The two prison guards who skipped their rounds and falsified records the night that Jeffrey Epstein allegedly died by suicide will dodge jail time after agreeing to cooperate with a DOJ inspector general investigation, the latest examples in the Epstein saga seemingly let off the hook.
The announcement by the Southern District of New York follows a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation in May and a DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility investigation in November separately concluding they had uncovered no criminality in how investigators and prosecutors handled the case against the jet-setting financier and deceased sex offender, leading to renewed calls for accountability.
Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, told the court on Friday her office had “entered into deferred prosecution agreements” with Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, guards at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, claiming that “the Government has determined that the interests of justice will best be served by deferring prosecution.” The prosecutor said the defendants “will cooperate with a pending Department of Justice Office of Inspector General review by providing truthful information related to their employment by the Bureau of Prisons, including about the events and circumstances described in the Indictment.”
The DOJ Inspector General’s Office declined to comment on its pending investigation.
“This plea deal and failure of justice is reprehensible. Epstein’s victims have been failed at every single turn, beginning with Epstein’s sweetheart deal in Florida and perpetuated by government incompetence across the board. The leader of an international sex trafficking ring is dead, his secrets were taken with him to the grave, and the guards who are responsible for the cover-up received the same punishment as a teenager who got into a fender bender,” Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, told the Washington Examiner. “Twice, the Bureau of Prisons refused to give an update to the Judiciary Committee — that’s completely inexcusable. The Department of Justice needs to ramp up its work to bring every single one of Epstein’s co-conspirators to justice. We have a responsibility to these victims. They can’t be forgotten again.”
Noel and Thomas admitted they “willfully and knowingly completed materially false count and round slips regarding required counts and rounds in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 9, 2019 and August 10, 2019,” according to Strauss, but, instead of jail time, the duo “will complete 100 hours of community service.”
The Justice Department unsealed its indictment against Noel and Thomas in November 2019, alleging the two responsible for checking on Epstein lied “to conceal their failure to complete their duties.”
Epstein was found dead in his jail cell early on the morning of Aug. 10, 2019, in what was ruled a suicide within days. In late October 2019, New York City’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Barbara Sampson, stood by her conclusion “that the cause of Mr. Epstein’s death was hanging and the manner of death was suicide.”
Authorities said Noel and Thomas “repeatedly failed to complete mandated counts of prisoners under their watch” and charged each with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, along with a number of false records charges.
The DOJ said Noel and Thomas “sat at their desk, browsed the internet, and moved around the common area of the SHU” instead of doing rounds. Prosecutors said that “as a result of those false reports” filed by Noel and Thomas, the prison thought Epstein was being checked on regularly. Around 6:30 a.m., Noel and Thomas “discovered the body of Epstein, who had committed suicide by hanging himself earlier that morning while unobserved.”
Epstein was alleged to have “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls” at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, among other locations, between 2002 and 2005 and perhaps beyond. Prosecutors claimed Epstein built a “vast network of underage victims.” Epstein’s arrest in July 2019 marked the second time he had been investigated for sex crimes. Alex Acosta, the former U.S. attorney for Southern Florida, who resigned as Trump’s labor secretary, reached a controversial agreement in 2008 with Epstein’s attorneys, in which Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to two state-level prostitution solicitation charges.
Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Office of Executive Investigations released the results of investigations it conducted after Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the inquiry in August 2019. DeSantis asked Florida investigators to take over the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s criminal inquiry into Epstein and to look into misconduct “beyond the work release of Jeffrey Epstein and into other irregularities surrounding the prior state investigation and the ultimate plea agreement.”
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Palm Beach County’s top police officer since 2004, launched an internal and criminal investigation in July into his office’s handling of Epstein.
Epstein’s victims and others criticized county officials for the plea deal that he received in 2008. Under the agreement, Epstein pleaded guilty to felony state charges of procuring a person younger than 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution and was sentenced to 18 months in the Palm Beach County jail, along with a sex offender designation.
The sex offender went to jail at the end of June 2008, and by early October 2008, he was approved for a work-release program, allowing him to work at his office and even to visit his home, and by June 2009, his work release was approved for seven days a week.
The FDLE investigation concluded that “no evidence was developed to substantiate that any” Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office member “engaged in criminal activity during the performance of their duties associated with PBSO’s housing and supervision.” And “although the inquiry detailed instances in which, while in the care, custody, and control of PBSO, Epstein was provided differential treatment,” investigators concluded that “these actions were explained by PBSO and were determined not to be a criminal matter.”
The Florida investigation noted that the Palm Beach Police Department had identified 17 female victims. FDLE concluded that “no evidence was developed to substantiate that any identified individual engaged in criminal activity during the performance of their duties associated with the criminal investigation, prosecution, or court proceedings pertaining to Jeffrey Epstein.”
FDLE investigators also said they investigated allegations that “Epstein had engaged in sexual activity” with female victims “while in PBSO custody and during his work-release hours” in 2008 and 2009, but said that Priscilla Doe and Katyln Doe “declined to provide statements” to investigators, although their attorney responded via text that there was “no alleged wrongdoing by deputies.” The investigation concluded that “although the aforementioned allegations pertaining to Jeffrey Epstein engaging in sexual activity with young females during his time under the PBSO work-release program were possible, no evidence was developed to substantiate a criminal predicate that would warrant FDLE to continue a criminal investigation.”
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office told the Washington Examiner, “There is an on-going Internal Affairs investigation into any possible administrative violations, the results of which will be released in the near future.”
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility also concluded in November that Acosta and other federal prosecutors exercised “poor judgment” in their handling of 2008’s sweetheart deal with Epstein but said they found no wrongdoing.
Acosta reached the agreement over a decade ago with Epstein’s attorneys, including Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, potentially allowing Epstein to dodge a slew of federal charges.
The Office of Professional Responsibility “does not find that Acosta engaged in professional misconduct by resolving the federal investigation of Epstein in the way he did or that the other subjects committed professional misconduct through their implementation of Acosta’s decisions,” DOJ said, although it concluded that “Acosta’s decision to resolve the federal investigation through the non-prosecution agreement constitutes poor judgment.”
“Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t ‘poor judgment’ — it is a disgusting failure. Americans ought to be enraged. Jeffrey Epstein should be rotting behind bars today, but the Justice Department failed Epstein’s victims at every turn,” Sasse said at the time. “The DOJ’s crooked deal with Epstein effectively shut down investigations into his child sex trafficking ring and protected his co-conspirators in other states.”
Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime friend, and on-again, off-again girlfriend, was arrested in early July 2020 and charged with conspiring with Epstein to recruit, groom, and sexually abuse underage girls, as well as perjury in depositions regarding Epstein. The British socialite has said that she “vigorously denies the charges” and pleaded not guilty. Federal prosecutors filed underage sex-trafficking charges against Maxwell in a superseding indictment in March, and her trial was pushed to November.
“This is good news. All of Epstein’s co-conspirators, and especially Ghislaine Maxwell, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Sasse said earlier this year. “She knows the depth of Epstein’s sick crimes, and the DOJ ought to do everything it can to keep her alive and bring her to justice.”