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Jeffrey Epstein Not on Suicide Watch When He Died: Sources

Epstein's death comes less than a month after he was found injured and in a fetal position inside his cell at MCC

What to Know

  • Jeffrey Epstein has died by suicide at a jail in Manhattan, three sources tell NBC New York
  • Epstein was found dead Saturday morning, according to the sources. The sources say he hanged himself
  • Two sources familiar with the matter said Epstein was not on suicide watch when he died, adding that he was in his own cell.

Jeffrey Epstein was not on suicide watch when he was found unresponsive in his Manhattan jail cell on Saturday, sources tell NBC 4 New York, and the FBI says it plans to investigate his death. 

Epstein died "from an apparent suicide" and was found around 6:30 a.m. at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, the jail confirmed. The sources say he hanged himself. 

The accused pedophile was being held at the center as he awaited his trial for conspiracy and sex trafficking. The Manhattan District Attorney said Saturday that he remained committed to standing for the victims and the investigation -- which included a conspiracy count -- remains ongoing. 

Epstein's death comes less than a month after the convicted sex offender and wealthy Manhattan financier was found injured and in a fetal position inside his cell. At the time, it was not clear whether the injuries were self-inflicted or from an assault.

Multiple sources told News 4 that Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after the July incident. On Saturday, two sources familiar with the matter said Epstein was not on suicide watch when he died, adding that he was in his own cell.

Epstein underwent a psychiatric investigation after the July incident, which found he could be taken off suicide watch and he was sent back to his cell in the Special Housing Unit about two weeks ago, sources familiar with the investigation told NBC 4 New York. 

That cell has a metal door with a small window, through which guards are supposed to check on inmates twice an hour. 

The FBI is investigating, MCC said. In his own statement, Attorney General William Barr said the inspector general would also open an investigation "into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein's death." 

"I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody," Barr said. "Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered."

One of Epstein's lawyers released a statement criticizing "overzealous prosecutors," "pandering politicians," "complaint judges," and a "hysterical press corps," among others. 

Marc Fernich, who said he wasn't speaking for the entire defense team, said Epstein "had the misfortune to be a wealthy man in the #metoo era." 

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 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.

The 66-year-old had pleaded not guilty and was facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

The 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.

But his lawyers maintained that the new charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York were covered by the deal and were improper.

They said he hasn'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 island in the Caribbean and one of the biggest mansions in New York. A college dropout, he became a sought-after benefactor of professors and scientists, donating millions of dollars in donations to Harvard University and other causes.

Still, it was never entirely clear how the middle-class Brooklyn math whiz became a Wall Street master of high finance.

The somewhat reclusive Epstein splashed into the news in 2002 after a New York tabloid reported he had lent his Boeing 727 to ferry former President Bill Clinton and other notables on an AIDS relief mission to Africa.

Magazine profiles followed and established Epstein's reputation as a stealthy yet exorbitantly successful money man with a gilded social circle and a somewhat ascetic streak.

Vanity Fair in 2003 described him entertaining real estate tycoons, business executives and the scions of some of America's wealthiest families at his New York mansion - while also spending 75 minutes a day practicing yoga with a personal instructor and eschewing email, alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

His friends over the years have included Donald Trump, Britain's Prince Andrew and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

But Epstein also enjoyed surrounding himself with women much younger than he, including Russian models who attended his cocktail parties and beautiful women he flew aboard his plane, according to the Vanity Fair profile.

Epstein's death is likely to raise 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 he 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.


If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 'Home' to 741741

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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