Judge approves deferred prosecution for jail guards

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Jeffrey Epstein in 2004.

Rick Friedman | Corbis News | Getty Images

A judge on Tuesday approved a deferred prosecution deal for two federal jail guards who failed to monitor sex offender Jeffrey Epstein on the August 2019 night that wealthy investor hanged himself in his cell, where he was being held on child sex trafficking charges.

The agreement means that the two guards, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, will escape a conviction and potential jail sentence for pending criminal charges against them if they comply with the terms of the deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Those conditions include performing 100 hours of community service, being monitored by pretrial supervision officials for six months, and cooperating with a pending Justice Department probe of Epstein’s death.

As part of the deal, Noel and Thomas admitted lying on documents that claimed they had monitored Epstein’s cell and those of other inmates the night he died in August 2019 in the Manhattan Correctional Center.

Prosecutors have said that the guards, instead of checking on the inmates, surfed the internet, browsed sports news and sales of furniture and motorcycles, and also appear to have been asleep for about two hours during their shift.

If Noel and Thomas fully comply with the terms of the agreement, the government will move to dismiss the indictment against them, assistant U.S. attorney Nicholas Roos said in a hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The guards were arrested in November 2019 for that indictment, which charged them with conspiracy and filing false records.

Epstein, 66, a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, was awaiting being held without bail on the sex charges at the time of his death. He was being held in a special unit in the jail reserved for inmates who are at increase risk from or to other inmates in the general population of the facility.

Weeks before his suicide, he was found unresponsive in his cell in the same jail as the result of an apparent first suicide attempt.

Prosecutors last told Judge Analisa Torres in a letter that they agreed to the deal with the guards after determining through “a thorough investigation, and based on the facts of this case and the personal circumstances of the defendants” that “that the interests of justice will best be served by deferring prosecution.”

Torres during the e roughly 15-minute video hearing asked the guards if they understood that they were admitting they “willfully and knowingly” submitted false documents the night Epstein died.

“Yes, your honor,” they both replied.

Torres scheduled a follow-up hearing for Dec. 16.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last week blasted the deal as a slap in the face to Epstein’s victims.

Sasse also called the agreement the latest example of the U.S. Justice Department “embarrassing itself” in an Epstein-related case.

The deferred prosecution deal does not preclude both guards from being disciplined or fired by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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