As if there needed to be one more unusual circumstance surrounding what authorities initially classified as the “apparent suicide” of Jeffrey Epstein, officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City have dropped yet another doozy.
Epstein, who was found dead in his cell on Saturday, had no cellmate. The man assigned to his cell was abruptly transferred to another cell on Friday and another cellmate was not assigned, The Washington Post reported.
Investigators “are still exploring” why the cellmate was suddenly transferred, the Post said.
Epstein, a wealthy financier who was awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused dozens of young girls in the early 2000s, also was not checked on by guards for several hours before he was found unresponsive in his cell.
Conspiracy theories have exploded over how the convicted pedophile — who had rubbed elbows with prominent politicians from presidents to senators and even princes — could have killed himself while held in a high-security facility, and only two weeks after he was put on suicide watch.
Officials now say Epstein had been taken off suicide watch at the end of July, shortly after he was found in his cell with bruises on his neck. Those same prison officials have not said if the injuries were the result of an assault or a suicide attempt.
Epstein had been housed in the jail’s Special Housing Unit, a heavily secured part of the facility used to hold high-profile inmates, including, until recently, the Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who after his conviction on drug charges was moved to the Supermax prison in Colorado.
In another unusual twist, the two prison officers who were assigned to monitor the special unit were working overtime: One was ordered to do so by superiors, and the other was on his fourth or fifth consecutive day of working overtime shifts, the Post reported.
Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, said the Metropolitan Correctional Center is functioning with less than 70 percent of the needed correctional officers, forcing many to work mandatory overtime and 60- or 70-hour workweeks.
She said one of the individuals assigned to watch Epstein’s unit did not normally work as a correctional officer but, like others in roles such as counselors and teachers, was able to do so. She declined to say which one or specify the person’s regular role.
Epstein’s alleged suicide came one day after some 2,000 pages of documents from a since-settled lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers, who says she was once his “sex slave.” Giuffre claims Epstein and his longtime confident Ghislaine Maxwell trafficked her for sex to powerful people, including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Britain’s Prince Andrew, wealthy financier Glenn Dubin, former Sen. George Mitchell, as well as “another prince,” a “foreign president,” and a well-known prime minister, the documents said.
Giuffre’s attorney, Sigrid McCawley, said Epstein’s “suicide” so quickly after the documents were unsealed “is no coincidence.”
An ex-inmate of the facility also told The New York Post there was “no way” Epstein killed himself.
“Could he have done it from the bed? No sir. There’s a steel frame, but you can’t move it. There’s no light fixture. There’s no bars,” the inmate said. “They don’t give you enough in there that could successfully create an instrument of death.”