The Justice Department announced Tuesday it is removing the warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and putting two staffers on leave in the wake of the apparent weekend suicide by accused sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
The department said Attorney General William Barr, who on Monday complained about “serious irregularities” at the jail, named James Petrucci, warden of the federal prison in upstate Otisville, as acting warden at the MCC.
Barr, who said after Epstein’s death that he was “appalled,” said warden N’Diaye Lamine was being transferred to the Bureau of Prisons Northeast Regional Office pending the outcome of FBI and inspector general probes of the death.
Barr also put two MCC staff members on leave pending the outcome of the investigations. They were not identified.
Late Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that guards on the unit are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they were making 30-minute checks on Epstein, according to a person familiar with the probe. But investigators learned those checks weren’t done for several hours before he was found Saturday morning, according to that person, the AP said.
Surveillance video reviewed after the death showed guards never made some of the checks noted in the log, according to the person, who wasn’t authorized to disclose information and spoke to the AP Tuesday on condition of anonymity.
Eric Young, president of the union council that represents prison guards, said the reassignment of guards is routinely done to “protect the integrity of investigations until any formal action, if any, is warranted.”
Epstein, 66, a wealthy associate of such famous figures as former President Bill Clinton, President Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was being held without bail on charges of sex trafficking of underage females more than a decade ago in Palm Beach and New York City.
In late July he had been placed on suicide watch after being found injured in his cell, but he was taken off the watch later. According to published reports, he was supposed to be checked every 30 minutes, but that protocol was not followed.
After Epstein’s death, prosecutors said they would continue to investigate accomplices and aides who may have helped him procure girls, and a joint FBI-NYPD task force this week raided his home in the Virgin Islands to gather evidence.
A police source said the task force is headed back to New York, and warned that some individuals who previously cooperated may now be worried about their legal exposure.
With Anthony M. DeStefano