Jeffrey Epstein: Two guards suspended and warden removed over death

Metropolitan Correctional CenterThe Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein died

Two prison guards have been suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned at the New York City jail where Jeffrey Epstein died of suspected suicide.

It comes after the FBI opened an investigation into the death of Epstein, who was facing prosecution for sex trafficking when he was found dead.

The suspension, ordered by Attorney General William Barr, came a day after he criticised the jail’s “failure”.

The circumstance surrounding the financier’s death has raised questions.

It remains unclear why Epstein was taken off suicide watch after an attempted suicide last month. He also was supposed to have been checked in on by a guard every 30 minutes.

Before his downfall, Epstein had previously counted many prominent rich and powerful people, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, as friends.

What did the Department of Justice say?

In a statement, Mr Barr “directed the Bureau of Prisons to temporarily assign” warden Lamine N’Diaye to a regional office, pending a full investigation.

He will be replaced by James Petrucci, the warden of the federal prison in Otisville, New York.

Courtroom sketch of Jeffrey EpsteinImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionEpstein faced up to 45 years in jail if convicted

Two other staff members who were assigned to Epsteins’ unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) have also been placed on leave.

“Additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant,” the statement added.

On Tuesday, a union official for workers at the jail told the Washington Post that one of the guards on Epstein’s unit on Saturday – when he died – was not a regular correctional officer, but rather another form of prison employee who was directed to operate as a guard due to staffing shortages.

Both guards working on his unit were working overtime shifts, but it’s unclear whether they were doing so voluntarily.

The union representing federal prison guards, the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals, said in a statement after Epstein’s death that many guards are forced to work overtime.

In a statement provided to BBC News, the organisation’s president Eric Young said prison employees who are not correctional officers – such as teachers, nurses, clerical workers – are often made to guard inmates due to a process known as “augmentation”.

What has Trump said?

President Donald Trump told reporters in New Jersey on Tuesday: “I want a full investigation, and that’s what I absolutely am demanding.

“That’s what our attorney general, our great attorney general, is doing. He’s doing a full investigation.”

He also defended his decision to retweet conspiracy theory that suggested that the Clinton family had Epstein killed.

“He’s a very highly respected conservative pundit,” Mr Trump said of comedian Terrence K Williams, who wrote the original post.

“He’s a big Trump fan. And that was a retweet. That wasn’t from me… So I think I was fine.”

Media caption‘Any co-conspirators should not rest easy’

The order comes one day after Mr Barr said 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.”

Moveon.org: Take action – Enough anti-immigrant violence

Immigration should be a safe and empowering choice. 

Everyone should have the freedom to move and freedom to stay based on what is best for them to thrive. But from El Paso, TX, to towns across Mississippi, immigrant and Latino communities have been relentlessly attacked by Trump’s administration and right-wing assailants. Here’s how you can take action.

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US: Feds launch investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s death

US attorney general says financier’s apparent suicide while in federal custody raises ‘serious concerns’.

US Attorney General William Barr has launched an investigation into Jeffrey Epstein's death [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]
US Attorney General William Barr has launched an investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s death [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Federal authorities will investigate how Jeffrey Epstein, a well-connected financier accused of orchestrating a sex trafficking ring that preyed on underage girls, was able to apparently commit suicide in federal custody, the United States attorney general has said.

The FBI and the Department of Justice’s inspector general’s office will conduct the investigation, US Attorney General William Barr said, hours after Epstein was found unresponsive in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan on Saturday.

Barr said he was “appalled” that the apparent suicide happened while Epstein was in federal custody on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy.

“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” he said in a statement.

The investigation into the sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against the 66-year-old will continue despite his death, the federal attorney in charge of the probe also said on Saturday.

The inquiry could still ensnare others involved in the alleged crime, the official said.

Death in custody

The suicide has raised questions over prison authorities’ oversight of Epstein, who had been kept in a special area reserved for high-profile inmates.

Epstein had been placed on suicide watch and given daily psychiatric evaluations after an incident in July in which he was found with bruising on his neck, according to local media. It had not been confirmed whether the injury was self-inflicted or the result of an assault.

He was taken off the watch at the end of July and was not being monitored at the time of his death, the reports said.

Authorities took Epstein into custody on July 6 and he pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking that allegedly ensnared dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14.

The alleged offences took place in his homes in Manhattan, New York and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005, according to prosecutors. If convicted, he faced up to 45 years in prison.

Epstein had previously lived a lavish lifestyle, often socialising with powerful people, including princes and US presidents. His arrest had put a spotlight on those relationships.

His most recent arrest also drew scrutiny to a 2008 deal that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida, while avoiding more serious federal charges.

The outcry led Alex Acosta, the then-US labour secretary who as a federal prosecutor helped Epstein negotiate the deal, to resign.

‘Heads must roll’

Accusers and elected officials expressed dismay that Epstein’s suicide allowed him to escape justice. They hoped the investigation would capture others involved in the alleged crimes.

Virginia Giuffre, an Epstein accuser who had filed a since-settled lawsuit against the financier’s former girlfriend, told the New York Times she was grateful Epstein will never harm anyone again, but was angry that there would be no chance to see him answer for his conduct.

“We’ve worked so hard to get here, and he stole that from us,” she told the newspaper.

Accuser Jennifer Araoz, in a statement, said that Epstein’s alleged victims will “have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives”.

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.

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a letter to Barr on Saturday, said that “heads must roll” after the incident.

“Every single person in the Justice Department … knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him,” Sasse wrote.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Jeffrey Epstein: How conspiracy theories spread after financier’s death

 


US financier Jeffrey EpsteinImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionJeffrey Epstein, pictured here in 2004, was found dead in his jail cell on Saturday aged 66

Just hours after the high-profile financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead on Saturday, unsubstantiated theories about his death began to gain traction online.

Epstein, who was set to stand trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges, killed himself in his jail cell in New York. He was accused of running a “vast network” of underage girls for sex, and pleaded not guilty to the charges last month.

The 66-year-old was known to court famous friends and acquaintances. President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and the UK’s Prince Andrew all had ties to him. Some of his powerful associates have been embroiled in the allegations against him, which has only served to fuel the conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Many rumours have centred on what politicians may have known about Epstein’s alleged crimes and whether some may have wanted him dead. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest this was the case. And yet, the hashtag #EpsteinMurder trended worldwide on Saturday.

Joke images and memes – suggesting everything from a faked suicide to an orchestrated hit-job – were shared thousands of times throughout the day. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were rife with unfounded theories about what may have happened to the financier.

This wild speculation was not confined to a fringe minority – far from it. Politicians and high-profile journalists also stoked rampant speculation at a time when little information was publicly available. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted:

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was “way too convenient” that Epstein could no longer incriminate others.

“What a lot of us want to know is, what did he know?” he told reporters. “How many other millionaires and billionaires were part of the illegal activities that he was engaged in?”

Questions like these alluded, without evidence, to a malevolent conspiracy and fed the feverish speculation on social media.

Further rumours centred on how a man who was found semi-conscious and with injuries to his neck just weeks earlier was able to take his own life. Initial reports said Epstein was placed on suicide watch after that incident in July, which led many people to ask how he could have died while being so closely monitored.

“What does the word watch mean in the phrase suicide watch?” tweeted President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giulani. “Who was watching?” He then said it was “inconceivable” Epstein could have taken his own life under those circumstances.

But prison officials later said Epstein had actually been taken off suicide watch prior to his death. Conspiracy theories then began to focus on why this decision was made, rather than how he was able to take his own life.

The speculation, as was the case throughout Saturday, appeared to shift and change with the few concrete details that were released.

Jeffrey Epstein (left) pictured with US President Donald Trump in 1997Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionJeffrey Epstein pictured with US President Donald Trump in 1997

Perhaps the most far-fetched conspiracy theories were pegged to the hashtags #ClintonBodyCount and #TrumpBodyCount, which both trended on Twitter over the weekend.

The first was primarily used by conservatives to suggest that former “first couple” Bill and Hillary Clinton were linked to Epstein’s death. The latter, perhaps predictably, was used by liberals who speculated that Mr Trump was somehow involved. Neither side had any evidence to work with.

The baseless theory of the Clinton’s involvement harks back to a long-running conspiracy that originated in the 1990s and claims the couple secretly kill their enemies. This was roundly and methodically debunked at the time by the fact-checking website Snopes.

“There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest an outside person ordered Epstein’s death, and certainly no evidence whatsoever that Bill Clinton was that person,” Dylan Matthews wrote in Vox this week.

“[Mr Clinton] knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York,” his spokesman, Angel Ureña, said.

But Mr Trump was quick to pour fuel on the flames. He shared a tweet from Terrence Williams, a comedian and Trump supporter, that alleged Epstein “had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead”. There is no evidence to support this, but the tweet has since been shared more than 55,000 times.

Prince Andrew, left, and Jeffrey Epstein in New York's Central ParkImage copyrightNEWS SYNDICATION
Image captionPrince Andrew, left, seen with Jeffrey Epstein in New York

Other theories and tidbits of misinformation have been easier to disprove.

For example, a photo that appeared to show Mr Trump kissing the head of his daughter, Ivanka, while standing next to Epstein has been exposed as a fake. “The 1993 photograph… has been manipulated to include Epstein,” the Associated Press reported last month.

Similarly, after Epstein’s arrest on 6 July, some social media users shared a false claim that prosecutors had struck a secret plea deal with the financier under the administration of President Barack Obama in order to protect his fellow Democrat Mr Clinton. That theory resurfaced on Saturday.

But the deal, which allowed Epstein to plead guilty to lesser charges, was actually finalised before Mr Obama took office under the administration of President George W, Bush. Labour Secretary Alex Acosta resigned over his role in the deal last month.

Meanwhile, some politicians and journalists have urged people to exercise caution given the sheer quantity of misinformation online.

“The immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the ‘other side’ of [the] partisan divide illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation,” tweeted Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

CNN presenter Jim Sciutto, reflecting on his time working in the Middle East, said: “Remember this is about… partisan politics. When I was [there]… folks didn’t trust authorities so assumed a plot behind every event.”

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“A Shameful Week for the U.S.”: Trump Admin Guts U.N. Resolution to End Rape as Weapon of War

APRIL 26, 2019

The Trump administration is under fire after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to end rape as a weapon of war on Tuesday that excluded any mention of sexual and reproductive health. The resolution was gutted after the U.S. threatened to veto the measure altogether unless language referencing reproductive health was taken out due to the Trump administration’s belief that the language was code for abortion. The watered-down measure also weakened references to the International Criminal Court, making it harder for women and girls to seek justice. We speak with Jessica Neuwirth, director of the Human Rights Program at Roosevelt House at Hunter College and the director of the Sisterhood Is Global Institute. She sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo protesting the U.S. stance on the Security Council resolution. We also speak with Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen.

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Maine: Remains in Augusta identified as Megan Gregory, two years missing.

The human remains found in the Augusta woods in April 2019 have been identified as those of 29-year-old Megan Gregory who went missing June 2017.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The human remains found in the Augusta woods have been identified as those of Megan Gregory. Police were called to the densely wooded area south of the Route 3, near Cushnoc bridge where human remains had been found on April 7.

On Wednesday, April 24 the Medical Examiner Office used dental records to identify the body as Megan Gregory who was almost 28-years-old went she went missing in June 2017.

RELATED: Search continues for Megan Gregory, missing since 2017

RELATED: Police continue search for Gardiner woman missing since June

Police say evidence collected at the scene indicates Gregory’s death was not suspicious and that her remains had been in the wooded area since she was reporting missing almost two years ago.

An official cause of death has not been determined by the Medical Examiner Office.

Police had said that Megan Gregory disappeared without a trace when she was last seen in a hotel parking lot in Augusta.

Gregory had spoken to her long-time friend, Stephanie Miller, every day before she disappeared. Miller told NEWS CENTER Maine that Gregory was staying at someone’s home and it was not a good situation.