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story.lead_photo.caption An employee checks a visitor outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 in 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. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK -- Jail guards are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they were checking on inmates in Jeffrey Epstein's unit every half hour when they actually weren't, according to a person familiar with the probe into his death.

Surveillance video reviewed after the 66-year-old financier's suspected suicide over the weekend shows guards never made some of the checks noted in the log, according to the person familiar with the investigation.

The person wasn't authorized to disclose information and spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

The development comes as the federal jail in Manhattan where Epstein was being held comes under increasing scrutiny in the wake of Epstein's suicide. Epstein is believed to have killed himself early Saturday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he was awaiting trial in a sex trafficking case.

An autopsy was performed Sunday, but the manner in which Epstein killed himself has not been officially announced. The city's chief medical examiner said investigators were awaiting further information.

His death prompted the Justice Department to place two guards assigned to watch Epstein on administrative leave and temporarily reassign the jail's warden to an office post pending the outcome of two investigations. Both the FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general are investigating Epstein's death.

Attorney General William Barr has expressed outrage that Epstein was able to take his own life Saturday while under the care of the federal Bureau of Prisons, the jail's parent agency that was already facing criticism.

Earlier this week, Barr said the Justice Department has already found "serious irregularities" at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, adding that the facility "failed to adequately secure this prisoner."

Since Epstein's death, details have emerged about the jail that show it is a chronically understaffed facility that possibly made a series of missteps in handling its most high-profile inmate.

A person familiar with the jail's operations told The Associated Press that a guard in Epstein's unit was working a fifth straight day of overtime and another guard was working mandatory overtime the day he was found.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he lacked authorization to publicly discuss jail operations.

Epstein had been alone in his cell when he was found unresponsive Saturday, even though he only recently had returned to the Special Housing Unit from suicide watch, the person familiar with the jail's operations said. The jail had placed him on 24-hour monitoring -- with daily psychiatric evaluations -- after he was found injured on the floor of his cell two weeks ago with neck bruises.

After that incident, Epstein had been placed on suicide watch. He was taken off that watch at the end of July and returned to the jail's special housing unit.

Following his death, federal prosecutors vowed to continue pursuing justice for the accusers who have come forward over the years -- shifting their focus to possible charges against anyone who assisted or enabled Epstein in what authorities say was his rampant sexual abuse.

The Associated Press reviewed hundreds of pages of police reports , FBI records and court documents that show Epstein relied on an entire staff of associates to arrange massages that led to sex acts.

One possible roadblock to further charges is the controversial plea agreement Epstein struck more than a decade ago in Florida. The non-prosecution agreement not only allowed Epstein to plead guilty in 2008 to lesser state charges and serve just 13 months behind bars, it also shielded from prosecution several Epstein associates who allegedly were paid to recruit girls for him.

Federal prosecutors in New York, in charging Epstein last month, argued that the non-prosecution agreement is binding only on their counterparts in Florida.

But Gerald Lefcourt, a lawyer who negotiated the agreement, said the deal should still protect any alleged co-conspirators for what happened between 2001 and 2007.

"I would never have signed the agreement or recommended it unless we believed that it resolved what it said: all federal and state criminal liability," Lefcourt said Monday.


Balsamo reported from Washington, D.C.

National on 08/15/2019

Print Headline: AP Source: Epstein jail guards suspected of falsifying logs

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