Two New York City correctional officers on Nov. 19, contested charges they falsified prison records on the same night controversial financier Jeffrey Epstein died. 

Metropolitan Correctional Center Guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas pleaded not guilty to forging prison records to show they checked on Epstein every 30 minutes on August 10, the same night the convicted sex offender allegedly took his own life in Lower Manhattan.

Lawyer Montell Figgins, who is advising Thomas, dismissed the allegations and explained both guards were being “scapegoated.” He previously said there has been a “rush to judgment” and federal authorities are only pursuing the “low[est] man on the totem pole.”

A grand jury indictment obtained by the Associated Press claims the guards failed to monitor Epstein’s health every half hour as required, and also fabricated log entries to show they had done so. Federal prosecutors claim security camera footage proves Epstein was alone in his cell on the night he died because no guard could be seen entering Epstein’s cell. Epstein was eventually found dead in his cell before he could be trialed for sex trafficking charges.

A New York City medical examiner determined Epstein’s death was a suicide. Bureau of Prisons Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer has also offered “no evidence to suggest” any other cause of death than suicide.

However, the Associated Press reports murder and other theories have been circulated by those who disagree with the official ruling that his death was a suicide. Epstein’s family members have appointed Pathologist Michael Baden to independently investigate the cause of death.

Baden has requested further information from Noel and Thomas on the position of Epstein’s body when the grisly discovery was made.

Prosecutors have offered a plea deal to Noel and Thomas but they declined to accept, according to the Associated Press.

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