Attorney General William Barr said Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged conspirators “should not rest easy” after the accused sex trafficker’s apparent suicide in federal custody, warning federal investigators were still probing the disgraced financier's accused crimes.
Speaking at a police conference in New Orleans, the attorney general said there were “serious irregularities” within the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York, where Epstein was awaiting trial.
“This case was very important to the Department. It was important to the dedicated prosecutors and agents who investigated the case and were preparing it for trial,” he said. “Most importantly, this case was important to the victims who had the courage to come forward and deserved the opportunity to confront the accused in court.”
Epstein, 66, was facing new charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy after years of allegations he operated an international sex trafficking ring. He pleaded not guilty and was slated to stand for trial next year.
The federal correctional centre “failed to adequately secure this prisoner”, Mr Barr said, while declining to provide specific details.
Meanwhile, conspiracy theories claiming Epstein was either murdered or escaped prison continued to spread, with even Donald Trump retweeting posts linking the death to former President Bill Clinton, who was once a friend of Epstein - as was the current president.
Mr Barr said: “I was appalled — indeed, the entire Department was — and frankly angry, to learn of the [Metropolitan Correctional Centre’s] failure to adequately secure this prisoner. We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and that demand a thorough investigation.
“The FBI and Office of Inspector General are already doing just that,” he added. “We will get to the bottom of what happened at the [Metropolitan Correctional Centre] and we will hold people accountable for this failure.”
Mr Barr said the case “will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein”, adding: “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and we will ensure they get it.”
The New York medical examiner conducted an autopsy to determine the cause of Epstein’s death, and announced it required additional information before making an official determination.
Epstein’s abrupt death on Saturday cut short a criminal prosecution that could have pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of a high-flying financier with connections to celebrities and presidents, though prosecutors have vowed to continue investigating.
The death led to wild speculation that Epstein had become the target of his wealthy and powerful connections, who the rumours said ordered his death in federal custody. The allegations were exacerbated by the president’s incendiary retweets and other critical statements about the death.
A guy who had information that would have destroyed rich and powerful men’s lives ends up dead in his jail cell. How predictably...Russian.— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC)August 10, 2019
The conspiracy theories weren’t only purported by the right, however: NBC’s morning show host Joe Scarborough tweeted: “A guy who had information that would have destroyed rich and powerful men’s lives ends up dead in his jail cell. How predictably...Russian.”
Others also questioned the circumstances of the death, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who told reporters it was “way too convenient” that Epstein now would not face justice.
"What a lot of us want to know is, what did he know?" he said. "How many other millionaires and billionaires were part of the illegal activities that he was engaged in?"
Other viral conspiracy theories spread like wildfire during the weekend, including one shared by the popular band Foster The People, which claimed Epstein was “on a private plane to somewhere in the middle east getting prepped for plastic surgery right now”.
Epstein had been denied bail after the charges were unsealed last month.
Additional reporting by AP