NEW YORK — The FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office will investigate how Jeffrey Epstein died in an apparent suicide Saturday, while the investigation into sexual abuse allegations against the well-connected financier remains ongoing, officials said.

Epstein, accused of orchestrating a sex-trafficking ring and sexually abusing dozens of underage girls, had been taken off suicide watch before he killed himself in a New York jail, a person familiar with the matter said.

Attorney General William Barr, in announcing the investigation, said he was “appalled” to learn of Epstein’s death while in federal custody.

“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement.

Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell Saturday morning at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Fire officials received a call at 6:39 a.m. Saturday that Epstein was in cardiac arrest, and he was pronounced dead at New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital.

Epstein, 66, had been denied bail and faced up to 45 years behind bars on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month. He had pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial.

The federal investigation into the allegations remains steadfast, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. He noted in a statement Saturday that the indictment against Epstein includes a conspiracy charge, suggesting others could face charges in the case.

Epstein had been placed on suicide watch and given daily psychiatric evaluations after an incident a little over two weeks ago in which he was found with bruising on his neck, according to the person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly. It hasn’t been confirmed whether the injury was self-inflicted or the result of an assault.

Epstein was taken off suicide watch at the end of July, the person said.

The Bureau of Prisons confirmed that he had been housed in the jail’s Special Housing Unit, a heavily secured part of the facility that separates high-profile inmates from the general population. Until recently, the same unit had been home to the Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is now serving a life sentence at the so-called Supermax prison in Colorado.

Epstein’s death raises questions about how the Bureau of Prisons ensures the welfare of such high-profile inmates. In October, Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was killed in a federal prison in West Virginia where had just been transferred.

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote Saturday in a scathing letter to Barr that “heads must roll” after the incident.

“Every single person in the Justice Department — from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer — knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him,” Sasse wrote.

Cameron Lindsay, a former warden who ran three federal lockups, said the death represents “an unfortunate and shocking failure, if proven to be a suicide.”

“Unequivocally, he should have been on active suicide watch and therefore under direct and constant supervision,” Lindsay said.

Epstein’s removal from suicide watch would have been approved by both the warden of the jail and the facility’s chief psychologist, said Jack Donson, a former prison official who worked for the Bureau of Prisons for more than two decades.

An attorney for Jeffrey Epstein, Marc Fernich, said in a statement that jailers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center failed to protect Epstein and to prevent the “calamity” of his death.

Fernich also said that reporters, plaintiffs’ lawyers and court officials “should be ashamed of their behavior” following Epstein’s indictment. He said Epstein had “long since paid his debt to society” for his crimes.

Epstein’s arrest last month launched separate investigations into how authorities handled his case initially when similar charges were first brought against him in Florida more than a decade ago. U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last month after coming under fire for overseeing that deal when he was U.S. attorney in Miami.

On Friday, more than 2,000 pages of documents were released related to a since-settled lawsuit against Epstein’s ex-girlfriend by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers. The records contain graphic allegations against Epstein, as well as the transcript of a 2016 deposition of Epstein in which he repeatedly refused to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself.

Sigrid McCawley, Giuffre’s attorney, said Epstein’s suicide less than 24 hours after the documents were unsealed “is no coincidence.” McCawley urged authorities to continue their investigation, focusing on Epstein associates who she said “participated and facilitated Epstein’s horrifying sex trafficking scheme.”

Other accusers and their lawyers reacted to the news with frustration that the financier won’t have to face them in court.

“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed the pain and trauma he caused so many people,” accuser Jennifer Araoz said in a statement.

Brad Edwards, a Florida lawyer for nearly two dozen other accusers, said that “this is not the ending anyone was looking for.”

“The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused,” Edwards said in a statement.

Epstein’s arrest drew national attention, particularly focusing on a deal that allowed Epstein to plead guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida and avoid more serious federal charges.

Federal prosecutors in New York reopened the probe after investigative reporting by The Miami Herald stirred outrage over that plea bargain.

His lawyers maintained that the new charges in New York were covered by the 2008 plea deal and that Epstein hadn’t had any illicit contact with underage girls since serving his 13-month sentence in Florida.

Before his legal troubles, Epstein led a life of extraordinary luxury that drew powerful people into his orbit. He socialized with princes and presidents and lived on a 100-acre private Caribbean island and one of the biggest mansions in New York.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) comments

timothygaydos

Must be the Russians Joey and his wife Mika would never lie to us... well just maybe Jeffrey provided some information on tape or documents on his companions that took part in this scandal...

Russian

Why did the AG visit the jail shortly before Epstein was allowed to hang himself did he give the order to suspend surveillance video on Epstein’s cell?

Russian

Most Americans believe Putin before Trump or Barr.

MRS M

What I find most amusing in this terribly sad state of affairs, is that Trump threw out a "conspiracy theory" today tying this death to the Clintons, and ya got loyal Trump followers talking up and reporting and posting the same, so desperate in their thinking and so inbred in their devotion to this aberrant presidency that they are truly becoming the laughingstock of the world. Also interesting that yesterday, minutes after the story broke, Trump's hefty lapdog, personal fixer and AG of the United States of America William Barr was out making a statement about how "appalled" he was by this 'Suicide" in a Federal Prison under his jurisdiction.......though no medical examiner had determined that to be the case. Gotta get out in front of the story.....before "many people" start thinking this was a hit job..........or something. As for that nutcase Trump.........is there any Republican out there willing to stand up and state that the criteria to invoke the 25th Amendment has now been met?????

Russian

Let’s put him a cell with homicidal cop to ensure his safety.



W.Barr

public-redux

Our Great Patriot Leader must have put one of his best people in charge of the prison.

rikkitikkitavvi

The Russians did it as a favor to hillary for selling them 20% of Americas Uranium.

Samanthapowers

let her go already. what is your (and the other drumpfers) obsession with her? you care more about her than most dems. too funny. ps - bubba was the frequent visitor to that island - not her.

FCPS-Principal

So Bozo Barr is 'appalled' that an international kidnapper and human sex trafficker that used his tax deductible money to press young girls into prostitution for decades is dead? Well, why is he so 'appalled'? He isn't 'appalled' when innocent children in his own concentration camps along the southern border die. He isn't 'appalled' when innocent men and women in other camps fleeing drug gangs die under his custody. He isn't 'appalled' with the rash of Republican wingnut mass killings. In fact he doesn't seem 'appalled' at anything except the loss of a major Republican donor and friend. Therefore his alarm is as staged and phony as the Orange Baboon's phony condolences in El Paso the other day.

FCPS-Principal

So Sassy Sasse writes that 'heads must roll'?? Well, he didn't seem too concerned when children in ICE's concentration camps were dying. Why so much concern now that such a great Republican donor has died?

Samanthapowers

state sanctioned hit? a lot of powerful people have a lot to lose.

rikkitikkitavvi

The Clinton body count keeps getting larger.

Samanthapowers

sure does. they prefer the scorched earth approach.

FCPS-Principal

Who runs the state now, again?

MRS M

Exactly, Sam. Typical Mafia hit job ordered by Fat Donnie Bonespurs, carried out by Big Babyface "Billy" Barr. Lots of powerful AND VERY VERY WEALTHY people have a lot to lose.

Russian

We should send our condolences to the White House for the loss of a reliable friend.

TomWheatley

and the Clintons

FCPS-Principal

The White House doesn't want condolences. It wants Epstein silenced.

Russian

Trump has lost a very close friend must we embark on another witch-hunt by the DOJ?

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