Attorney General William Barr is under enormous pressure to come up with answers regarding the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein in his Manhattan jail special housing unit (SHU) on Saturday, Aug. 10. Barr said, “We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation. The FBI and the Office of Inspector General are doing just that,” Barr, speaking at a police conference in New Orleans on Aug. 12, said he was “appalled” and also “frankly angry,” at the apparent lack of security surrounding Epstein in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC). The SHU is reserved for high-profile prisoners and those considered a danger to others.
“We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability. But let me assure you this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” said Barr, who is responsible for federal prisons, adding that any co-conspirator in the case “should not rest easy.”
“The victims deserve justice, and they will get it,” added the attorney general.
On Tuesday, Aug. 13, Lamine N’Diaye, the warden of MCC was reassigned temporarily at Barr’s request to the Northeast Regional Office. She was to be replaced by James Petrucci, who ran the medium-security prison at Otisville, N.Y. Two staff members on duty at the time of Epstein’s death have been placed on leave, pending a full investigation.
“I have never seen a warden reassigned following the suicide of an inmate,” said Cameron Lindsay, a past warden at three federal prisons, according to USA Today. “It just underscores the intense scrutiny that is being given to this case,” he said.
“There needs to be a question of what happened specifically inside MCC,” said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. “But there also needs to be a broader organizational examination—what did William Barr and others within the Justice Department do?” Honig said the MCC is Barr’s responsibility, “Did he take any steps to ensure that Epstein would be protected?” she said, reported The Hill.
Epstein, 66, had many connections with wealthy and famous people, including past presidents, royalty, wealthy financiers, and many others, he had been indicted on charges of sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy, and was at the time of his death, awaiting trial. Last month, on July 23, he was found semi-conscious in his cell, with bruise marks around his neck. Epstein was then placed on suicide watch, which had been removed the following week. His apparent suicide has raised many questions.
Former FBI agent Steve Gomez said the public has the right to know what happened. “The optics of what happened with Epstein will need to be addressed,” Gomez said. “Those conspiracy theories are going to have to be addressed, and so, because of that, I believe the public will get some information on what happened as opposed to a low-profile person who is in jail and committed suicide.”
Serene Gregg, president of the MCC’s prison workers’ union, said guards are under pressure, having to work three or four overtime shifts every week, and the issue was raised by union officials with prison leaders only last week.
“You have people working who are extremely exhausted and others who are not trained to do the work,” Gregg said. “They have been playing a dangerous game for a long time. And it’s not just at MCC, it’s going on across the country.”