associated Press. He called himself a ‘coward’ and complained he was struggling to adjust to life behind bars after his July 2019 arrest on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges – his life of luxury curtailed to a concrete and steel cage.

The disgraced financier was under psychological observation at the time for a suicide attempt days earlier which left him with bruises and abrasions on his neck. Yet even after 31 hours on suicide watch, Epstein insisted he was not suicidal, telling a prison psychologist he had a ‘wonderful life’ and ‘would be crazy’ to go there. end.

On August 10, 2019, Epstein was dead.

Nearly four years later, the AP obtained more than 4,000 pages of documents related to Epstein’s death from the Federal Bureau of Prisons under the Freedom of Information Act. They include a detailed psychological reconstruction of the events leading up to Epstein’s suicide, as well as his medical history, internal agency reports, emails, memos and other documents.

Taken together, the documents the AP obtained on Thursday provide the most comprehensive account yet of Epstein’s detention and death, and its chaotic aftermath. The files help dispel the many conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s suicide, highlighting how fundamental failings in the Bureau of Prisons – including severe staffing shortages and employees taking shortcuts – contributed to the death of Epstein. ‘Epstein.

They shed new light on the federal prisons agency’s confused response after Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at the now closed Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.

In an email, a prosecutor involved in Epstein’s criminal case complained about the lack of information from the Bureau of Prisons in the critical hours after his death, writing that it was “frankly incredible” that the agency issues public press releases “before telling us basic information so that we can pass it on to his attorneys who can pass it on to his family.” »

In another email, a senior Bureau of Prisons official made a bogus suggestion to the agency’s director that reporters should have paid prison workers to get information about Epstein’s death because they reported details of the agency’s failings – involving the ethics of journalists and the agency’s own workers.

The documents also provide a new window into Epstein’s behavior during his 36 days in prison, including his unprecedented attempt to connect by mail with another high-profile pedophile: Larry Nassar, the US gymnastics team doctor. convicted of sexually abusing dozens of athletes.

Epstein’s letter to Nassar was found returned to sender in the prison mailroom weeks after Epstein’s death. “It appears he mailed it and it was returned to him,” the investigator who found the letter told a prison official via email. “I don’t know if I should open it or should we hand it to someone?”

The letter itself was not among the documents given to the AP.

The day before Epstein died, he excused himself from a meeting with his lawyers to make a phone call to his family. According to a memo from a unit official, Epstein told a prison worker that he was calling his mother, who had been deceased for 15 years at the time.

Epstein’s death has put heightened scrutiny on the Bureau of Prisons and spurred an AP investigation that uncovered deep and previously unreported problems at the agency, the Department of Justice’s largest. Justice with more than 30,000 employees, 158,000 inmates and an annual budget of approximately $8 billion.

AP reports have revealed rampant sexual abuse and other criminal behavior by staff, as well as dozens of escapes, prisoner deaths and severe staff shortages that have hampered emergency responses.

An internal memo, undated but sent after Epstein’s death, attributed problems at the now-closed prison to “severely understaffed, inadequate or lack of training, and monitoring and surveillance”. The memo also details steps the Bureau of Prisons has taken to address the failings exposed by Epstein’s suicide, including requiring supervisors to review surveillance video to ensure officers complete cell checks. required.

The workers responsible for guarding Epstein the night he killed himself, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, have been accused of lying on prison records to make it look like they had done the required checks before Epstein is found in his cell.

Prosecutors alleged that they sat at their desk just 15 feet (4.6 meters) from Epstein’s cell, bought furniture and motorbikes online and walked around the common area of ​​the unit instead of doing the required rounds every 30 minutes.

For a period of two hours, both appeared to have slept, according to their indictment. Noel and Thomas admitted to falsifying diary entries, but avoided jail time as part of a deal with federal prosecutors. Copies of some of those diaries were included among the documents released on Thursday, with the guards’ signatures redacted.

Epstein arrived at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on July 6, 2019. He spent 22 hours in the general population of the prison before authorities moved him to the special housing unit “due to the significant increase in media coverage and awareness of his notoriety among the prison population,” according to the psychological reconstruction of his death.

Epstein later said he was upset that he had to wear an orange jumpsuit provided to inmates in the Special Housing Unit and complained about being treated like he was a ‘bad guy’ despite his good behavior behind bars. He requested a maroon uniform for his almost daily visits with his lawyers.

During an initial health check, the 66-year-old said he had had more than 10 female sexual partners in the previous five years. Medical records showed he suffered from sleep apnea, constipation, hypertension, lower back pain and pre-diabetes and had previously been treated for chlamydia.

Epstein made some attempts to adjust to his prison environment, records show. He signed up for a kosher meal and told prison officials, through his lawyer, that he wanted permission to exercise outside. Two days before he was found dead, Epstein purchased $73.85 worth of items from the prison commissioner, including an AM/FM radio and headphones. He had $566 left in his account when he died.

Epstein’s outlook soured when a judge denied him bail on July 18, 2019, suggesting he would remain locked up until trial and possibly longer. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison. Four days later, Epstein was found on the floor of his cell with a strip of sheet around his neck.

Epstein survived. His injuries did not require going to the hospital. He was placed under suicide watch and later under psychiatric observation. Prison officers noted in diaries that they watched him, “sitting on the edge of the bed, lost in thought” and sitting “with his head against the wall”.

Epstein expressed his frustration with the prison noise and his lack of sleep. His first few weeks at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Epstein did not have his sleep apnea breathing machine he used. Then the toilet in his cell started acting up.

“He was still in the same cell with a broken toilet,” the prison’s chief psychologist wrote in an email the next day.

The day before Epstein died, a federal judge unsealed around 2,000 pages of documents in a sex abuse trial against him. This development, prison officials observed, further eroded Epstein’s high status.

That, combined with a lack of important interpersonal relationships and “the idea of ​​potentially spending life in prison, were likely contributing factors to Mr. Epstein’s suicide,” officials wrote.


Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland, Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, Sam Metz in Salt Lake City, Jake Offenhartz and David B. Caruso in New York, Russ Bynum in Savanah, Georgia, Gene Johnson in Seattle and Brooke Schultz in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania contributed to this report.

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