Attorney General William Barr said financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death was the result of “a perfect storm of screw-ups,” after the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general continued to investigate following his suicide in August.
Barr, in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Nov. 21, said that his concerns about Epstein’s death were prompted by numerous irregularities at the New York jail where he was being held. After months of investigation, Barr said federal investigators have realized there were a “series” of mistakes made that gave Epstein the chance to take his own life.
“I can understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups,” Barr said.
Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City in August and was declared dead on arrival at hospital. The New York City medical examiner ruled that Epstein took his own life, but questions were raised as to how he could have killed himself while in a high-security facility just two weeks after being placed on suicide watch.
Barr’s comments came a day after two correctional officers who were responsible for guarding the convicted sex offender were charged with making false records. Officers Tova Noel and Michael Thomas are accused of sleeping and shopping on the internet instead of watching Epstein.
Barr, on Thursday, also sought to tamp down the conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s death, with many people raising questions over whether the wealthy financier really took his own life. Barr said that the evidence proves that Epstein’s death was, in fact, by suicide.
Epstein was placed on suicide watch on July 23 after he was found on his cell floor with bruises on his neck, but was taken off the heightened watch about a week before his death on Aug. 10, meaning he was less closely monitored, but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes. He was also required to have a cellmate, but was left with none after his cellmate was transferred out of the MCC on August 9—a day before his death.
“I think it was important to have a roommate in there with him and we’re looking into why that wasn’t done, and I think every indication is that was a screw-up,” Barr said. “The systems to assure that was done were not followed.”
In July, federal prosecutors charged Epstein with sex trafficking of a minor and conspiracy in which he pleaded not guilty. Epstein allegedly created and maintained a “vast network” and operation from 2002 to 2005 that enabled him to “sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls” in addition to paying victims to bring other underage girls.
In unsealed documents, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a key witness, claimed that Epstein kept her as a sex slave and forced her to have sex with powerful men, including former Sen. George Mitchell and former New Mexico Governor and Clinton cabinet official Bill Richardson. Both Mitchell and Richardson have denied the allegations.
Epstein’s death ended the possibility of a trial that would have involved prominent figures and sparked widespread anger that he wouldn’t have to answer for the allegations. But even after his death, federal prosecutors in New York are continuing to investigate the allegations against him. Barr said the Justice Department was making good progress in the case.
“They are definitely pushing things along,” he said. “I’ll just say there is good progress being made, and I’m hopeful in a relatively short time there will be tangible results.”
Includes reporting from The Associated Press