The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that the FBI is investigating the possibility that a “criminal enterprise” played a role in the death of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questioned Kathleen Hawk Sawyer about Epstein’s death in jail while he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
“With a case this high-profile, there has got to be either a major malfunction of the system or a criminal enterprise afoot to allow this to happen,” Graham said. “So are you looking at both? Is the FBI looking at both?”
“The FBI is involved and they are looking at criminal enterprise, yes,” Sawyer replied.
Epstein’s lifeless body was discovered on Aug. 10 in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, and the New York City medical examiner ruled his death a suicide. Reports said he had apparently hanged himself in his cell.
Skepticism about that finding pervaded Tuesday’s hearing.
“How can I put this? Christmas ornaments, drywall and Jerry Epstein [sic] — name three things that don’t hang themselves. That’s what the American people think, and they deserve some answers,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told Sawyer.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also fueled the theory that Epstein’s death may have involved foul play.
“What happened to Jeffrey Epstein is an enormous black eye for the BOP,” Cruz said, referring to the Bureau of Prisons, “and yet he died in federal custody. He died in federal custody before he had a chance to testify about his crimes, about his wrongdoings, and about the other powerful men who were complicit in that sexual abuse. ... There were powerful men who wanted Jeffrey Epstein silenced.”
Epstein, who served a year in prison after a conviction in 2008 on charges related to trafficking underage girls for prostitution, has been linked socially to many prominent figures in politics, business and academia. Women who were teenagers in the early 2000s have alleged that they were trafficked to older men by Epstein or his associates. Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom, who was friendly with Epstein in those years, gave an interview last week in which he denied that Epstein supplied him with women.
Yet when Cruz asked Sawyer directly whether there was any evidence to suggest Epstein was murdered, the BOP director agreed with the assessment of the medical examiner.
“There’s no indication, from anything I know, that it was anything other than a suicide,” Sawyer responded.
Tuesday’s hearing came on the same day that the two correctional officers who were on duty in Epstein’s cellblock the night of his death were charged with falsifying records. Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, the two guards, allegedly failed to check on Epstein twice an hour as required.
“As alleged, the defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Tuesday. “Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction.”
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