This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. (Photo: AP)
Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein when he took his own life are expected to face criminal charges this week for falsifying prison records, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
The federal charges could come as soon as Tuesday and are the first in connection with Epstein’s death. The wealthy financier died at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.
The officers on Epstein’s unit at the federal jail in New York City are suspected of failing to check on him every half-hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to claim they had. Federal prosecutors offered the guards a plea bargain, but the AP reported Friday that the officers declined the deal.
The expected charges will be filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who have been investigating Epstein’s Aug. 10 death. The people familiar with the matter insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
Both guards were working overtime because of staffing shortages when Epstein was found. The officers have been placed on administrative leave while the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigate the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death.
The city’s medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide, but that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theories. A forensic pathologist hired by Epstein’s family to observe the autopsy has said authorities could help clear things up by being more transparent.
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.
Epstein was placed on suicide watch after he was found July 23 on his cell floor with bruises on his neck. Multiple people familiar with operations at the jail have said Epstein was taken off suicide watch about a week before his death, meaning he was less closely monitored but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.
Investigators believe those checks weren’t done for several hours before Epstein was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck, another person familiar with the matter told the AP.
The falsification of records has been a problem throughout the federal prison system, which has been plagued for years by systematic failures, from massive staffing shortages to chronic violence.