Jeffrey Epstein jail guards charged with falsifying records


Cbsnews Two correctional officers responsible for guarding accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein the day he died by  suicide have been charged with falsifying prison records, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday. The guards, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, surrendered to federal authorities Tuesday morning.

Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell August 10 at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused a number of underage girls. The medical examiner’s office ruled his death a suicide by hanging on August 16, but the death raised questions about how he could have died under supervision.

Epstein was put on suicide watch the month before he died after he was found with a strip of bedsheet around his neck on July 23, according to the indictment. Epstein was placed on suicide watch for about 24 hours and then on psychological observation for a week before he was placed into a high-security housing unit where he was supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes. The guards are accused of failing to conduct the checks as required and falsifying jail records claiming they had, the indictment says.

The guards were both working overtime shifts where Epstein was housed in the correctional center’s “special housing unit,” an area where prisoners are separated from the general population for safety, according to a federal indictment. They have been placed on leave.

Epstein was assigned to a cell closest to the correctional officers’ desk, about 15 feet away, according to the indictment. He was ordered by the facility’s psychological staff to have an assigned cellmate. But Epstein’s cellmate was transferred out of his cell in a “routine, pre-arranged transfer” on August 9.

Federal prosecutors allege that for large portions of their shifts that night, Noel and Thomas “sat at their desk, browsed the internet, and moved around the common area of the [special housing unit.]” For a period of about two hours, they sat at their desks without moving and appeared to be asleep, according to the indictment.

In addition to the 30-minute checks on each inmate, the guards were required to conduct an “institutional check” to account for each inmate five times daily. But according to the indictment, no inmates in the unit received the necessary checks from about 10:30 the night of August 9 to 6:30 a.m. the morning of August 10, when Epstein was found unresponsive.

The indictment calls the institutional check “one of the most basic and essential aspects of a correctional officer’s job.”

The guards found Epstein unresponsive with a noose around his neck at about 6:30 a.m., according to the indictment.  An alarm was sounded in the unit and Noel told a responding supervisor, “Epstein hung himself,” the document says. Noel admitted they didn’t complete the 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. rounds.

Thomas allegedly told the supervisor,  “We messed up,” and then said, “I messed up, she’s not to blame, we didn’t do any rounds.”

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