U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters
Two Manhattan federal jail guard officers accused of failing to keep watch over inmate Jeffrey Epstein the night he killed himself in 2019 have reached an agreement with prosecutors that will result in the dismissal of criminal charges they currently face if they comply with certain conditions.
As part of a deferred prosecution agreement revealed late Friday afternoon, the guards, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, will be kept under pre-trial supervision for six months.
And they must perform 100 hours of community service — “preferably in an area related to the criminal justice system,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
The defendants will also “cooperate with a pending Department of Justice Office of Inspector General review” of the circumstances of Epstein’s death “by providing truthful information related to their employment by the Bureau of Prisons,” the court filing said.
If they abide by the deal’s terms, prosecutors will drop their pending criminal case against the guards, which is being handled in Manhattan federal court.
As part of the deal, Noel and Thomas, admitted that they “willfully and knowingly” filled out documents falsely claiming that they had checked on Epstein’s cell on schedule the night he died, prosecutors told Judge Analisa Torres in their filing.
The filing said, “After a thorough investigation, and based on the facts of this case and the personal circumstances of the defendants, the Government has determined that the interests of justice will best be served by deferring prosecution in this District.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which is prosecuting the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Epstein, 66, a registered sex offender and a well-connected multi-millionaire, hanged himself in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center in August 2019.
He was being held without bail on federal child sex trafficking charges.
A month before his death, Epstein was briefly placed on suicide watch after officers found him on the floor of his cell with a bedsheet tied around his neck.
On Aug. 9 and Aug. 10, 2019, Noel and Thomas were responsible for checking in on Epstein at a series of intervals.
But Noel and Thomas did not complete all of their assigned check-ins on Epstein, prosecutors have said.
Instead, they surfed the internet in the common area of the special housing unit of the federal lockup, browsing sports news and sales of furniture and motorcycles, an indictment charge.
Gerald Lefcourt, a former lawyer for Epstein, told CNBC that, “Deferred prosecutions are usually very hard to come by.
”It’s usually a sign that the prosecution’s case is not how it originally appeared,” said Lefcourt, who played a key role in cutting a non-prosecution deal with the Miami’s United States Attorney in which Epstein avoided federal criminal charges. In that case, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to Florida state charges that included soliciting sex for pay from an underage girl.
Epstein, a former friend of ex-Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, served 13 months in jail for that case.
Asked if he thought the deferred prosecution agreement was appropriate in the guards’ case, Lefcourt demurred, saying, ”I don’t know the facts.”
Prosecutors asked Torres to schedule a video-conference hearing for next Tuesday for the deferred prosecution agreements to be set in motion. Such deals are not final until they are approved by the court.
Epstein’s suicide sent shockwaves all over the world and quickly gave rise to an array of politically charged conspiracy theories.
Days after his death, then-Attorney General William Barr excoriated the jail where Epstein was being held, vowing the that Department of Justice will “get to the bottom of what happened.”
Recently lawyers for Epstein’s alleged procurer, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was arrested last summer, have complained to a federal judge that she is being “overmanaged” in the Brooklyn federal jail where she is being detained without bail.
Maxwell’s lawyers said her sleep is regularly interrupted by guards using flashlights to make sure she has not killed herself.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty in her case.