Barr angry at jail’s failure in Epstein death
The bigger drama is likely to be over the wealthy sex offender’s mysterious estate.
WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr on Monday decried what he called a “failure” by federal jail officials to secure registered sex offender and multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was found hanging in his jail cell over the weekend.
But the country’s top law enforcement official said Epstein’s death would not derail the ongoing investigation into those who might have aided Epstein’s alleged crimes.
“Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” Barr said. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.”
Speaking to law enforcement officials in New Orleans, Barr said he “was appalled ... and frankly, angry” to learn of the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s “failure to adequately secure” Epstein, who was awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges.
“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” he said.
The attorney general’s comments were noteworthy in that he publicly blamed the Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, for the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s apparent suicide.
Barr did not specify what
irregularities had been found in the aftermath of Epstein’s death, but vowed to “get to the bottom of what happened.”
Epstein, whose case has raised questions about whether he received preferential treatment in the past from Justice Department officials, was found hanging in his jail cell Saturday morning, according to people familiar with the matter.
His death has prompted investigations by the FBI, Justice Department inspector general, and the New York City medical examiner, and raised a number of questions about conditions inside the federal jail in Manhattan where the 66-year-old millionaire died.
Corrections officers had not checked on Epstein for “several” hours before he was found around 6:30 a.m., a person familiar with the matter said, just one in a series of missteps in the hours leading up to his death.
Officers should have been checking on Epstein, who was being held in a special housing unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, every 30 minutes, and, under normal circumstances, he also should have had a cellmate, according to the person familiar with the matter and union officials representing facility employees.
Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson said late Sunday that Epstein’s autopsy was complete, but she had not reached a determination on cause of death “pending further information.” The medical examiner also allowed Michael Baden, a private pathologist, to observe the autopsy at the request of Epstein’s representatives, Sampson said.
Claims likely against Epstein’s estate
With opulent homes, a Caribbean island and a private jet to Epstein’s name, the battle to claim his assets is on.
Attention will shift this week to identifying what’s in his estate, who can claim his assets and which jurisdiction takes up the case. Lawyers seeking compensation for victims of his alleged sex crimes are calling for a freeze on the estate, raising the prospect of a legal process that could drag out for years.
It’s unclear whether Epstein, who wasn’t married and has no known children, left a will. What is known is that his wealth included a $77 million, 40-room mansion on New York’s Upper East Side, the island of Little St. James in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a ranch in New Mexico and homes in Paris and Palm Beach. His business was registered in the Virgin Islands.
“It’s going to be incredibly complicated,” said David Ring, an attorney in Los Angeles who has represented victims of sexual abuse and assault. “It’s going to be a lot of different folks who are going to be battling over this estate and these assets and I hope the victims come out on top. I think they deserve it. But I don’t think the estate is just going to hand it over to them.”
Epstein’s known relatives include his brother, Mark, and a niece and nephew, who live in New York.
Mark Epstein and a friend had offered to guarantee a bond as part of his brother’s bail request, which was denied.
While the criminal case against Epstein closed with his death, his accusers have brought numerous civil lawsuits. Investigators gathered more evidence when they searched Epstein’s New York townhouse after his arrest, including photographs of what appeared to be naked underage girls.
Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents three female plaintiffs, called on his estate’s administrators to freeze all of his assets.
“Our civil cases can still proceed against his estate,” Bloom said on Twitter. “Victims deserve to be made whole for the lifelong damage he caused. We’re just getting started.”
Based on limited financial records, U.S. prose- cutors esti- mated Epstein made $10 million a year and had a net worth of at least $500 million. But details of his assets remained “largely concealed” from the New York court, according to prosecutors.
Where estate proceedings might play out depends partly on which of Epstein’s homes is considered his main one.
Documents submitted by his lawyers in a bail request after his arrest in July indicated his primary residence was his compound on the island of Little St. James in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But New York or Florida also appear to be good possibilities.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr