The Justice Department says two guards assigned to watch Jeffrey Epstein when he killed himself in a Manhattan jail have been placed on administrative leave, and the facility's warden has been temporarily reassigned.
The department says in a statement Tuesday that the warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center has also been temporarily reassigned to an office post pending the outcome of two investigations. Both the FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general are investigating Epstein's death.
Attorney General William Barr has expressed outrage that Epstein, 66, was able to take his own life Saturday while under the care of the federal Bureau of Prisons while the inmate was facing sex trafficking charges.
"I was appalled — and indeed the whole department was — and frankly angry to learn of the MCC's failure to adequately secure this prisoner," Barr said.
James Petrucci, the warden of the Otisville facility in upstate New York, has been named Acting Warden of the MCC, the Justice Department says. The department says it will take additional personnel action as warranted.
The federal Bureau of Prisons, part of the Justice Department, operates the MCC, which was built in 1975 on Park Row. Although it has been dogged by complaints of poor conditions, mismanagement, and understaffing, inmate suicides are rare, and Epstein, a high-profile detainee held on sex trafficking charges, was supposed to be carefully monitored.
Although he was taken off suicide watch late last month, Epstein was supposed to be checked every 30 minutes. But the New York Times says that protocol was not followed in the hours before he was found dead Saturday morning in his cell, of an apparent hanging. Nor did he have a cellmate, another requirement of inmates like Epstein who are assigned "special observation status."
The national union representing more than 30,000 federal corrections officers blamed a hiring freeze for some of the issues inside the MCC.
The MCC is so short-staffed that correction officers are being offered a $10,000 bonus to transfer there from other federal lockups.
When Epstein died, an officer in that unit of the jail was working a fifth straight day of overtime, and another guard was working mandatory overtime.
Late-Monday night, the Associated Press reported that a person familiar with operations at the federal jail said one of the two people guarding Epstein the night he died wasn't a correctional officer.
The person wasn't authorized to disclose information about the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The person said Epstein hanged himself with a bedsheet, days after being taken off a suicide watch. The manner in which he killed himself has not been officially announced. An autopsy was performed Sunday, but the city's chief medical examiner said investigators were awaiting further information.
Federal prisons facing shortages of fully trained guards have resorted to having other types of support staff fill in for correctional officers, including clerical workers and teachers.
Jail policy called for guards to check Epstein every 30 minutes, but investigators have learned those checks weren't done for several hours in the hours before he was discovered Saturday.
That's according to a second person who was not authorized to discuss the matter and also spoke on condition of anonymity.
Epstein was being held without bail, awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges that could have brought 45 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors in New York are pursuing a parallel investigation into whether any associates of Epstein will face charges for assisting him in what authorities say was his rampant sexual abuse of teenage girls.
Barr warned that any co-conspirator in the sex-crimes case against Epstein "should not rest easy," adding: "The victims deserve justice, and they will get it."
Authorities are most likely turning their attention to the team of recruiters and employees who, according to police reports, FBI records and court documents, knew about Epstein's penchant for teenage girls and lined up victims for him.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.