Attorney General William Barr said Monday that there were “serious irregularities” at the Manhattan federal jail where billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was found dead Saturday morning.
“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Barr said during remarks before a law-enforcement conference in New Orleans. “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”
Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan early Saturday morning. The billionaire financier, who was being held on charges of sex trafficking and sexual assault, died in what authorities are calling “an apparent suicide.”
Epstein was placed on suicide watch for just one week after he tried to hang himself in his cell last month. It remains unclear why the watch was removed. Under the rules of the special housing unit where he was being held, guards were required to check on him every 30 minutes, but no such checks occurred for “several hours” prior to his death, the Washington Post reported Monday. Epstein’s cellmate was also transferred in the days prior to his death in violation of the special housing unit’s protocol.
The guards tasked with watching Epstein the night he died were working an overtime shift and one of them had worked five such shifts in a row.
Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, blamed Epstein’s suicide on understaffing at the MCC, where he said a tragedy was bound to occur.
“If it wasn’t Mr. Epstein, it would have been somebody else, because of the conditions at that institution,” Gregg told the Post. “It wasn’t a matter of how it happened or it happening, but it was only a matter of time for it to happen. It was inevitable. Our staff is severely overworked.”
Barr vowed that Epstein’s co-conspirators will be brought to justice during his Monday remarks.
“Let me assure you that this case will continue,” Barr said. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.”
Jack Scarola, a Florida attorney who represents a number of Epstein’s victims, cast the suicide as yet another failure by the government in its handling of Epstein’s prosecution.
“Jeffrey Epstein’s victims have once again been cheated out of an opportunity for justice,” he said. “I’m sure that none of them regret his death. All of them regret the loss of information that died with him.”