Two corrections officers who were supposed to be guarding the billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein when he killed himself in his New York City jail cell have been charged with conspiracy and falsifying records.
Toval Noel and Michael Thomas are accused of failing to perform checks on Epstein every half hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to show that they had, according to a grand jury indictment.
Epstein was being held in his Metropolitan Correctional Center cell as he awaited trial on federal sex trafficking charges. Instead of watching Epstein, the officers ― both working overtime ― browsed the internet, sat at their desks and moved around the unit’s common area for “substantial portions of their shifts,” according to the indictment. They appeared to be asleep at their desks for approximately two hours, the indictment said.
No one checked on inmates in the jail’s Special Housing Unit, where Epstein was held, from 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 until 6:30 a.m. the following morning, when Epstein was found dead in his cell, according to prosecutors.
The medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide.
Jeenah Moon / Reuters A medical examiner vehicle is seen outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center jail where financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead on August 10.
Noel has been employed as an MCC correctional officer since 2016, and Thomas since 2007, according to the indictment.
Both officers turned down a plea deal that would have required them to admit that they falsified the prison records, The Associated Press reported last week.
The indictment appears to address persistent conspiracy theories about Epstein’s death, saying that Noel and Thomas were the only two officers working at the time in the jail’s Special Housing Unit, where Epstein was held.
“Aside from those two officers, as confirmed by video surveillance, no one else entered the SHU, no one conducted any counts or rounds throughout the night, and no one entered the tier in which Epstein was housed,” the indictment says.
Handout . / Reuters Epstein was facing federal sex trafficking charges when he was found dead in his jail cell.
The indictment adds that Noel allegedly told a supervisor that the guards did not complete their rounds. Thomas, the document added, said, “We messed up … we didn’t do any rounds.”
Bureau of Prisons Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer issued a statement Tuesday that didn’t address whether the two officers would face discipline.
“Any allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously by the agencyand will be responded to appropriately,” Sawyer said. “I am committed to this agency and am confident we will restore the public’s trust in us.”
Sawyer, in a statement to her staff earlier this month, acknowledged failures by workers and warned that such incidents “may be investigated for criminal prosecution, or for administrative disciplinary action.”
Neither inmate suicide nor guards lying about their work performance are especially unusual, experts say.
“People commit suicide in jails, in prisons, all the time,” Erik Heipt, an attorney who has litigated a number of jail death lawsuits, told HuffPost back in August.
David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national prison project, also noted the problem.
“Tragically, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about what happened to Mr. Epstein, and therefore no reason to resort to bizarre conspiracy theories,” Fathi said. “This is just the, you know, baseline dysfunction of prisons and jails and how suicide prevention in most prisons and jails is a joke.”
This article has been updated to include details from the indictment.
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