The U.S. Justice Department is pressing forward with its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Jeffrey Epstein in federal custody. Epstein, the well-known New York financier accused of trafficking under-age women for sex, was found dead in his cell on the morning of Aug. 10.
Speaking briefly for reporters, at a roundtable event in Dallas on Wednesday, Aug. 21, Attorney General William Barr continued to cite “serious irregularities” at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center where Epstein was being held without bail. However, the attorney general made clear that he is not questioning the medical examiner’s appraisal that Epstein’s death was a suicide.
“I have seen nothing that undercuts the finding of the medical examiner that this was a suicide,” Barr said.
Barr also indicated that his department’s investigations into Epstein’s death has been delayed, thus far, by certain prison personnel being uncooperative. Nonetheless, Barr is confident that his investigations will proceed and be fruitful.
Epstein’s death occurred just one day after thousands of documents relevant to the case were unsealed, and also as victims of Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse began to implicate other wealthy and powerful individuals within Epstein’s network. Suspicions of foul play were further raised, last week, when an autopsy of Epstein’s body revealed multiple broken bones in his neck, introducing the possibility that he was strangled. However, after an additional day of analysis, the medical examiner concluded Epstein’s death to be a suicide by hanging.
The morning of Epstein’s death, Attorney General Barr announced that the Justice Department and inspector general’s office would open separate investigations.
“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI investigation, I have consulted with the inspector general who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death,” Barr told reporters.
By Aug. 12, Barr announced that the Justice Department was “learning of serious irregularities” surrounding Epstein’s death at MCC. The correctional center’s warden was then reassigned, and two guards who were on duty to watch over Epstein were placed on leave.
On Aug. 15, two Republican senators, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), formally requested that results from Justice Department investigations be made public as soon as they are available.
“We fully support your call for a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Epstein’s death,” the senators wrote to Attorney General Barr.
“True accountability, however, especially for the victims of Mr. Epstein, requires full transparency. For that reason, we ask for your commitment to make the results of the FBI and IG investigations public as soon as they are completed.”
Epstein, age 66, could have faced federal charges for the same alleged crimes as early as 2007, when he was apprehended in Florida. However, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Florida ultimately gave Epstein a lenient plea deal that removed federal charges. The plea deal also blocked further charges being brought against alleged co-conspirators within the broader sex-trafficking ring.
In return, Epstein pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges. He then served a 13-month jail sentence, with daily work leave, and he registered as a sex offender in the state of Florida.