The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees who were charged with guarding accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein did not search his jail cell as required and failed to check on him for hours before he killed himself in 2019, the US Justice Department's internal watchdog said on Tuesday.
In a scathing new report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz singled out 13 BOP employees for "misconduct and dereliction of their duties," saying their actions allowed Epstein to be alone and unmonitored in his solitary cell inside Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center from 10.40pm on Aug 9, 2019 until he was discovered at 6.30am hanging from what appeared to be a linen or piece of clothing.
He also criticised the bureau for other serious operational flaws, such as failing to properly upgrade the Metropolitan Correction Centre's camera surveillance system and under-staffing its facilities.
"The combination of negligence, misconduct, and outright job performance failures documented in this report all contributed to an environment in which arguably one of the most notorious inmates in BOP's custody was provided with the opportunity to take his own life," the report says.
Epstein, 66, killed himself while he was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. The federal jail where he was being housed has since been shuttered.
Two jail guards were later charged for falsifying prison records to make it appear as though they had conducted routine checks on Epstein prior to his suicide. Those charges however, were later dropped after both guards entered into deferred prosecution agreements and successfully completed mandatory community service.
Horowitz's report identified at least two other unnamed employees who may have committed criminal conduct by falsely certifying inmate counts and rounds, but prosecutors declined to file charges.
In response to the report, BOP director Colette Peters said the findings "reflect a failure to follow BOP's longstanding policies." She added that the BOP concurs with a list of recommended reforms, which "will be applied to the broader BOP correctional landscape."
Epstein, a registered sex offender who once counted former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton as friends, avoided federal charges in 2008 after he agreed instead to plead guilty to lesser Florida state charges of unlawfully paying a teenage girl for sex.
As part of that deal, he only served 13 months in jail and was allowed to leave the facility during the day.
Years later, that arrangement became the subject of an investigative report by the Miami Herald, which raised new questions about the Justice Department's handling of the case and ultimately prompted the former top prosecutor who approved the deal to resign as the Trump administration's Secretary of the Labor Department.
In July 2019, federal prosecutors in Manhattan's Southern District of New York filed fresh criminal charges, accusing Epstein of luring dozens of girls, some as young as 14, to his homes in New York and Florida and coercing them into sex acts.
He pleaded not guilty, but died before he could go to trial.
His former girlfriend, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was later charged for helping Epstein abuse young girls.
She was convicted in December 2021 on five charges, including sex trafficking a minor, for recruiting and grooming four girls to have sexual encounters with Epstein. In January 2022, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.