The House Judiciary Committee, shocked and angered by the death by apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein while in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, is demanding answers.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the committee leadership sent a letter to the acting director of the bureau, Hugh Hurwitz, on Monday declaring that Epstein’s death, reportedly by hanging, “demonstrates severe miscarriages of or deficiencies in inmate protocol and has allowed the deceased to ultimately evade facing justice.”
Nearly three weeks before he was found unresponsive on Saturday morning by the staff at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, Epstein, 66, had apparently made a similar but failed attempt at suicide. However, at the time of his death he was not on suicide watch.
The multimillionaire hedge fund manager was accused of sexually trafficking underage girls at his homes in New York and Palm Beach, and suspected of similar activities at his opulent properties in Paris, the Virgin Islands and New Mexico. According to victims and police, associates of Epstein would recruit girls from malls, parties and other teen hangouts, suggesting they could make money giving a man a massage. The massages, in some instances, turned into sexual assaults.
Some girls were paid to recruit other girls, in what amounted to a pyramid scheme. A previous federal investigation 10 years earlier resulted in a controversial non-prosecution agreement in the Southern District of Florida, but Epstein was arrested in early July on revived charges after reports in the Miami Herald and elsewhere renewed interest in the case.
The committee’s letter, signed by Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York City, and Doug Collins, R-Georgia, the ranking committee member, lists 23 questions and requests answers by Aug. 21.
Among the questions the panel wants addressed:
▪ Were any surveillance cameras placed in or near Epstein’s cell?
▪ What psychological evaluations of Epstein were undertaken and by whom?
▪ Who ultimately made the decision to take Epstein off suicide watch?
▪ Was the decision to take Epstein off suicide watch discussed with or directed by higher-ups within the Bureau of Prisons, anyone with the larger Department of Justice or “executive branch personnel outside of BOP.”
The murky circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death have spawned conspiracy theories, including one retweeted by President Donald Trump. Trump was formerly a friend of Epstein, who sometimes frequented his private club in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago. Epstein was also a friend of former President Bill Clinton.
Over the years, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a fortress-like high-rise, has held a wide array of high-profile detainees, including Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, the Mexican drug kingpin known as “El Chapo” and mobster John Gotti.
The victims of Epstein, who has been linked to the sexual abuse of dozens of underage girls, expressed frustration Saturday upon learning that he had died, apparently by his own hand, before he could face trial.
“I just wanted him to be held accountable for his actions,” said Michelle Licata. “I would never wish that somebody would die, but he took the easy way out.”
Attorney General William Barr and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, said the Justice Department will pursue charges against those who abetted Epstein in his sex trafficking operation.