Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire financier and convicted sex offender, was found dead by suicide in his jail cell on Saturday morning. Epstein was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center after being accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls. He was 66.
The details of his death
According to NBC News, Epstein hanged himself at some point overnight Friday in his cell and was taken to a local hospital from the MCC on Saturday morning. Per the Department of Justice’s official statement:
On Saturday, August 10, 2019, at approximately 6:30 a.m., inmate Jeffrey Edward Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell in the Special Housing Unit from an apparent suicide at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York, New York. Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff. Staff requested emergency medical services (EMS) and life-saving efforts continued. Mr. Epstein was transported by EMS to a local hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries, and subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff. The FBI is investigating the incident.
Epstein had been taken off suicide watch despite an earlier attempt
Three weeks before his death, on July 23, Epstein had been found semiconscious in his cell with marks on his neck — though it was not clear if he had tried to harm himself or had been attacked. Prison officials investigated the injury as a possible suicide attempt and put Epstein on suicide watch, which would entail being placed in a special cell where he could be constantly monitored by prison personnel and prevented from having access to any means by which he could take his own life. Epstein was also subject to a daily psychiatric evaluation during this time, according to a source who spoke with the New York Times.
But for reasons still unknown as of Saturday afternoon, Epstein was taken off of suicide watch on July 29 and returned to the MCC’s special housing unit, according to the Times. Typically, that should have only happened if the prison’s chief psychologist approved the change after evaluating the inmate and justifying why they are no longer at risk of harming themselves.
Scandalous. I supervised jail suicide investigations at DOJ. Experts will tell you that it’s essentially always true that jail inmate suicides are preventable, so when one happens it represents a *major* failure on the part of the jail. https://t.co/U3qRUxI2Vq
— Sam Bagenstos (@sbagen) August 10, 2019
There had also been unconfirmed rumors that Epstein’s earlier injury had been the result of an attack, but he was reportedly found dead alone in his cell on Saturday morning.
Here is what the Daily Beast reported regarding the earlier possible suicide attempt and an purported glimpse of Epstein’s behavior:
Epstein had initially been held in general population at MCC, where he’d been targeted for extortion as a wealthy pedophile, a source with knowledge of his circumstances told The Daily Beast, describing Epstein’s injuries from his prior alleged suicide attempt as small abrasions around his neck. …
At the time of [that] attempt, he shared a cell with Nicholas Tartaglione, a former police officer charged with kidnapping and murdering four people in 2016. …
Tartaglione’s lawyer, Bruce Barket, told authorities his client had saved Epstein’s life during the first suicide attempt by alerting corrections officers. He claimed Tartaglione was being implicated in the suicide attempt because he’d recently complained about conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, saying in a statement at the time, “we warned the judge that officials at the jail would retaliate against Nick because we have been exposing the inhumane conditions at the facility.”
A source added that while protocols were followed after his previous apparent suicide attempt, Epstein received no preferential treatment.
The Beast’s source said that Epstein “lived like a pig in a sty” after his first attempted suicide, eating meals off the floor and making frequent requests for toilet paper.
The investigations into Epstein’s death
The Department of Justice announced on Saturday that the FBI had opened an investigation into the circumstances of Epstein’s death — meaning that the FBI is looking to see whether or not a crime was committed. Attorney General William Barr additionally announced that the Justice Department’s inspector general would be conducting an investigation. Barr said he was “appalled to learn” that Epstein had taken his own life while in federal custody and that the incident “raises serious questions that must be answered.”
It seems likely that there will also be some congressional inquiries into the matter.
The impact on the investigations and criminal cases involving Epstein
One major consequence of Epstein’s death will be the effect on the investigation into his abuse of countless underage girls, as well as the potential consequences for his accomplices.
According to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, the case against Epstein dies with him:
Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide ends the criminal case against him because no one else was charged in the indictment. … [It] means that there won’t be a public trial or other proceedings that could reveal evidence of his wrongdoing. Evidence collected via grand jury subpoena won’t be released to the public. It’s still likely that the public will learn additional information from civil cases by victims against his estate or non-criminal investigations (for example, the DOJ OIG investigation).