Two federal prison guards were arrested in connection to the death of Jeffrey Epstein at a New York jail, Reuters reports.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in his jail cell in August at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC). He was facing charges of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls.
An autopsy concluded that Epstein hanged himself, though Epstein’s family and attorneys have expressed skepticism about the conclusions.
The last suicide at MCC was in 2006.
Guards blamed for death:
Reuters reported that MCC guards failed to check on Epstein every 30 minutes as required. Two cameras outside the cell also malfunctioned.
Epstein, who reportedly tried to commit suicide earlier, was taken off suicide watch shortly before his death.
Guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas were charged with making false records and conspiring to defraud the United States, The New York Times reported.
The indictment says they “sat at their desk, browsed the internet and moved around the common area,” but signed forms saying they checked on inmates.
“The defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center,” prosecutor Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction.”
Jose Rojas of the prison worker’s union said the guards violated policies but not the law.
“There’s culpability at the top,” Rojas told The Times. “They always try to blame the lowest person on the totem pole.”
Longstanding prison issues blamed:
The MCC facility had been short-staffed long before Epstein’s death. Both guards charged were working overtime after having already pulled multiple overtime shifts that week. One of the guards was forced to work a 16-hour double shift.
“Some prisons have been so pressed for guards that they have forced teachers, nurses and other support staff to step in. That can lead to security risks because substitute workers are often less familiar with the inmate population than regular guards and can miss cues indicating that trouble is brewing,” The Times reported.