This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein has died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, says person briefed on the matter, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. (Photo: AP)
Jail guards on duty the night Jeffrey Epstein apparently killed himself are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they were checking on inmates every half-hour as required, according to a person familiar with the investigation into the financier’s death.
Surveillance video shows guards never made some of the checks noted in the log, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
Those details came amid new developments Wednesday in the fight over Epstein’s estate, with a woman filing a lawsuit claiming he forcibly raped her when she was a teenager in 2002.
Jennifer Araoz sued Epstein’s former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed members of his staff — the first of many lawsuits expected to be filed by Epstein’s accusers as a new state law went into effect Wednesday that opens up a one-year window for victims of long-ago sex crimes to take legal action.
“Today is my first step toward reclaiming my power Jeffrey Epstein and his enablers stole from me,” Araoz said. The AP names alleged victims of sexual offenses only if they consent to being identified, as Araoz has done.
The lawsuit accuses Maxwell of helping Epstein recruit teenage girls and providing “organizational support to Epstein’s sex trafficking ring.”
Maxwell’s publicist and lawyers did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment. She previously denied wrongdoing.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating whether any Epstein associates will face charges.
Epstein, 66, is believed to have killed himself early Saturday at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges .
The cause of the death has not been announced, but a person familiar with operations at the lockup said Epstein was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck.
His death prompted the Justice Department to place two guards on leave and remove the jail’s warden pending the outcome of investigations by the FBI and the department’s inspector general. Falsifying log entries can be a federal crime.
The case has thrown a spotlight on chronic understaffing at the jail, which has long been used to house some of the world’s most notorious criminals, including mobsters, drug lords and terrorists.
A person familiar with the jail’s operations told the AP that a guard in Epstein’s unit was working a fifth straight day of overtime and another guard was working mandatory overtime. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he lacked authorization to publicly discuss jail operations.
Last month, Epstein had been put on suicide watch, with 24-hour monitoring and daily psychiatric evaluations, after he was found on the floor of his cell with bruises on his neck. But he was taken off suicide watch at the end of July and returned to the jail’s special housing unit, for inmates requiring close supervision.