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Attorney General Bill Barr is making some changes at the Manhattan jail where Jeffrey Epstein, the accused child sex trafficker, died in an apparent suicide after he was left alone in his cell.
The Department of Justice, on orders from Barr, temporarily reassigned the warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, the department announced Tuesday afternoon. Two jail staffers were also put on leave. Jail employees were reportedly getting in the way of the investigation, which Barr announced almost immediately after Epstein’s death Saturday. The employees had “lawyered up,” an anonymous source told NBC News.
“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Barr said on Monday, without getting into specifics of what “irregularities” he had learned of.
Epstein, the financier and sex offender, was being held without bail at the jail on charges of trafficking dozens of underage girls and conspiracy, both of which he pleaded not guilty to. Epstein was briefly put on suicide watch after correctional officers found him semi-conscious in his cell several weeks ago in an apparent suicide attempt. But he was taken off rigorous monitoring after the jail told the Department of Justice it’d work to assign him a cellmate and regular check-ins.
Epstein, however, was alone in his cell when he died. He was reportedly found hanging by a bedsheet, and his cell had gone unchecked for hours before his body was discovered. The on-duty guards were reportedly stretched thin, with some working extreme overtime shifts.
The jail’s warden, Shirley Skipper-Scott, will be temporarily assigned to a regional office. In the meantime, her replacement will be James Petrucci, the warden of a federal prison in New York, according to CNBC.
The Bureau of Prisons — which operates under the DOJ’s umbrella — also put two of the staffers assigned to Epstein’s unit on administrative leave. It’s not yet clear who will replace or fill in for them during the course of the investigation, since the jail is already short-staffed.
The investigation into allegations that Epstein trafficked and abused young girls for several years will also continue despite his death. Federal agents reportedly raided his private island in the Virgin Islands on Monday.
Cover image: Attorney General William Barr speaks to reporters after touring a correctional facility on July 8, 2019, in Edgefield, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)