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Crime Guards Accused of Napping and Shopping Online the Night Epstein Died

00:50  20 november  2019
00:50  20 november  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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The night that Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in a Manhattan jail, one of the guards on duty was catching up on sports news and looking at motorcycle sales on a government computer. The other spent time shopping online for furniture. For about two hours, they appeared to be asleep at a desk

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 Guards accused of shopping online the night Epstein died | Sky UAE News #Sky_UAE_News.

The night that Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in a Manhattan jail, one of the guards on duty was catching up on sports news and looking at motorcycle sales on a government computer. The other spent time shopping online for furniture. For about two hours, they appeared to be asleep at a desk just 15 feet away from Mr. Epstein’s cell.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.© Haruka Sakaguchi for The New York Times The Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

Those details were revealed in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday against the two jail employees. The indictment said neither guard made the required rounds every 30 minutes to check on inmates. Yet both filed paperwork claiming they had.

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Two jail guards responsible for monitoring Jeffrey Epstein the night he killed himself were sleeping and browsing the internet instead, according to Instead of making required rounds every 30 minutes, guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas sat at their desks just 15 feet from Epstein ’s cell, shopped

They were tasked with guarding Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City the night he killed himself. Two correctional officers who were responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein on the night he hanged himself were allegedly shopping online for furniture and napping instead of

The entire night, from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., security cameras showed that nobody entered the wing where Mr. Epstein had been left alone in his cell, the indictment said. The guards, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, only discovered Mr. Epstein was dead when they entered the area to serve him breakfast.

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“I messed up,” Mr. Thomas reportedly told a supervisor just minutes later, according to the indictment.

On Tuesday, Mr. Thomas, 41, and Ms. Noel, 31, became the first people to face charges stemming from a criminal investigation into the death of Mr. Epstein, the disgraced financier who the authorities say killed himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan where he was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.

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Two federal prison officers tasked with guarding Jeffrey Epstein the night he hanged himself were charged Tuesday with falsely claiming they’d checked on inmates — when, instead, they allegedly spent much of the night doing some online shopping and, apparently, napping .

The guards faced harsh scrutiny after Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on August 10, after failing to The guard , a man not identified by officials, had previously been trained as a corrections officer but had moved to another position.

The indictment against the two guards laid out, for the first time, a detailed, official narrative of what happened inside the high-security unit where Mr. Epstein died. Prosecutors painted a picture of two experienced correctional officers who failed to perform their basic duties.

“The defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center,” Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement. “Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction.”

Ms. Noel, 31, and Mr. Thomas, 41, were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and with making false records. They both surrendered to the F.B.I. on Tuesday morning and pleaded not guilty at a hearing in United States District Court in Manhattan in the afternoon. Bail was set at $100,000 each.

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The corrections officers accused of sleeping and shopping online the night of Jeffrey Epstein ’s suicide face a two-week trial starting April 20. Tova Noel and Michael Thomas have pleaded not guilty to charges they filed false paperwork while on duty in the Special Housing Unit at Metropolitan

The federal indictment against two prison guards on duty the night Jeffrey Epstein died provides a detailed breakdown of what was going on in the final hours of his life.

Instead of monitoring detainees, the two “sat at their desk, browsed the internet and moved around the common area,” the indictment said. They then signed “count sheets” saying they had checked on inmates multiple times overnight when they had not.

Mr. Epstein, 66, had been in custody for more than a month when he was found dead on Aug. 10, having hanged himself from a bunk bed with a strip of bedsheet. New York City’s chief medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.

Lawyers for Mr. Epstein have challenged that finding, and a forensic pathologist hired by Mr. Epstein’s family has claimed that broken bones and cartilage in Mr. Epstein’s neck “points to homicide.”

But the indictment appeared to back up the medical examiner’s finding. It said that the two correction officers on duty were the only people who would have had access to the ninth-floor “special housing unit” where Mr. Epstein was being held.

Security camera video showed two other officers entered the unit’s common area during the night and spoke to the guards, but no one entered the locked block of eight cells where Mr. Epstein was housed.

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Trial for prison guards who were on duty the night Jeffrey Epstein killed himself is postponed for two New York City's top medical examiner called Epstein 's death a suicide. Epstein died at the age of 66 They are also accused of falsely signing off that they had carried out more than 75 separate

Three weeks before Mr. Epstein’s death, he had been found injured on the floor of his cell with a bedsheet wrapped around his neck in what appeared to be a suicide attempt. Mr. Thomas was one of the officers who found him, according to the indictment.

Mr. Epstein was then placed on a 24-hour suicide watch in a hospital wing until July 30. He was subsequently required to have a cellmate and was assigned to the cell closest to the correction officers’ desk in the special housing unit.

But on Aug. 9, the day before Mr. Epstein was found dead, his cellmate was transferred out in a “routine, prearranged transfer,” the indictment said.

That evening, Ms. Noel and Mr. Thomas were both working overtime shifts. Ms. Noel had been working as a correction officer in the Manhattan jail since 2016. Mr. Thomas started there as a correction officer in 2007, and though he was assigned to another position within the jail in 2013, he frequently worked overtime shifts as an officer, the indictment said.

Mr. Epstein was escorted into his cell by Ms. Noel and another guard shortly before 8 p.m., according to the indictment. By 10 p.m., inmates were locked in their cells for the night.

At around 10:30 p.m., surveillance footage showed Ms. Noel walking up to the only door to the cluster of cells where Mr. Epstein was housed, the indictment said. Over the next few hours, nobody approached the wing, including Ms. Noel and Mr. Thomas. They were supposed to check in on Mr. Epstein and other inmates every half-hour.

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Both guards falsified records to cover up what they had done, according to the indictment. Ms. Noel signed more than 75 entries that night suggesting she had conducted 30-minute checks.

The next morning, when Ms. Noel and Mr. Thomas entered Mr. Epstein’s cell, they found him unresponsive “with a noose around his neck,” according to the indictment. When a supervisor arrived, the guards admitted they had not properly performed their duties.

“We did not complete the 3 a.m. nor 5 a.m. rounds,” Ms. Noel said, according to the indictment.

Mr. Thomas said, “She’s not to blame, we didn’t do any rounds.”

The director of the Bureau of Prisons, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, said in a statement that the agency was taking the allegations of misconduct “very seriously” and they “will be responded to appropriately.”

The Bureau of Prisons has completed its own internal audit of whether procedures were followed at the Manhattan jail and the conduct of its staff, but the results are not expected to be publicly released, according to people familiar with the audit.

Mr. Thomas’s lawyer, Montell Figgins, said his client was being singled out for blame while senior officials at the Bureau of Prisons were not being held accountable for what he called “fundamental lapses in the organization and management” of the agency.

“My client feels that there was a rush to judgment in this matter and that he’s being scapegoated,” Mr. Figgins said.

A lawyer for Ms. Noel, Jason E. Foy, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jose Rojas, an official in the prison workers’ union and a teacher at the Coleman prison complex in Sumter County, Fla., said that, although he did not condone falsifying records, the two prison staff members were being scapegoated for Mr. Epstein’s death.

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Mr. Rojas said missing rounds and doctoring records were not generally treated as a criminal matter in the bureau. And, he said, there was blame to go around, pointing to the prison’s failure to assign Mr. Epstein another cellmate the day he died.

“There’s culpability at the top,” Mr. Rojas said. “They always try to blame the lowest person on the totem pole.”

The Manhattan jail had been short staffed for quite some time, reflecting a larger shortage of correctional officers in federal facilities across the country. On the night when Mr. Epstein died, Ms. Noel had been scheduled to work a 16-hour double shift. Mr. Thomas had volunteered to work, having already done several tours of overtime that week.

“Simply assigning blame will not correct the staff shortages that put this chain of events in place,” said Tyrone Covington, president of the local union that represents employees at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

He called the indictment “a mask to cover up the true issues” and said it was meant “to create a narrative that government has taken action.”

As the indictment was announced in New York, Ms. Sawyer testified in Washington before the Senate Judiciary Committee, telling lawmakers that the agency was trying to identify problem employees and monitoring cameras to make sure staff members were doing their jobs.

When asked if there was a widespread problem of Bureau of Prisons employees sleeping on the job, she said that there were “a few.”

Katie Benner, Nicole Hong, William K. Rashbaum and Ali Watkins contributed reporting.

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