WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal judge who presided over Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking case said it was unthinkable any detainee, especially one as controversial and high profile as Epstein, could die behind bars without guards taking notice.
Judge Richard Berman expressed shock over the wealthy financier’s death – ruled a suicide by medical examiners – and suggested, in a letter to The New York Times, that prison authorities failed in their duty to protect all inmates.
“We all agree that it is unthinkable that any detainee … would die unnoticed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. It is the job of the Bureau of Prisons to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates,” the judge added.
The judge also pointed to unanswered questions about the guards on duty at the time of Epstein’s suicide, arguing that a pair of lawsuits filed against them last week will not provide answers.
“The indictment of two Metropolitan Correctional Center guards for not checking on inmates on the night of Jeffrey Epstein’s death is not the full accounting to which Mr. Epstein’s family, his alleged victims and the public are entitled,” Berman wrote.
The guards tasked with keeping tabs on Epstein, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, reportedly fell asleep on duty for at least three hours on the day of his death, forging records for checkups they didn’t actually perform. They are both currently on administrative leave and face charges for conspiracy and falsifying records.
Berman added that “chronic understaffing” and other serious problems in the US prison system may have contributed to Epstein’s death, and called for an “in-depth evaluation of prison conditions” and “appropriate reforms”.
Epstein was found dead in his prison cell in August while awaiting trial for federal sex trafficking charges, for which he potentially faced decades behind bars. His death has generated a spate of conspiracy theories online, fueled in part by the financier’s Rolodex of rich and powerful acquaintances, which included billionaires, US presidents and even British royalty.