New York, NY – Two correctional officers who were tasked with guarding billionaire Jeffrey Epstein on the night he died have turned down a plea agreement that would have required them to admit that they falsified official documents.
The rejection of the plea deal has led to speculation that the Department of Justice (DOJ) may be preparing to file criminal charges against the correctional officers, Newsweek reported.
Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) correctional officers found the 66-year-old Tier 3 sex offender hanging in his cell at around 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, according to ABC News.
Epstein was transported to New York Downtown Hospital in cardiac arrest before he was declared dead.
The billionaire had been jailed while facing charges for sexually abusing and trafficking children.
Epstein had been placed on a suicide watch after authorities believed he tried to kill himself on July 23, shortly after he was denied bail, The New York Times reported.
He was taken off suicide watch just six days later and returned to the cell he shared with another prisoner in 9 South, a special housing unit (SHU) inside the MCC.
But his roommate was removed from his cell a short time later.
Despite the fact that it is protocol to put a prisoner who has just been taken off suicide watch in a cell with another prisoner, Epstein didn’t get a new roommate before he allegedly killed himself, The New York Times reported.
Two prison officials have said that the staff members on duty the night Epstein tried to kill himself were supposed to be checking on him every 30 minutes, but had not looked in on him for three hours before he was found hanging.
Officials said that the employees had falsely recorded checks every 30 minutes in the logbook.
Three different officials told The New York Times that both employees had been asleep some, or all, of the three-hour period that preceded them finding Epstein hanging from his upper bunk by a bedsheet.
According to sources familiar with the case, the two correctional officers were offered plea deals after they were advised that federal prosecutors were preparing to file charges against them for allegedly fabricating official prison log entries, the Associated Press reported.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan refused to comment on the plea offer, according to the Associated Press.
On Nov. 4, Bureau of Prisons Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer issued an internal memo addressing the apparent widespread falsification of prison logs.
“Falsification of information in government systems and documents is also a violation of policy, and may be subject to criminal prosecution as well,” Hawk Sawyer noted.
The bureau director also said that employees who are indicted by a grand jury will be immediately placed on unpaid suspension pending the outcome of their cases.
Epstein, who was closely associated with former President Bill Clinton, was facing countless charges for incidents with underage girls in his various homes and on his private jet known as the “Lolita Express.”
His death was anything but clear-cut.
Authorities said Epstein was found hanging from a noose fashioned from bedsheets, tied to the side of his bed, and after an initial delay, the medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
But a highly-respected pathologist hired by the billionaire’s family to observe the autopsy said late in October that the medical evidence suggested homicide was far more likely than suicide in Epstein’s case.
Former New York City Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Baden told FOX News Epstein had two fractures on the left and right sides of his larynx, specifically the thyroid cartilage or Adam’s apple, as well as one fracture on the left hyoid bone above the Adam’s apple.
“Those three fractures are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation,” the former medical examiner said. “I’ve not seen in 50 years where that occurred in a suicidal hanging case.”
The famous forensic pathologist has examined more than 20,000 bodies during his career, and said too many questions remained to call Epstein’s death a suicide.
“I think that the evidence points toward homicide rather than suicide because there are multiple, three fractures in the hyoid bone thyroid cartilage that are very unusual for suicide and more indicative of strangulation, homicidal strangulation,” Baden told FOX News.
The doctor said “hanging does not cause these broken bones, and homicide does.”
He stopped short of blatantly calling the medical examiner’s ruling wrong.
“It appears that this could have been a mistake,” Baden said. “There’s evidence here of homicide that should be investigated, to see if it is or isn’t homicide.”
That, on top of the fact that Epstein was left alone in his cell, the surveillance cameras nearby stopped working at the time of his death, and the guards on duty claim to have been napping when he died, has inspired a justified conspiracy theory that has become a viral social media phenomenon.
Baden said that the combination of security failures was something that he had never seen in 50 years of investigating and called the scenario “extremely unlikely.”