Two federal jail workers who were on duty the night disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein allegedly committed suicide on Aug. 10 in a Manhattan jail were indicted today on federal charges for their failure to check on and monitor him.
“There’s culpability at the top. They always try to blame the lowest person on the totem pole.”
Tova Noel and Michael Thomas were both charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make false records. Noel also was charged with five counts of falsifying records and Thomas was charged with three counts of making false records.
Additionally, the federal indictment says that internal surveillance video footage shows that no one entered or even approached the cell the night he died during the eight hours leading up to when he was found unresponsive.
According to the indictment, video footage shows Epstein being escorted to his cell at 7:49 p.m. Officers were supposed to perform a cell count at 10 p.m. but instead, they signed a slip falsely saying a check had been done. Video shows Noel “briefly walked up to, then walked back from, the door to the tier in which Epstein was housed.”
“This was the last time anyone, including any correctional officer, walked up to, let alone entered, the only entrance to the tier in which Epstein was housed until approximately 6:30 a.m. on August 10,” the indictment says.
Noel and Thomas then failed to conduct additional head counts at midnight, 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., according to the indictment, though, they signed slips saying they had. The indictment also notes that they failed to do their rounds every 30 minutes between midnight and 6 a.m.
The indictment also says that Epstein died by suicide, and officials said he used a bed sheet to hang himself from his bunk.
The guards rejected a deal Monday that would have allowed them to plead guilty to charges of falsifying records.
The arrests and subsequent charges are the first to stem from a criminal inquiry into Epstein’s death. Original reports from New York City’s chief medical examiner said Epstein hanged himself while he was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Prison workers’ union official Jose Rojas told The New York Times that while he does not condone falsifying the records, the two prison staffers are nothing more than patsies in Epstein’s death. Missing rounds and falsifying records are generally treated as policy violations and not criminal matters, Rojas said.
“There’s culpability at the top,” Rojas told The Times, adding more fuel to the conspiracy theory fire. “They always try to blame the lowest person on the totem pole.”
The jail also was understaffed and the two charged were working overtime. One of them had already worked several overtime shifts that week and the other was forced to work a 16-hour double shift the day and night of Epstein’s death.
Three weeks before his death, Epstein was found injured in his cell in what was then investigated as a suicide attempt. He was placed on suicide watch but by the time he died, he had been taken off and was supposed to have another inmate in the cell with him. According to Rojas, the prison allowed him to be held in his cell alone the day he died.
Epstein pleaded not guilty and he was set to go on trial next year, facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Editor’s note: What do you think of the new evidence of video showing no one entered or even went near Epstein’s cell the night he died? Are you now more inclined to believe he died by his own hand, or do you still think something nefarious happened? Share your thoughts below.