U.S. charges two jail guards over Jeffrey Epstein death

U.S. charges two jail guards over Jeffrey Epstein death
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled criminal charges accusing two correctional officers of falsifying records on the night financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in a New York jail cell.

Tova Noel and Michael Thomas were charged in an indictment with making false records and conspiracy, in connection with their actions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan.

Epstein, 66, a well-connected money manager, was found unresponsive in his cell on Aug. 10 at the MCC.

His suicide came a little over a month after he was arrested and charged with trafficking dozens of underage girls as young as 14 from at least 2002 to 2005. Epstein had pleaded not guilty.

(Reporting by New York Newsroom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bernadette Baum and Chris Reese)

U.S. judge wants quick review of sealed documents tied to Epstein

Attorney Sigrid McCawley, lawyer for Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, speaks outside Manhattan Federal Court following a hearing in a defamation lawsuit filed by one of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, in New York, U.S., September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan R Smith

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York federal judge said on Wednesday she would move quickly in deciding whether to unseal hundreds of court documents linked to financier Jeffrey Epstein, who died last month while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The documents are part of a civil lawsuit filed by one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, against Epstein’s former associate, Ghislaine Maxwell. Giuffre has said Epstein and Maxwell trafficked her for sex while she was a teenager.

Giuffre sued Maxwell in 2015 and accused the British socialite of defaming her by calling her a liar. Maxwell has denied the claims, and the case settled on undisclosed terms earlier this year.

More than 900 court filings in the case remained secret until early August, when a federal appeals court unsealed about 2,000 pages of documents. The court ordered U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska to review each of the remaining documents to determine whether they should be unsealed.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Preska gave Giuffre, Maxwell and other interested parties two weeks to divide the documents into three categories. Preska said one category of documents – those that could have been used by a judge to decide core issues in the case – are most likely to be unsealed.

The parties will then will have a chance to make arguments about what should be public and what should remain secret.

Jeffrey Pagliuca, Maxwell’s lawyer, said at the hearing that the documents contained “hundreds” of names of people who would need to be notified and given a chance to object before they were made public.

On Tuesday, lawyers for an anonymous man urged Preska in a letter to keep the names of people who were not parties to the lawsuit secret.

Epstein was arrested on July 6 and pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges. Prosecutors said he recruited numerous underage girls to give him massages and then sexually abused them.

The wealthy 66-year-old money manager was found dead on Aug. 10 in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan. An autopsy concluded that he hanged himself.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Paul Simao)

Jeffrey Epstein autopsy report shows broken neck: Washington Post

FILE PHOTO: U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout/File Photo via REUTERS.

By Karen Freifeld and Rich McKay

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An autopsy of the financier Jeffrey Epstein, who died in an apparent suicide while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, found his neck had been broken in several places, the Washington Post reported late on Wednesday.

Such injuries can occur to people who hang themselves or who are strangled. The newspaper cited unidentified sources familiar with the autopsy’s results.

Epstein, a multi-millionaire and convicted sexual offender, was found dead in his jail cell in New York City on Saturday. The circumstances of his death are under investigation, and it was unclear when a report of the autopsy would be made public.

A representative of the New York Medical Examiner’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It was unclear if the medical examiner had made a final determination into how Epstein died. NBC News cited an unnamed source as saying Epstein’s body was claimed by an associate.

Dr. Zhongxue Hua, the Bergen County medical examiner in New Jersey, said a neck fracture was atypical in a suicide, but warned not to jump to conclusions.

“It’s unusual to have a neck fracture,” Hua said. “But the first question to address is when did it occur.”

If Epstein’s neck fracture was fresh, Hua said, then “at a minimum, it’s a very unusual suicide.”

Hua said he was familiar with Barbara Sampson, the chief New York medical examiner, and Michael Baden, a doctor who observed Epstein’s autopsy.

“The case is in two sets of top-notch hands,” he said. “Both have the highest integrity.”

Epstein, 66, who once counted Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former President Bill Clinton as friends, was found unresponsive in his cell on Saturday morning, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

A source told Reuters previously that he was found hanging by the neck.

Epstein had pleaded not guilty in July to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls between 2002 and 2005. Prosecutors said he recruited and paid girls to give him massages, which became sexual in nature.

Attorney General William Barr has said the criminal investigation into any possible co-conspirators would continue.

Barr, whose agency oversees the Bureau of Prisons, has also demanded an investigation into Epstein’s death and ordered the removal of the prison’s warden.

The disgraced financier had been on suicide watch at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan but was taken off prior to his death, according to a source who was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Epstein was alone in a cell when he was found hanging there.

At the MCC, two jail guards are required to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed overnight, the source said.

Separately, a team at the jail on Wednesday began an “after-action” review, which is normally triggered by significant events such as a prominent inmate’s death, a person familiar with the matter said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Darren Schuettler and John Stonestreet)

New York coroner ‘confident’ Epstein’s death was suicide: New York Times

An exterior view of the Metropolitan Correctional Center jail where financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., August 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

(Reuters) – New York City’s chief medical examiner is confident Jeffrey Epstein died by hanging himself in the jail cell where he was being held without bail on sex-trafficking charges, but is awaiting more information before releasing her determination, the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing a city official.

An autopsy was performed earlier in the day on the disgraced financier found unresponsive on Saturday in a New York City jail, chief medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said. A private pathologist observed the autopsy on behalf of Epstein’s representatives, which she called “routine practice.”

A determination on the cause of death “is pending further information at this time,” Sampson said in a statement.

The suspicion in Epstein’s death was hanging, said a city official not authorized to speak on the record.

The Times did not say why it could not identify the source of information on the medical examiner’s likely determination of the cause of death.

Epstein, 66, was not on suicide watch at the time in his cell in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), a source said.

Epstein, a well-connected money manager, was found hanging by his neck, according to the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

The wealthy financier, who once counted Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former President Bill Clinton as friends, was arrested on July 6 and pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14, from at least 2002 to 2005.

The FBI and the Department of Justice’s Inspector General opened investigations into his suicide while he was in federal custody.

Last month, Epstein was found unconscious on the floor of his jail cell with marks on his neck, and officials were investigating that incident as a possible suicide or assault.

Despite that incident, Epstein was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, and he was alone in a cell in the unit of the correctional center used to isolate vulnerable prisoners when his body was found.

It was not immediately clear why Epstein was taken off suicide watch, a special set of procedures for inmates who are deemed to be at risk of taking their own lives.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which operates the MCC, provided no explanation beyond its terse statement that Epstein was found dead in an apparent suicide.

His death touched off outrage from Attorney General William Barr, politicians and many of Epstein’s alleged victims, who fear that they may lose their day in court now that Epstein is dead.

That investigation into conduct described in the indictment, including the conspiracy count, will continue despite Epstein’s death, Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, said on Saturday.

The indictment – which accused Epstein of knowingly recruiting underage women to engage in sex acts, sometimes over a period of years – came more than a decade after he pleaded guilty in Florida to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor in a deal with prosecutors that has been widely criticized as too lenient.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Rigby)

Epstein’s accusers urge U.S. judge to keep him jailed until sex trafficking trial

Jeffrey Epstein (L) looks on as lawyer Martin Weinberg speaks during a a bail hearing in U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking case, in this court sketch in New York, U.S., July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two women who say they are victims of sexual misconduct by American financier Jeffrey Epstein on Monday urged a U.S. judge to keep him in jail while he awaits trial on charges of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls.

“He’s a scary person,” one of the women, Courtney Wild, told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in federal court in Manhattan.

Wild and another accuser, Annie Farmer, spoke at the end of a hearing in which prosecutors argued that Epstein, 66, posed an “extraordinary risk of flight” and danger to the community and must remain in jail.

Epstein, who has pleaded not guilty, has asked to be allowed to live under house arrest with armed guard at his expense in his mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which is valued at $77 million.

The hedge fund manager had a social circle that over the years has included Donald Trump before he became U.S. president, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew.

Berman said he would probably announce his bail decision on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT), saying he needed more time to absorb the case.

Lawyers for Epstein said their client, who wore dark blue jail scrubs in court, has had an unblemished record since he pleaded guilty more than a decade ago to a state prostitution charge in Florida and agreed to register as a sex offender.

Critics have called that plea deal, which let Epstein avoid federal prosecution, too lenient.

Epstein is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a fortress-like jail that has been criticized by inmates and lawyers for harsh conditions.

He pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy charges on July 8, two days after his arrest at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, where he had flown back on his private plane from Paris. Epstein faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

Epstein is accused of arranging for girls under the age of 18 to perform nude “massages” and other sex acts, and of paying some girls to recruit others, from at least 2002 to 2005.

A prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller, on Monday told the judge that a search of Epstein’s home uncovered nude images of underage girls, including at least one who claimed to be among the financier’s victims.

The prosecutor also said one item seized was a passport that appeared to have been issued by a foreign country in the 1980s that containing Epstein’s photo, but someone else’s name.

Last week, prosecutors said in a court filing that Epstein made payments to potential witnesses last year in an apparent effort to influence them.

One of his lawyers, Martin Weinberg, told Berman on Monday that Epstein needed to be out of jail so he and his lawyers could prepare their defense.

In 2016, Berman rejected a similar bail proposal from Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab to let him live in an apartment under the watch of privately funded guards, saying wealthy defendants should not be allowed to “buy their way out of prison by constructing their own private jail.”

The judge expressed similar skepticism on Monday, noting that all defendants have the same right to prepare their defense as Epstein.

“If that’s the standard, then what are we going to tell all those people who can’t make the $500 or $1,000 bail?” he said.

Under the Florida agreement, Epstein served 13 months in a county jail, but was allowed to go to his office during the day.

A federal judge ruled in February that the agreement violated a federal law on crime victims’ rights.

Alex Acosta, who as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida oversaw Epstein’s earlier deal, resigned on Friday as Trump’s Secretary of Labor, saying he did not want to be a distraction for the White House.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)