Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and child sex trafficker with close ties to powerful elites including Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, spent his last days tormented by a cellmate whose incessant chatter kept him from sleeping, in fear of MS-13, and unable to take a shit, according to documents obtained from the Bureau of Prisons under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The documents were among those obtained and reported on by the New York Times after it successfully sued the Bureau of Prisons. After the Times report was published, the Bureau denied Motherboard’s request to be provided suicide risk assessment, post-suicide watch report, incident report, pre-trial interview, and referral of incident forms that it initially asked for in August 2019. The Bureau subsequently released the material after Motherboard said it would be consulting legal counsel.
In total, the documents—which can be read in full here—present the bizarre story of a man who had, according to the Bureau’s records, attempted suicide being repeatedly assessed by prison psychologists as healthy, psychologically stable, and at no risk of harming himself. The Bureau’s seemingly inexplicable insistence on redacting details related to that suicide attempt also seem certain to provide fodder for conspiracy theorists who believe Epstein was murdered—something for which there is no evidence.
The first document is an intake screening dated July 8, 2019, in which Epstein is described as “a 66 year old, Black male” and as “optimistic.”
The next documents are reports detailing a suicide attempt, dated July 23, 2019. The actual descriptions of the incident are redacted under an exemption authorizing the withholding of information if it could be reasonably expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings. It was widely reported at the time that Epstein had been found unconscious in his cell with marks on his neck after attempting to hang himself, though, and in one report, boxes are checked describing the incident as “self mutilation” with the method as “laceration” and a “suicide attempt” with the method as “hanging/asphyxiation.” (His lawyer would subsequently claim that he doubted this had been a suicide attempt, eventually fueling conspiracy theories; an investigation into Epstein’s cellmate cleared him of wrongdoing.)
The next document is a heavily redacted post-suicide watch report, dated July 24, 2019. In it, Epstein is described as “cooperative,” “goal directed,” and “psychologically stable.”
“Mr. EPSTEIN explicitly denied recent and current suicidal ideation, planning, and intent,” the document noted of a man who had been placed on suicide watch for 31 hours after an apparent suicide attempt. “Mr. EPSTEIN adamantly denied suicidality.” His main concern, apparently, was for his personal safety, with the report noting that “Mr. EPSTEIN claimed there were many MS-13 gang members on the initial unit.”
In conclusion, the report noted that his acute suicide risk was low and his chronic one absent; he was placed on psychological observation, given novels to read, and the prison pharmacy was contacted to ensure that he was getting his constipation medicine, which he had not been.
The next documents, dated July 30, 2019, deal with a psychological evaluation Epstein was given to judge his competency to engage in a disciplinary process over his suicide attempt. “He does not appear to be an immediate danger to self,” the report read. He was deemed competent.
The next document is a suicide risk assessment form dated August 1, 2019. In it, a psychologist writes that Epstein expressed surprise after US Marshals asked him to sign a form noting that he had suicidal tendencies and claimed that he had never said he was suicidal and that “his incident report for marks on his neck was expunged.” His main grievance, according to the psychologist, was that even though he had access to a sleep apnea device, he couldn’t sleep at night because his cellmate talked so much and the unit he was housed in was loud. He turned down the psychologist’s offer to see if they could have him transferred to a new cell.
In a detailed assessment, the psychologist determined that Epstein was “currently psychologically stable” and did not need to be on suicide watch, with protective factors such as his having denied a history of self-harm apparently overriding such risk factors as his having, per prison records, attempted suicide.
In all, the documents are consistent with careless or incompetent prison staffers taking the word of a sociopathic manipulator that he was not and had not been suicidal, despite the fact that he had apparently recently attempted suicide. Until Bureau of Prisons officials provide unredacted details of the July 23 incident, though, questions about it will remain, and without transparency the groundless belief that Epstein was murdered—perhaps at the behest of his powerful friends—will fester.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.