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Jeffrey Epstein has died by apparent suicide in his cell

Questions raised over disgraced financier's death - near impossible for SHU inmates to kill themselves

August 10, 2019

New York - Jailed multimillionaire financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein has died by suicide, two law enforcement sources said Saturday, one day after a court unsealed new details of the claims against him.

Epstein, who was awaiting trial on federal charges accusing him of sexually abusing underage girls, was found unresponsive in his Special Housing Unit (SHU) cell at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal detention facility, around 6:30 a.m. ET., the Federal Bureau of Prisons said.

Staff at the facility started life-saving measures, and Epstein was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the bureau said in a news release.

No foul play is suspected in his death, said a federal official. The bureau's release called it "an apparent suicide," and said the FBI is investigating. Authorities believe Epstein hanged himself, a law enforcement source said.

The New York City medical examiner's office hasn't determined his manner of death.

Epstein had been jailed since early July, when he pleaded not guilty to charges by New York federal prosecutors after an indictment accused him of running a sex trafficking ring of underage girls, some as young as 14 years old.

A judge denied him bail in mid-July -- rejecting his request to remain under house arrest at his Upper East Side mansion, one of the largest private residences in Manhattan. Epstein was set to go to trial at some point next year.

On Friday, hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed in New York federal court, alleging new details of sexual abuse claims against Epstein and several associates.

US Attorney General William Barr said Saturday that he was "appalled" to learn Epstein died of an apparent suicide in federal custody. The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate the circumstances of his death, Barr said.

"Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered," Barr said in a news release. Separately, a source familiar with the situation said Barr was livid at the events surrounding Epstein's apparent suicide and is determined to get to the bottom of what happened.

The US attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, called the day's events "disturbing."

"We are deeply aware of their potential to present yet another hurdle to giving Epstein's many victims their day in Court," he said. Berman, whose office was prosecuting Epstein, added that "our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment -- which included a conspiracy count -- remains ongoing."

An attorney for Epstein, Marc Fernich, called for a "full investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Epstein's death."

Fernich said he was speaking personally, not as a representative of Epstein's defense team. He said several parties can be blamed for the death, including "overzealous prosecutors," "pandering politicians," compliant judges" and a "hysterical press corps."

"The public needs to know exactly what happened and why -- and how his custodians could have let it occur," Fernich said.

Epstein met with his lawyers daily for hours at a time, a source with knowledge of Epstein's visitors said. The source said Epstein met with his attorneys from the time visitors were allowed in the building to the time they were mandated to leave.

He was put on suicide watch in July, but was taken off days later

Just weeks ago, Epstein was temporarily placed on a suicide watch after he was found July 23 in his Manhattan jail cell with marks on his neck, a law enforcement source said at the time.

It was not clear in July to jail officials if those injuries, which were not serious, were self-inflicted or the result of an assault, the sources said. Epstein told authorities he was beaten up and called a child predator, they said.

Daily psychological assessments were conducted on him, and at the end of the month, psychologists with the Bureau of Prisons took him off suicide watch, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Appearing in court a week after he was apparently found harmed in his cell, Epstein had no visible injuries and at one point smiled after a moment of confusion between his attorney and the judge.

July indictment followed 2007 plea deal

At 66 years old, Epstein had faced decades of questions about his behavior, including allegations that he had improper interactions with minor girls and scrutiny surrounding the source of his wealth.

In July, federal prosecutors in New York unsealed an indictment that accused Epstein of paying girls as young as 14 to have sex with him at his Upper East Side home and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.

Federal prosecutors said he used employees and associates to lure the girls to his residences and then paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse.

Epstein faced similar accusations in Florida in 2007 but signed a plea deal that year with Miami prosecutors allowing him to avoid federal charges and plead guilty to lesser state prostitution charges.

A Miami Herald series on the plea deal and the new charges in July renewed attention on the plea deal, spurring outrage against it and leading to the resignation of Trump administration Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who negotiated the plea agreement when he was the US attorney in Miami.

Fernich, Epstein's attorney, referenced former prosecutor Acosta and the plea deal in his personal statement, slamming numerous parties for his client's death.

"Among those who share blame in Epstein's death, he said, is a "hysterical press corps clamoring to recharge Mr. Epstein with dated crimes for which he'd long since paid his debt to society under an arm's length plea deal -- just because he had the misfortune to be a wealthy man in the #metoo era whose former prosecutor happened to take a job with President Trump," Fernich's statement reads.