(Bloomberg) -- Lawyers for the former cellmate of Jeffrey Epstein described grim conditions and veiled threats from guards, including a note slashed up with a razor, in asking a judge to move their client from a federal jail in Manhattan.
At a hearing Wednesday in White Plains, New York, attorneys for Nicholas Tartaglione, an ex-police officer charged in a quadruple homicide, asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas to have Tartaglione removed from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein killed himself Aug. 10.
Epstein, who was charged with sex trafficking of minors, and Tartaglione were briefly cellmates until Epstein was found unconscious with marks on his neck in July. Given that red flag and others, the Justice Department is trying to determine whether mismanagement of the jail or inattention by guards provided the opportunity for Epstein to take his life.
In addition to “deplorable” conditions described in a letter to the court Tuesday, Tartaglione’s lawyer Bruce Barket said at the hearing that his client recently got a note from a friend that had been cut to pieces with a razor blade. It’s inappropriate for Tartaglione, a potential witness in the Justice Department’s probe, to be guarded by the same people who are under investigation, Barket said.
“He’s in a particularly vulnerable position,” said Barket, who called the Metropolitan Correctional Center “the worst facility” he knew of.
“We’re not saying put him up in the Four Seasons,” Barket said. “This particular place is acutely a problem.”
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons declined to comment because there’s an ongoing investigation.
Read More: Tartaglione Cites Rodents, Mold and Threats to ‘Shut Up’
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Swergold said the government deferred to the U.S. Marshals Service on whether Tartaglione should be moved. Given the charges against him, though, it wouldn’t be appropriate to hold him in a non-Bureau of Prisons facility that contracts with the Marshals or in a county jail, as his lawyer suggested, Swergold said. Tartaglione has pleaded not guilty.
Barket kept hammering away at the Manhattan lockup.
“This kind of thing goes on and on over and over again,” he told the court, saying Tartaglione’s lawyers are kept waiting for hours to see him and that it can take days for their client to get mail or even a shower.
One guard, on the morning of the hearing, finally ordered a shower for Tartaglione, saying he didn’t want his name in the paper, Barket said.
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The judge seemed sympathetic to Tartaglione’s position, saying the issues are “problematic.” He ordered Tartaglione’s lawyers to consult with the Marshals Service and come up with a possible alternative. He noted that the likeliest option, Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, had already kicked Tartaglione out over a disciplinary issue.
Epstein’s name wasn’t mentioned during the hearing. The fund manager, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was arrested in July, accused of molesting teenage girls from 2002 to 2005. His death came the day after more than 2,000 pages of court filings were unsealed, revealing allegations that a host of prominent people were involved in his alleged acts, fueling conspiracy theories.
In his brief stay there, Epstein shared the Metropolitan Correctional Center with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who has been holed up in the jail’s notorious 10 South wing for more than two years. Veterans of the facility include John Gotti Jr. and Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff.
Attorney General William Barr has reassigned the warden of the jail pending the outcome of the investigation and earlier this week appointed a new U.S. prisons chief.
(Updates with BOP declining to comment)
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