Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in a cell with a bedsheet tied around his neck in 2019, died by suicide, not foul play — following a cascade of negligence and mismanagement at the now-shuttered federal jail in Manhattan where he was housed, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The inspector general, who released a report on Tuesday after a yearslong investigation, found that the leadership and staff members at the jail, the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center, created an environment in which Mr. Epstein, a financier charged with sex trafficking, had every opportunity to kill himself.
The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, referred two supervisors at the facility responsible for ensuring Mr. Epstein’s safety for criminal prosecution by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York after they were caught falsifying records and lying to investigators. But prosecutors declined to bring charges.
While the inspector general concluded the jail’s staff members “engaged in significant misconduct and dereliction of their duties,” investigators — who combed through 100,000 records and conducted dozens of interviews — “did not uncover evidence” that contradicted the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s finding that Mr. Epstein had died by his own hand, with a homemade noose.
What they did find was a remarkable, and largely unexplained, succession of circumstances that made it easy for Mr. Epstein to kill himself. For reasons that remain unclear, the jail’s staff members allowed Mr. Epstein to hoard extra blankets, linens, bedding and clothing, despite the fact that he had tried to hang himself earlier.
And they violated a standing order intended to prevent Mr. Epstein from self-harm, by allowing him to remain alone in his cell for a full day after his cellmate left — after one official sent an email to 70 Bureau of Prisons employees warning them that doing so was dangerous, according to the report.
The inspector general’s report comes nearly four years after Mr. Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell with a bedsheet tied around his neck. The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide. Mr. Epstein had been awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges, and if convicted, would have faced up to 45 years in prison.
Almost immediately, an explosion of conspiracy theories suggested he had been killed because of potential secrets he held and his connections to politicians and Wall Street titans.
Two days after Mr. Epstein’s death, Attorney General William P. Barr said that there had been “serious irregularities” at the jail. He later attributed the death to “a perfect storm of screw-ups.”
Mr. Epstein’s death occurred just over two weeks after he was found in his cell with bruising around his neck in a possible suicide attempt. That occurred the week after a federal judge in Manhattan denied Mr. Epstein’s request to be released into home detention at his Upper East Side estate while awaiting trial. The judge found that if Mr. Epstein were released, he would continue to abuse teenage girls.
The Bureau of Prisons has never offered a public explanation as to why Mr. Epstein was able to kill himself while in government custody.
The government charged the two guards with falsifying jail records to cover up their failure to perform their duties. The guards ultimately entered into deferred prosecution agreements, and the charges have since been dropped.
Mr. Epstein was taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center on July 6, 2019, after he was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, where he had flown on a private jet from Paris.
Mr. Epstein was charged in a federal indictment with recruiting dozens of teenage girls, some as young as 14, to engage in sex acts with him, at his Manhattan mansion and his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., paying each of them hundreds of dollars in cash.
He also paid some of his victims to recruit additional girls, allowing him to “create a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit,” the indictment charged.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center, a high-security federal jail in Lower Manhattan that long was criticized for poor conditions and inhumane treatment of prisoners, has since been closed and its prisoners moved to other institutions.