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Investigators Look Into Whether Jeffrey Epstein's Guards May Have Been Sleeping, Sources Say

A federal judge has questioned the warden at the MCC, who has been temporarily reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation

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    Judge Questions Warden Over Initial Epstein Suicide Attempt

    The federal judge is asking the warden at the MCC why Epstein was taken off suicide watch after the first reported suicide attempt, in an effort to learn more about what led up to the night when the accused pedophile hanged himself. NBC 4 New York's Jonathan Dienst reports.

    (Published Friday, Aug. 16, 2019)

    Investigators are looking into whether two guards tasked with checking on Jeffrey Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center the night of his death may have been sleeping when the accused sex trafficker apparently hanged himself in his cell, two officials familiar with the investigation tell NBC New York.

    The investigators are questioning if the times recorded for checks on the accused pedophile are accurate or if they were falsified, the sources said. Correction officers at the Manhattan prison were supposed to check on Epstein about every 30 minutes. Investigators have learned those checks weren't done for a "number of hours" before Epstein was found with a bed sheet tied around his neck, according to an official.

    Now investigators are reviewing security camera footage to see if it matches up with what was recorded in the guards’ logs, according to sources. If it is not, then federal charges could be filed against the officers.

    "If someone did not check in on someone and the log books indicated they had, they could be charged with making a false statement to the federal government — which is a felony,” said former FBI Supervisor Tim Gallagher.

    The Associated Press reports that surveillance video reviewed after Epstein’s death showed guards never made some of the checks they claimed to have done in the logs, according to a source who wasn’t authorized to disclose information and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    Two sources said that investigators are looking to see whether one or both of the guards might have been sleeping while on the job — but no determination has yet been made.

    The two MCC staff assigned to Epstein's unit have been placed on administrative leave, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said, adding that "additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant."

    According to two officials familiar with the MCC, the wing where Epstein was housed was properly staffed the night of his apparent suicide. One of the correction officers on duty at the time had recently taken a promotion to an administrative position, but was fully trained and had been a guard for seven years.

    A team is being sent to the MCC on Wednesday to see what may have gone wrong at the facility to lead to Epstein’s suicide, according to a DOJ official. There will also be a psych team sent to the prison to look at Epstein’s possible mental state before he was found dead.

    The new information comes the same day the DOJ spokesperson said U.S. Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to temporarily reassign the Metropolitan Correctional Center's warden pending the outcome of federal investigations into Epstein's apparent suicide. The warden, identified by union officials as Lamine N'Diaye, will be at the northeast regional office of the U.S. BOP for the time being.

    Also on Tuesday, an FDNY spokesperson told NBC News it completed its review of a 4chan message board posting regarding Jeffrey Epstein's death and determined it did not come from within the department.

    The posting was under review -- not under investigation -- to determine whether it was legitimate and whether or not it could have come from FDNY records, the spokesperson said. Despite reports, the FDNY confirms its records do not match the records posted to the anonymous online forum.

    The post on 4chan specifically referenced Epstein before his apparent suicide was made public, and contained information medically consistent -- in medically accurate terms -- about someone who had cardiac arrest, as Epstein did.

    The FDNY has not concluded, and NBC News has not confirmed, that the posting is authentic and legitimate.

    Epstein, 66, was found Saturday morning in his cell at the MCC, which houses some of the nation's most notorious inmates, including Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Paul Manafort. At the time of Epstein's death, he was being held without bail and faced up to 45 years in prison on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month. Epstein had pleaded not guilty.

    Barr at a police conference on Monday said that he was "frankly angry to learn of the MCC's failure to adequately secure this prisoner."

    He added: "We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability."

    One open question is what happened in late July, when Epstein was found injured in a fetal position in his cell. According to court documents released Wednesday, the MCC's warden notified Judge Richard Berman on August 10 that Epstein had died and that his death would be investigated.

    Berman wrote back August 12 asking whether the earlier incident would be investigated as well, as "it has never been definitively explained what the BOP concluded about that incident." The warden responded that same day, saying the bureau had completed an investigation into the July incident, but that it was now being incorporated into the ongoing FBI proobe.

    "Accordingly, I cannot divulge any information about the prior investigation at this time," the warden said.

    Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have shifted their focus to possible charges against anyone who assisted or enabled Epstein in his alleged sex crimes as agents searched Epstein's private island home off the coast of St. Thomas in the Caribbean.

    "Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit," Barr said at a law enforcement conference in New Orleans. "The victims deserve justice, and they will get it."

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.