Attorney General William Barr said investigators are learning of “serious irregularities” at the New York jail where accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was found dead of an apparent suicide over the weekend.
“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Barr told a national policing conference in New Orleans on Monday morning.
Barr said he was “appalled” and “angry” to learn of the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s “failure to adequately secure this prisoner.”
Barr announced on Saturday that the FBI and the Justice Department’s internal watchdog would investigate Epstein’s death.
Epstein’s cell was not regularly monitored the night he was believed to have killed himself, and the two guards monitoring the unit he was held in were both on overtime, a source with knowledge of Epstein’s time at the prison told CNN on Sunday.
The investigation into what went wrong in the Epstein case is focusing not only on the 24 hours before the suicide but also on wider systemic problems at the jail that have now come to light, a person briefed on the matter told CNN Monday.
At the end of the month, when Epstein was taken off suicide watch and moved back to the Special Housing Unit, jail officials notified Justice Department headquarters.
As part of the regular jail protocol he had a cellmate and the guards on duty were supposed to check on him every 30 minutes, but at some point, the cellmate was moved out, according to the source. And for a number of hours before his death Epstein’s cell was not checked on, the source said.
Justice officials have now uncovered broader problems at the jail, which long was considered to be among the best-run facilities in the Bureau of Prisons system, according to the source.
It’s not clear what else has been found but the person briefed on the matter said it goes beyond the 24 hours before Epstein’s death.
Employees have complained about being overworked and having to work consecutive days of overtime. Of the two guards monitoring Epstein’s cell, one was working a mandatory overtime shift and the other was working his fifth overtime shift of the week.
Justice Department officials now say the jail has suffered a breakdown in protocols for a period that goes back years, according to the person briefed on the matter.
On Monday, Barr said that the case against Epstein would continue. A spokeswoman for the New York FBI told CNN it has agents in the US Virgin Islands, specifically on Epstein’s island, Little St. James, in connection with the Epstein investigation.
“Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it,” Barr said.