Jeffrey Epstein death: Investigation launched into 'shocking failure' after billionaire paedophile's apparent suicide in prison cell

From AOC to Marco Rubio, figures across political spectrum demand answers to serious questions raised by financier's sudden death

Andrew Buncombe
Seattle
Saturday 10 August 2019 12:23
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Jeffrey Epstein found dead in prison ahead of sex trafficking trial

The US government has ordered investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, after the man who once counted Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and Donald Trump among this friends and associates, was found dead in his prison cell.

Amid questions about how suspect in a major sex trafficking investigation was not placed on suicide watch – and as the internet filled with conspiracy theories – attorney general William Barr, announced the FBI and the justice department’s prisons’ inspector would be probing how the 66-year-old was able to apparently take his own life while awaiting trial in New York.

“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody,” said Mr Barr.

“Mr Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr Epstein’s death.

Officials in New York confirmed that the suspect had been found dead alone in his cell on at around 7.30am on Saturday morning at the the Manhattan Correctional Centre in New York City.

Multiple media reports said sources at the facility said it appeared he had killed himself. Last month, Epstein was found unconscious on the floor of his jail cell with marks on his neck, according to media reports, and officials were investigating that incident as either a possible suicide attempt or else assault.

There was no immediate explanation for why the ex-financier was placed not under special watch after that incident. The New York Times said Epstein had been placed under special surveillance after the July 23 episode, and received a daily psychiatric evaluation. He was then removed from suicide watch on July 29, it said.

Among those to express dismay as to how Epstein was able to kill himself, was New York congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“We need answers,” tweeted Ms Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the House of Representatives’ oversight and reform committee. “Lots of them.”

Epstein was being held at the facility after being arrested and charged last month with sex trafficking charges that accused him of abusing dozens of underage girls as young as 14. Epstein had been charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking with underage females, and had pleaded not guilty.

NBC coverage from 1992 shows Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein discussing women at Mar-a-Lago party

Those charges came 11 years after Epstein’s lawyers cut a plea deal with prosecutors in Florida to avoid a similar charge.

As controversy over that plea deal mounted last month following the new charges, the lawyer who oversaw the deal, Alexander Acosta, who went on to become Mr Trump’s labour secretary was forced to stand down.

His death came a day after new legal documents unsealed by a court, provided more details about the numerous young girls Epstein is said to have abused over several decades.

The documents, relating to a defamation lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre, who said she was abused by Epstein and members of his circle over a number of years. Among those she claimed she was told to have sex with were, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, financier Glenn Dubin, former senator George Mitchell and modelling agent Jean-Luc Brunel. All have denied the claims.

Also contained in the documents were accusations by another alleged victim, Johanna Sjoberg, who said Britain’s Prince Andrew touched her breast while sitting on a couch inside Epstein’s Manhattan apartment in 2001.We need answers. Lots of them.

Buckingham Palace has repeatedly insisted the allegations about the Duke of York are “categorically untrue”, despite the men remaining friends even after Epstein served jail time for a 2008 plea of sex with an underage girl.

Reuters said at the NYC facility where Epstein was held, two jail guards were required to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes, However, for some reason, that procedure was not followed overnight, according to a source. The financier was in a cell by himself when his body was found.

Despite Epstein’s death, the sex trafficking investigation being carried out by federal authorities, will continue reports said. In a court filing on July 25, the government said it was pursuing an “ongoing investigation of uncharged individuals” in connection with the case against Epstein. Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate judiciary committee, wrote in a scathing letter to Mr Barr that “heads must roll” after the incident.

“Every single person in the Justice Department….knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him,” he said.

Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, Sigrid McCawley, said Epstein’s suicide less than 24 hours after the documents were unsealed “is no coincidence”. She urged authorities to continue their investigation, focusing on Epstein associates who she said “participated and facilitated Epstein’s horrifying sex trafficking scheme”.

Others who had accused Epstein, reacted to the news with frustration that the financier will not have to face them in court.

“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed the pain and trauma he caused so many people,” accuser Jennifer Araoz said in a statement.

Brad Edwards, a Florida lawyer for nearly two dozen other accusers, said that “this is not the ending anyone was looking for”.

”The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused,“ Mr Edwards said in a statement.

Florida senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter that “scrutiny of how Epstein was able to commit suicide is warranted”.

He added: “But the immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the “other side” of partisan divide having him killed illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation and influence efforts.”

Cameron Lindsay, a former warden who ran three federal prisons, said the death represented “an unfortunate and shocking failure, if proven to be a suicide”.

“Unequivocally, he should have been on active suicide watch and therefore under direct and constant supervision,” he said. “When you have an inmate as high profile as Epstein, it’s absolutely imperative the warden set the tone with his or her leadership to ensure these kinds of incidents don’t happen.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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