Criminal charges expected this week against Epstein guards

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FILE – This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. Federal prosecutors offered a plea deal to two correctional officers responsible for guarding Epstein on the night of his death, but the officers have declined the offer, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein when he took his own life are expected to face criminal charges this week for falsifying prison records, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The federal charges could come as soon as Tuesday and are the first in connection with Epstein’s death. The wealthy financier died at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.

The officers on Epstein’s unit at the federal jail in New York City are suspected of failing to check on him every half-hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to claim they had. Federal prosecutors offered the guards a plea bargain, but the AP reported Friday that the officers declined the deal.

The expected charges will be filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who have been investigating Epstein’s Aug. 10 death. The people familiar with the matter insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Both guards were working overtime because of staffing shortages when Epstein was found. The officers have been placed on administrative leave while the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigate the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death.

The city’s medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide, but that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theories. A forensic pathologist hired by Epstein’s family to observe the autopsy has said authorities could help clear things up by being more transparent.

Epstein’s death ended the possibility of a trial that would have involved prominent figures, and it sparked widespread anger that he wouldn’t have to answer for the allegations. He had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.

Even with his death, federal prosecutors in New York have continued to investigate the allegations against Epstein. The Justice Department has vowed to aggressively investigate and bring charges against anyone who may have helped him.

There is also a related investigation in Paris, where accusers are complaining police haven’t done enough to track down potential witnesses.

Epstein was placed on suicide watch after he was found July 23 on his cell floor with bruises on his neck. Multiple people familiar with operations at the jail have said Epstein was taken off suicide watch about a week before his death, meaning he was less closely monitored but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.

Investigators believe those checks weren’t done for several hours before Epstein was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck, another person familiar with the matter told the AP.

The falsification of records has been a problem throughout the federal prison system, which has been plagued for years by systematic failures, from massive staffing shortages to chronic violence.

In an internal memo earlier this month, the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ new director, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, said a review of operations across the agency found some staff members failed to perform required rounds and inmate counts but logged that they had done so anyway.

Staff members who are indicted by a grand jury will be placed on indefinite, unpaid suspension until the resolution of the criminal case, Hawk Sawyer wrote in the memo to top prison officials, a copy of which was obtained by the AP.

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Hays reported from New York. Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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