Two guards at a Manhattan federal prison were indicted in connection with the investigation of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, a police official said.
Michael Thomas and Tova Noel, who were on duty the night before Epstein's death by suicide on August 10, were indicted by a grand jury on six counts related to falsifying prison records.
Thomas and Noel have pleaded not guilty and will be released on $ 100,000 bond.
The allegations are that Thomas and Noel sat at their desk, browsed the Internet, and moved into a common area of the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center, but never made any rounds that night.
The prosecution says that from approximately 10:30 pm. From August 9 until about 6:30 the next morning, when Epstein was found dead, the two never sought him or anyone else in the special prison unit.
Epstein was in the cell closest to the common area, which meant the guards were about 15 feet away, the indictment says.
"Noel used his computer periodically throughout the night, including searching the Internet for furniture sales," the indictment said. Thomas reportedly used the computer briefly at three different points during the night to search for motorcycle sales and sports news.
For a period of about two hours, "Noel and Thomas sat at their table without moving and seemed to be sleeping," the prosecution says.
The guards did not discover Epstein in his cell without replying until 6:30 am, when they entered the unit to deliver breakfast. Minutes later, around 6:33 am, an alarm went off and a supervisor arrived almost immediately.
According to the accusation, Noel told the supervisor that "Epstein hanged himself" and said that she and Thomas had never completed the 3 am or 5 am rounds.
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Thomas then declared, "We made a mistake" and added, "I made a mistake, she has no fault, we made no rounds."
The two are accused of falsely signing internal documents, saying that they checked and counted at 12h, 3h and 5h, and made rounds at 30-minute intervals.
US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said the two guards "had a duty to ensure the safety of federal prisoners under their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Instead, they repeatedly failed to perform mandatory checks on detainees and lied on official forms. to hide their abandonment. "
Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said in a statement: "Any allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously by the agency and will be properly answered."
A Thomas lawyer, Montell Figgins, said the two guards are being "scapegoats," the Associated Press reported.
"We consider this a rush to trial by the US lawyer's office," said Figgins. "They're going after the short man on the totem here."
Prosecutors wanted the guards to admit that they falsified prison records as part of an offer they rejected, according to people familiar with the matter, the AP said.
Epstein was arrested July 6 at an airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, when returning from Paris in a private jet. He has been charged with a conspiracy charge for sex trafficking and one charge of sex trafficking and could face up to 45 years in prison if found guilty.
He pleaded not guilty and was denied bail.
The prosecution in his case alleged that he sought minors, aged 14 to 14, from at least 2002 to 2005 and paid them hundreds of dollars in cash for sex at their Manhattan home or on their Palm Beach property. , Florida.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to hiring a person under 18 for prostitution and criminal solicitation of prostitution. He served a 13-month sentence in a Florida county jail and received a federal non-arrest agreement.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in his federal cell in midtown Manhattan on August 10 as a result of suicide.
He was not under suicide surveillance at the time of his death, despite a possible attempt weeks earlier, several people familiar with the investigation told NBC News.
US Attorney General William Barr, who ordered the reassignment of the director of the Metropolitan Correctional Center and the departure of the two guards after the financier's death, promised a full investigation.
"We will get to the bottom of what happened, and there will be responsibility," Barr said earlier this year.
Following Epstein's death, federal prosecutors shifted their focus to possible charges against those who helped or allowed Epstein in his alleged sexual crimes. The agents searched their private island off the coast of St. Thomas in the Caribbean for evidence, and Barr received a message for potential accomplices.
"Let me assure you that this case will continue against anyone who is complicit," Barr said at a police conference in New Orleans. "Victims deserve justice and will get it."