NEW YORK — The warden at the federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein took his own life over the weekend was removed Tuesday and two guards who were supposed to be watching the financier were placed on leave while federal authorities investigate the death.
The move by the Justice Department came amid mounting evidence that the chronically understaffed Metropolitan Correctional Center may have bungled its responsibility to keep the 66-year-old Epstein from harming himself while he awaited trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.
Epstein was taken off a suicide watch last month for reasons that have not been explained, and was supposed to have been checked on by a guard every 30 minutes. But investigators learned those checks weren’t done for several hours before he was found Saturday morning, according to a person familiar with the case who was not authorized to discuss it and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Attorney General William Barr ordered warden Lamine N’Diaye temporarily assigned to the Bureau of Prisons’ regional office while the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigate. The two guards were not identified.
While the exact manner of Epstein’s death has not been officially announced, a second person familiar with operations at the jail said the financier was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck. That person likewise spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason.
Under the jail’s protocol, Epstein would not have been given a bedsheet had he been on suicide watch. He was placed on suicide watch last month after he was found on the floor of his cell with bruises on his neck, but he was later returned to the jail’s special housing unit for inmates needing close supervision.
The Bureau of Prisons sent a team of prison psychologists, known as a suicide reconstruction team, to the jail on Tuesday, a Justice Department official said. They are expected to reconstruct the scene, analyze why Epstein took his own life and look at how it happened, the official said. The official couldn’t discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen was being briefed by the FBI every three hours on the progress of their investigation.
On Monday, Barr said that he was “frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner,” adding: “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”