Attorney General William Barr said that disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide death was the result of “a perfect storm of screw ups.”
Barr, during an interview with the Associated Press late Thursday, said that his concerns about Epstein’s death were prompted by numerous irregularities at Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan where he was being held.
In August, following Epstein’s death, Barr vowed a comprehensive probe by the FBI and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, amid disturbing revelations from lawyers and others who said failings at the prison had been ignored for years. Now, months into an investigation, Barr says federal investigators have realized there were a “series” of mistakes made that gave Epstein the chance to take his own life.
“I can understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups,” Barr said.
Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City in August. Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by staff. He was then transported to New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival, officials said at the time.
Immediately following his death, the New York City medical examiner ruled that the convicted sex offender took his own life, but questions were raised as to how the wealthy financier could have killed himself while in a high-security facility just two weeks after being placed on suicide watch.
Meanwhile, this week, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who described Epstein’s death as a “black eye on the entire Bureau of Prisons,” testified that FBI investigators probing Epstein’s death are looking into whether a “criminal enterprise” may have played a role.
Later that day, an indictment was filed in Manhattan federal court alleging that guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas “repeatedly failed to complete mandated counts of prisoners under their watch in the MCC’s Special Housing Unit,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. Both Noel and Thomas were arraigned Tuesday on charges of conspiracy and making false records in connection with Epstein’s death. Both pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, Barr, on Thursday, also sought to tamp down the conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s death, with many people questioning whether Epstein really took his own life.
Barr told the Associated Press that the evidence proves that his death was, in fact, by suicide, adding that he personally reviewed security footage that confirmed that no one entered the area where Epstein was housed the night he died.
Epstein was placed on suicide watch on July 23 after he was found on his cell floor with bruises on his neck, but was taken off the heightened watch about a week before his death on August 10, meaning he was less closely monitored, but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.
Epstein was also required to have a cellmate, but was left with none after his cellmate was transferred out of the MCC on August 9—a day before his death.
“I think it was important to have a roommate in there with him and we’re looking into why that wasn’t done, and I think every indication is that was a screw-up,” Barr said. “The systems to assure that was done were not followed.”
Epstein’s death ended the possibility of a trial that would have involved prominent figures and sparked widespread anger that he wouldn’t have to answer for sexual abuse allegations of minors. But even after his death, federal prosecutors in New York are continuing to investigate the allegations against him.
In July, Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy during the early 2000s. Epstein pleaded not guilty in federal court. Epstein allegedly created and maintained a “vast network” and operation from 2002 “up to and including” at least 2005 that enabled him to “sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls” in addition to paying victims to recruit other underage girls.
Prosecutors also alleged that Epstein “worked and conspired with others, including employees and associates” who helped facilitate his conduct by contacting victims and scheduling their sexual encounters with the 66-year-old at his mansions in New York City and Palm Beach, Fla.
Victims would be paid hundreds of dollars in cash by either Epstein or one of his associates or employees, according to prosecutors. The 66-year-old also allegedly “incentivized his victims” to become recruiters by paying victim-recruiters hundreds of dollars for each girl brought to him.
Epstein was once friends with former President Bill Clinton, President Trump and Britain’s Prince Andrew, who, amid allegations, this week revealed that he asked Queen Elizabeth if he could “step back” from his public duties.
Documents unsealed in the case against Epstein, the day before he died, revealed that Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a key witness, claimed that Epstein forced her to have sex with powerful men, including former Sen. George Mitchell and former New Mexico Governor and Clinton cabinet official Bill Richardson. Both Mitchell and Richardson have denied the allegations.
Barr said the Justice Department is still investigating the circumstances that led to his death.
“They are definitely pushing things along,” Barr said. “I’ll just say there is good progress being made, and I’m hopeful in a relatively short time there will be tangible results."
Fox News' Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.