A slew of investigations is being opened or called for into the apparent suicide of indicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Lawmakers are also calling for a congressional investigation into the details surrounding his death.
Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his jail cell in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which operates the lower Manhattan jail, in a statement. It declined to comment further.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said that both the FBI and the Department of Justice’s inspector general were opening investigations into Epstein’s death. In an Aug. 10 statement, Barr said he was “appalled” at hearing the news and said it raised “serious questions that must be answered.”
A source told Reuters that the financier wasn’t on suicide watch at the time of his death. On July 24, Epstein was reportedly found injured and semi-conscious in his prison cell with marks on his neck. It remains unknown whether the incident was a suicide attempt or an assault by another inmate.
According to CBS News, Epstein was put on suicide watch after the reported injuries “as a precautionary measure.” It remains unclear why Epstein was taken off the watch.
A source who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record told Reuters that Epstein was found “hanging by his neck.” The source also said that at the facility, two jail guards are required to check on all inmates every 30 minutes. But the source said that the “procedure was not followed overnight.”
Every 15 minutes, guards are also required to make “another check on prisoners who are on suicide watch.”
Federal prosecutors said that their criminal investigation into sex trafficking and conspiracy accusations against the multimillionaire is still ongoing. Court documents allege that Epstein sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan and in Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.
In a statement, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman called Epstein’s death “disturbing” and said his office was “deeply aware” it could “present yet another hurdle to giving Epstein’s many victims their day in court.”
“To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment—which included a conspiracy count—remains ongoing,” Berman said.
A day before Epstein’s apparent suicide, a federal appeals court released nearly 2,000 pages of documents relating to Epstein and his former girlfriend, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. The records named some powerful men who were allegedly involved in Epstein’s trafficking ring.
The multimillionaire was recently denied bail while awaiting trial on charges involving one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors.
Lawmakers Urge Action
A number of lawmakers have called for congressional investigations or probes into Epstein’s death and his previous plea deal.
Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) on Aug. 10 called for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to “begin its investigation” into why Epstein got a lenient plea deal in 2008 when he was sentenced to 13 months and was allowed to work from his Palm Beach office.
The alleged suicide of Epstein was an “impossibility,” according to Rep. Al Green (D-Texas).
“When an impossibility occurs involving powerful people and possible criminality there must be an investigation to end speculation,” he wrote on Twitter. “Because the public has a right to know, I’m calling for a congressional investigation.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) meanwhile called for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to explain what had happened at the facility.
“The victims of Epstein’s heinous actions deserved an opportunity for justice,” he said on Twitter. “The Federal Bureau of Prisons must provide answers on what systemic failures of the MCC Manhattan or criminal acts allowed this coward to deny justice to his victims.”
In a similar fashion, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said answers were needed, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) agreeing with her on Twitter.
“Chairman @RepJerryNadler should prioritize a Judiciary investigation into how Jeffrey Epstein died in federal custody (in Nadler’s own neighborhood!) over the Kavanaugh confirmation (which already happened), and the Russia hoax (which never happened),” Gaetz wrote.
Lisa Bloom, a lawyer representing several of Epstein’s accusers, wrote on Twitter that her clients may bring civil actions against the financier’s estate.
Reuters contributed to this report.