The FBI is reportedly investigating a possible “criminal enterprise” involved in the death of Jeffrey Epstein.
While attention has been focused on the impeachment show-trial in the House, another hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee took place Tuesday, as Bureau of Prisons director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer testified that an investigation is underway in the death of the billionaire sex offender who died in August.
Sawyer responded to questions about Epstein’s death, which was ruled a suicide by New York City’s chief medical examiner as she spoke before the Senate panel.
Sen. Lindsey Graham questioned the director, who replaced Hugh Hurwitz when he was demoted by Attorney General William Barr a week after the death of the 66-year-old financier who was found in his Manhattan jail cell where he was being held while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
“With a case this high profile, there has got to be either a major malfunction of the system or a criminal enterprise afoot to allow this to happen,” the South Carolina Republican said. “So are you looking at both? Is the FBI looking at both?”
“If the FBI is involved then they are looking at criminal enterprise, yes,” Sawyer replied.
She also told the senator that “the whole situation is still under the investigation of the FBI and the Inspector General’s Office and I’m really not at liberty to discuss specifics of this case.”
“I can discuss issues around institutional operations, but I can’t specifically talk about that particular issue,” Sawyer said, explaining that the Bureau of Prisons has “different tiers of response if we identify an inmate who appears to have suicidal thinking.”
Epstein was taken off of suicide watch, which was prompted by a failed attempt to take his life in July, prior to his subsequent death in August.
“They move into psychological observation,” Sawyer noted. “Psychologists see them routinely, interview them repeatedly and once it’s determined that the threat of suicide seems to have passed, then that inmate can be returned back to open population.”
“Well, clearly it didn’t work here so we await the report because all the victims of Mr. Epstein have to have their heart ripped out as they will never see justice,” Graham responded.
The hearing was underway as reports came in that the two guards assigned to Epstein were arrested Tuesday and accused of falsifying log entries to show they checked on him every 30 minutes as they were required to do. The two prison staff employees at the Metropolitan Correctional Center had reportedly turned down the federal prosecutors’ offer for a plea deal which would have them admit to falsifying records, further fueling speculation that Epstein’s death was not a suicide.
The indictment unsealed on Tuesday revealed that Tova Noel and Michael Thomas had “sat at their desk, browsed the internet, and moved around the common area of the SHU (Special Housing Unit).” and they “repeatedly signed false certifications attesting to having conducted multiple counts of inmates when, in truth and in fact, they never conducted such counts.”
“What happened to Jeffrey Epstein is an enormous black eye for the BOP,” Sen. Ted Cruz said during Tuesday’s hearing.
“And yet he died in federal custody. He died in federal custody before he had a chance to testify about his crimes, about his wrongdoings, and about the other powerful men who were complicit in that sexual abuse,” the Texas Republican added. “There were powerful men who wanted Jeffrey Epstein silenced.”
“Based on the evidence of which you are aware, is there any indication that Jeffrey Epstein’s death was a homicide?” Cruz asked Sawyer.
“Based upon the evidence that I am aware, no, but as I’ve already told the committee, it is still being investigated by the FBI and the Inspector General’s Office,” she replied.
“We have some bad staff,” she added after speaking of the two guards. “We want to get rid of those bad staff who don’t do their job. We want them gone, one way or another, either by prosecution or by termination.”
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