Correction officers on Jeffrey Epstein’s unit were working overtime to make up for staffing shortages the morning of his apparent suicide Saturday, a source told The Associated Press, while another published report said he was not properly monitored.
Epstein, a politically connected financier indicted on charges of child sex-trafficking, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. He was later pronounced dead at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital.
A person familiar with jail operations told the AP on Sunday that the correctional center’s Special Housing Unit was staffed with one officer working a fifth straight day of overtime and another who was working mandatory overtime. The person spoke Sunday on the condition of anonymity, the AP said.
The jail staff also failed to follow protocols leading up to Epstein’s death, according to a report from The New York Times. Epstein should have been checked on by guards in his cell every 30 minutes, but that didn’t happen the night before his apparent suicide, a law enforcement official told the Times, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
A law enforcement source also told the Times that Epstein was alone in his cell early Saturday after his cellmate was transferred. An official with knowledge of the investigation told the paper that the Justice Department was told Epstein would have a cellmate and be monitored by a guard every 30 minutes.
An autopsy was completed on Epstein's body Sunday, authorities said, but no cause of death was disclosed.
New York City Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson released a statement Sunday evening saying: "The ME's determination is pending further information at this time. At the request of those representing the decedent, and with the awareness of the federal prosecutor, I allowed a private pathologist (Dr. Michael Baden) to observe the autopsy examination. This is routine practice.
"My office defers to the involved law enforcement agencies regarding other investigations around this death," the statement said.
It was not immediately clear who Baden, the former New York City chief medical examiner and a former deputy chief medical examiner for Suffolk County, was working for when he attended the autopsy.
The death of Epstein, who in the past had close ties to President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and other notable public officials and financial titans, immediately spurred talk of a wider conspiracy. A day before Epstein's death, more than 2,000 pages of documents were released related to a since-settled lawsuit against him by an ex-girlfriend, one of his accusers.
On Sunday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump wanted all facets of Epstein’s apparent suicide investigated, after she was asked about the president’s tweets sharing unsubstantiated conspiracy theories surrounding the financier's death.
“I think the president just wants everything to be investigated,” Conway said on Fox News Sunday when asked about the president’s Twitter posts.
Attorney General William Barr, calling for an investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general's office, said in a statement Saturday that he was "appalled" to learn of Epstein's death while in federal custody.
Late Saturday, Trump reposted a tweet from conservative actor and comedian Terrence K. Williams that suggested Clinton was somehow tied to Epstein’s death. Clinton, like Trump, had a friendly relationship with the wealthy financier, who was arrested last month on charges of child sex-trafficking.
Clinton spokesman Angel Urena last month said: “President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York. He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida.”
Trump also sought to distance himself from Epstein following the financier's arrest last month by federal authorities in New York. The president told reporters he had not spoken to Epstein, a former member of his Mar-a-Lago resort, for more than a decade.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at the Iowa State Fair on the presidential campaign trail, called for a full investigation into Epstein’s death. He said it “just doesn’t make sense” that someone so high profile was unsupervised at the jail after either attempting suicide or being assaulted.
“No way it makes sense he was left alone,” De Blasio told reporters, adding that “his death should not mean that investigation is dropped ... That could include the richest, most powerful people in the country.”
Other Democratic presidential hopefuls criticized Trump for retweeting the conspiracy theory without evidence.
"What he's doing is dangerous," Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said during an appearance Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "He's giving life to not just conspiracy theories, but really whipping people up into anger and worse against different people in this country."
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said Sunday that Trump's retweet is an attempt by the president to shift the focus from the recent mass shootings that killed 31 people last week.
"This is another example of our president using this position of public trust to attack his political enemies with unfounded conspiracy theories and also to try and force you and me and all of us to focus on his bizarre behavior," O'Rourke said on "State of the Union." "He’s changing the conversation. If we allow him to do that, then we will never be able to focus on the true problem, of which he is a part."
Fellow candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “there needs to be a full investigation” into Epstein’s apparent suicide.
“I want to know why he was left in a circumstance where suicide was even possible,” Gillibrand said.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) also called for answers surrounding Epstein's death in a tweet Sunday and said he believed there was "wrongdoing" but offered no specifics or evidence.
"There is a 100% chance that there was additional, not yet public wrongdoing in the circumstances surrounding Jeffrey Epstein’s death," Zeldin tweeted Sunday morning. "I’m sure there are some people who want this all to just get swept under the rug, but the public wants & demands answers on what exactly happened."
Conway took issue with previous news reports linking Trump and Epstein, including a video obtained by NBC News last month that shows the two moguls sharing laughs at a Mar-a-Lago party in the late 1990s. The president’s top aide suggested the public would want to know more about the host of big names who traveled to Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean.
“Trying to connect the president to this monster from years ago, when they’re seen dancing in a video versus other people who were actively, I suppose, flying around with this monster on his island, which was known as ‘pedophilia island,’ perhaps there’s a public interest in knowing more about that,” Conway said. “But again, this is all speculative.”
The records released Friday contained graphic allegations against Epstein, as well as the transcript of his 2016 deposition in which he repeatedly refused to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself.
Asked if the Trump administration could assure Epstein’s victims that their allegations will continue to be investigated by the Department of Justice, Conway said: “What I can assure them is that the attorney general took action immediately when he learned of the death of Jeffrey Epstein.”
“I think that those victims should have justice, they’ve been looking for justice for many, many years, and I can’t really comment beyond that,” Conway said.
With David M. Schwartz, Rachelle Blidner and AP